7 Rue Jacques Cartier

35400 Saint-Malo, France

Tel. +33 2 99 40 15 97 

BY IAN D'AGATA | MAY 31, 2019

The Food:

Breton fish soup (Bouillabaisse)

Fresh seafood platter for one person (Plateau de fruits de mer pour 1 personne)

Mussels marinière (Moules marinière)

The Wines:

2017 Gerard Tremblay Petit Chablis       88
2016 Yvon et Laurent Vocoret Chablis 90
2016 Jean-Marc Brocard Chablis Montmains 1er Cru 89
2016 Frédéric Mabileau Les Petits Grains St. Nicolas-de-Bourgueil 91

Welcome to l’Ancrage 

Simply put, l’Ancrage only does a few things, but does them well. It boasts reasonably effective service (actually quite good for such a busy place); a decently solid if limited choice of wines; a warm, cozy environment (and a pretty dehors for those who like to eat outside); and solid, well-cooked food. It’s hard to ask for much more in the best of times, never mind when vacationing in a world-famous, tourist-thronged seaside town where eateries could easily get away with less than professional service, food and wines. Happily, the folks who run l’Ancrage take pride in what they do and are not out to take advantage of diners, which translates to a restaurant that is always brimming with content guests.

A view of Saint-Malo from the water

I love visiting Saint-Malo to escape from wine and people (I go mostly in the off-season, more or less the same time of year that I go to Venice), and I know its restaurant scene well (see Vinous Table: Le Saint-Placide, February 2019). L’Ancrage is the perfect place for a carefree meal where you might easily strike up a conversation with the person sitting at the next table (placed a little too close to yours, in fact, but in a restaurant of this ilk, so be it) and end up exchanging glasses of wine along with anecdotes, memories and business cards.

Breton fish soup (Bouillabaisse)

The food is classic French and couldn’t be any better in its rustic, hearty simplicity. I kicked things off with one of my staples, the Breton fish soup or bouillabaisse. I simply never tire of this dish and could eat it by the gallon, though when I order it at l’Ancrage, I inevitably end up eating way too much bread in trying to soak up all the delicious leek-, garlic- and onion-laced fish broth. (The broth is also known as cotriade, and every household in Brittany seems to have its own recipe; starred chefs might gussy up their cotriade with more expensive ingredients, such as saffron, but those are personal, inventive flourishes; this is poor man’s fish stew.) L’Ancrage’s fresh seafood platter for one person is not especially large, but it does the trick, especially after the fish stew and bread that precedes it. On this day, I count five oysters, whelks, periwinkles, pink shrimp, Norway lobsters (scampi) and half a spider crab, so it’s not as if diners will go hungry. The moules marinière are fine, too, the garlic, cream and parsley providing a perfect haven for the mussels.

Fresh seafood platter

Wine choices are not endless at l’Ancrage, but as with the food, nobody risks going thirsty, either, and in fact I drank very satisfyingly on my latest night there.

The 2017 Gerard Tremblay Petit Chablis is a seriously good example of an often underrated (but also often disappointing) denomination; lemony and steely, but with some plush fruit, it is a lovely starter to the evening’s first courses. Yvon et Laurent Vocoret’s 2016 Chablis is much deeper and more complex, and makes a fine follow-up to the Petit Chablis’ lemony acidity. The 2016 Jean-Marc Brocard Chablis Montmains 1er Cru is just what I expect from this producer, a master at making softer Chablis than most; the soft appley, buttery elements are further heightened by the Montmains Cru, which tends to give readier-to-drink Chablis wines than other Premier Crus of a similar quality level. Last but not least, the 2016 Frédéric Mabileau St. Nicolas-de-Bourgueil Les Petits Grains offers a delicious mouthfeel of pure Cabernet Franc fruit, done in stainless steel only in an effort to best convey the spicy blue and black fruit aromas and flavors that this variety exudes in spades. The sandy-gravel soil of the organically farmed vineyards further endows this lovely, juicy wine with a welcome, piercing freshness.

Moules marinière

L’Ancrage is no temple of high gastronomy – no super-cool ingredients, no foams, no encyclopedic wine list, no auction-quality linen, no cutlery so heavy that you need to work out at the gym just so you can lift it – but rather a place to enjoy a decent, well-cooked meal made with fresh ingredients, without spending a fortune. And you know, there’s really nothing wrong with that.