Following a rough pregnancy and even rougher ‘special delivery’ of our small person this summer, I seriously doubted I was up for a trip to France. Two months into parenthood, still feeling battered and bloated and somewhat embarrassed to be seen in public, I somehow lost the family holiday debate to the ever-persuasive Monsieur and we set off for his motherland for the first time with buggy and baby seat loaded into the car, not to mention our BABY.
One of the highlights of this trip was a stay in La Baule. It’s one of those French Atlantic seaside towns with whimsical, slope-roofed houses shaded by soaring, aromatic pines. I loved it from the very minute we arrived. However, I soon found that this was a vacation spot for the chic, slim, sparrow-boned French and every time I passed a reflective surface, my image screamed HEFFALUMP! How ever could I hold my head high in my current, still-swollen state, whilst surrounded by such studiously-maintained examples of the human form? If it’s one thing I’ve learned since meeting my Frenchman, the French are extremely efficient at commenting on one’s size and think nothing of discussing diets at the dinner table. I hoped the presence of my dear, precious child might cut me some slack this time.
On top of my confidence crisis, Monsieur and I were so new to taking our baby out that you could have hung L plates around our necks and called us Learner (Baby) Drivers. Just the thought of dining out with her was enough to make me itch with anxiety. What if she cried and we couldn’t soothe her? Would the restaurant have changing facilities? Did we have enough milk with us? Nappies? Wipes? Would restaurants even WANT us there, now we had a small child? It all seems so silly in hindsight, but at the time these were very real anxieties for us. The good thing about travelling so early on in our baby’s life was that it threw us into the parenting pool’s deep end and we were forced to swim which, with practice, we did.
Our first day in La Baule we decided to take a stroll along the promenade, in the hope of finding lunch with a view. I was positively dizzy with all of the above concerns, not to mention the heat. We reached one eatery on the beach, but it was down on the sand with no ramp, only stairs. There was no way we could get the buggy down to the door so we walked on. Eventually, we found Nossy Be, a smart establishment, also on the sand, but with a navigable ramp leading down to the entrance. So far, so promising, but once inside my heart sank. It was so super-hip modern that if a mirror ball had suddenly started twirling to the latest euro-beat, I wouldn’t have been at all surprised. As for the patrons – they were all perfectly bronzed, in crisp polos and Bermudas, or ethereal kaftans with the style of sandal that wouldn’t have looked out of place on a goddess lunching at Mount Olympus. I, by contrast bright white and elephantine, was absolutely certain that we weren’t their kind of desirable and prepared for the ‘I’m sorry, we have no free tables,’ brush-0ff, especially as I couldn’t see any space for us in the bustling restaurant. I was wrong.
A waiter and his colleague asked us to wait for a moment, then busied themselves finding spare seats to position around a low table not far from the bar. In a flash, the table was set and we were seated, with ample room for the baby in her buggy. Menus arrived, as did chilled water – Ferrarelle, an Italian brand that I rate for its gentle bubble and faintly salty taste. So far, the brownie points were accruing fast in this eatery’s favour.
Monsieur and I shared a starter of melon and prosciutto – the melon fanned across the plate in fine slices, contrasting with the insouciant tumble of ham.
I followed on with a starter size of red tuna tartare, presented South-East Asian style, with a garnish of small beads of wasabi that looked just like luminous, green caviar might. A verrine of refreshing petits pois soup and mint ‘nuage’, or foam, accompanied the plate.
Monsieur ordered a stir fry of rice with King Prawns, which he pronounced ‘excellent’; this is praise indeed from a particularly particular eater. It arrived atop giant petals of watermelon radish – at once arresting on the plate, but also cooling against the spice of this dish.
This place was a revelation for an anxious new mum. We were impeccably looked after, were placed sensitively with ample room to care for our little one, the food was excellent in all respects AND we had a sea front view. With a glass of chilled rosé I felt less harried and more human. More human, that is, until a whiff of something a little earthy floated up from the buggy and I found out the hard way how important it is to find eateries with baby changing facilities. Trying to change a wriggling two month-old on a loo seat is far from fun, especially when there’s a queue of the be-jewelled and be-kaftanned lined up outside and your baby is letting out wails to rival the loudest siren. Blessedly, this was the only blip we experienced at Nossy Be.
In summary? Food – superb and not too calorific. Views – of beach, sea and excellent for people-watching. Staff – you’ll seldom find such helpful individuals. Family-friendly? Definitely. There were other babies and small patrons present – all accepted without fuss and kindly catered for. Downside? No changing tables for small babies, but the food and service were so good that this is just nitpicking. Budget – above average but acceptable, given the quality of produce. On my dime – anytime. Reservations – we walked in without one and were generously accommodated, however, another time I’d reserve, especially in high season.
Nossy Be, Beach and Lounge Restaurant
02 40 604 225
Plage La Baule, opposite 15 boulevard Darlu