Northern France _ mussels and french fries © CRTC Hauts-de-France - AS FlamentNorthern France _ mussels and french fries © CRTC Hauts-de-France - AS Flament
©Northern France, mussels and french fries |AS Flament

An introduction to the food and drink of Northern France

The France 2023 Rugby World Cup is coming! And with art de vivre and rugby so entwined, this World Cup is the perfect chance for you to immerse yourself in the Hauts-de-France food scene between games. Indeed, there’s no better time to get to know our cuisine than 2023, as the region has been honoured with the label of European Region of Gastronomy 2023.

Here’s a brief overview of our regional must-try delicacies that you’ll easily find if you’re attending games in Lille’s Stade Pierre Mauroy – a foretaste of what to expect when you visit.

Northern France _ Lille _ Le Barbue d'Anvers restaurant © CRTC Hauts-de-France _ Xavier RenouxNorthern France, Lille, a colorful dish from le Barbue d'Anvers restaurant
©Northern France, Lille, a dish from le Barbue d'Anvers restaurant |CRTC Hauts-de-France - Xavier Renoux

As a warm-up before a game, discover our winning regional dishes

Warm your heart with delicious northern French stews. One of the most famous is the Flemish Carbonnade, blending tasty beef with the sweetness of gingerbread simmered in beer. For cheese lovers, Flamiche au Maroilles is an iconic “ch’ti” (northern) pie of local puff or leavened pastry, local Maroilles cheese, cream, eggs and sometimes lardons. If you’re feeling less adventurous in your cheese tastes, try our local Welsh Rarebit. Yes, Welsh Rarebit is a British dish, but our revisited version features local beer and cheese – served in generous portions! For a cold meal, indulge in Potjevleesch (‘meat in a pot’ in Flemish) – a mixture of fine white meats (rabbit, pig, veal, poultry) stewed and served in jelly flavoured with spices and herbs.

Estaminets (typical Flemish restaurants) are convivial places to try out some of the hearty dishes mentioned above. But of course, there’s so much more to our buzzing food scene. A growing number of talented chefs revisit traditional cuisine with a modern twist, using fresh and locally sourced produce. From rustic dishes to refined cuisine, there is something for everyone here.

From pungent cheeses to the sweet smell of victory?

 

 

It’s no secret that the French love cheese, and that it is deeply rooted in our culinary culture.

Hauts-de-France is no exception, counting more than 30 kinds of cheese, mostly made from cow’s milk. The most iconic is probably Maroilles, a strong, soft-textured cheese made to a secret recipe dating back more than 1,000 years. Featured in many Flemish dishes, it’s recognised by its smooth, orange crust and its distinctive smell.

Bergues is one of the lightest French cheeses, making it a good introduction to discovering local cheeses. Soft with a washed rind, it’s been produced since the 17th century but had almost disappeared until a few local enthusiasts made it their mission to keep it alive.

We also recommend Mimolette (or ‘boule de Lille’), recognisable by its orange hue resulting from a natural dye that was historically used to differentiate it from Dutch cheeses for tax purposes. Its has a pressed, stiff paste that make it a great accompaniment to aperitifs or ingredient for a sandwich to enjoy at half-time.

Good beers brewed in our region – perfect for toasting each try!

The kingdom of beer, Hauts-de-France is the second brewing region of France, with more than 100 breweries. Whatever your tastes, you’ll find what you’re looking for: tap beer, stout, lager, white and amber are all served in inviting local bars and hostelries. Bear in mind that our local beers are usually stronger in alcohol than most British beers – they are similar in style to Belgian beers.

If you want to quench your thirst with a light soft beer like a lager, ask for a ‘pils’, to which you might add some ‘picon’, a liqueur made with orange zest, popular in the north of France. If you prefer a stronger beer with a more pronounced taste, try the ‘blonde’ – ask for a northern blonde abbey beer to be sure you get a local version. Darker, fruity and spicy, the amber or ‘l’ambrée’ is also popular in the region, with Jenlain a prime example.

Straight from England, IPAs have taken over the world in recent years, and we’re no exception. In 2019, two beers from the Flemish brewery Anosteke received World Beer Awards. One of them is an IPA found in many of our bars.

A glass of champagne to celebrate

The north stands out for its simplicity, its conviviality and its hearty local food, but this is also a place of refinement and French art de vivre, so make way for some champagne!

Ten percent of French champagne is produced by 39 producers in Hauts-de-France, in the Aisne department at the southern tip of the region. Why not take a champagne tour, starting in the medieval stone quarries of Pannier in Château-Thierry before heading to the vineyards to explore the family-run producers Métayer and Lévêque-Dehan (the latter by vintage VW campervan) and taste their wares.

To experience French art de vivre to its fullest, raise your glass of champagne in an aperitif toast in one of our region’s Michelin-starred restaurants. Cheers!

Bring local specialties home (along with the trophy?!)

Macarons d’Amiens’ are delicious pastries perfect to share with loved ones. The secret of their delicate almond taste with a hint of honey lies in a recipe passed down unchanged from father to son for six generations of the Trogneux family of Amiens. Also for the sweet-toothed, the ‘Bêtise de Cambrai’ is a small candy invented in the 19th century and produced now by only two family-run firms. A subtle mixture of honey and caramel, they sell all around the world in their pretty metal tins.

Another must-try are Flemish waffles. Chez Meert, one of the oldest pastry shops in the world, has a secret recipe for its stuffed waffles that have been delighting the people of Lille since the 17th century. Fillings vary by season: think lemon, vanilla, almond, caramel…  Apparently Winston Churchill was a fan!

At breakfast, try a famous ‘Chicorée’, made from chicory roots grown in the region, which is added to water, milk or coffee for a distinctive brew. And last but not least, your trip to Hauts-de-France might include the chance to learn how to whip Chantilly cream in the very place where it was invented – the town of Chantilly itself, also famed for its fairytale château and its horse races.