Assistant Digital Editor Bethan Rose Jenkins spent a long weekend in Lille with her mom exploring the city’s vibrant food scene, from charming bistros to fine dining. Here are her tips for making the most of your own visit.
What could be better than a classic road trip? The Eurotunnel makes the crossing seamless and from there it’s a beautiful 1.5 hour drive across northern France. We started our trip by loading our suitcases into the stylish electric DS 3 CROSSBACK E-TENSE that we had been test driving over the weekend. The DS brand was new to me, but I quickly found our transport. Its smooth lines and rounded edges in pearlescent silver make it stand out from the crowd.
We had decided to “share” the driving (read: I’ll let mom do the tricky part) but not to worry. It showed someone approaching a blind spot, and with just a few taps on the dashboard, the speedometer easily switched to “kilometers” as we entered Calais. A fully charged car had a range of 200 miles, which was enough to get me to my destination.
As you approach Lille’s historic Old Town, you’ll marvel at how the tarmac transforms into cobblestone and the approaching buildings in a delightful mismatch of brick and grandeur. We stayed at Clarins, a boutique hotel in the center of Lille. There we had a delightful room complete with a cavernous walk-in shower.
The Old Town is dotted with small bistros serving delicious food. At Le Presentoir, the food was so good that I ordered his second plate of eggplant tempura dipped in spicy honey, followed by the creamy coconut his soup with the last carrot.
Another favorite was the Chez Brigitte, where you devoured slices of mushrooms encased in creamy risotto and grated chunks of truffles by the waiter. Sitting near us was a British couple who turned out to be veterans of electric cars, and were intrigued about our new mode of transportation. My mom filled out our drive details, weekend plans, and (of course) a list of my greatest achievements to date.
We also enjoyed a delicious meal at the Michelin starred Sebastopol. Here I sampled the rare tuna steak with zucchini spaghetti.
For more casual dining, try Les Compagnons de la Grappe, a pub-like dining terrace just off Main Street. I ordered Le Welsh. A mouth-watering cross between classic Croque Monsieur and Welsh rarebit.
Other highlights include gourmet onion rings with miso mayonnaise, goat cheese with figs, Chez Max with salmon samosas, and modern street food with a medley of modern Grand Scene stalls. . For a mint refreshment, order a Hugo Spritz cocktail at the upstairs bar.
Lille’s proximity to the Belgian border also makes for an impressive beer scene. We toured the microbrewery Celestine. So her mother gave me her life advice about the about 8.3% proof Wal Bière Triple.
Fill your boots with Les Vins Gourmands Bordeaux wine, Signorini Tartuffy black truffle olive oil and Jean Troneux pralines. We’ve also picked up delicious caramel and miniature waffles in every flavor at the historic Patisserie Mail, an ‘Ollivander’s Wand Shop’ for sweet treats.
If you’re more into the home goods market, check out the vintage maps, posters and books at La Vieille Bourse (the old stock exchange), which are piled on tables around locals playing chess. .
Don’t miss La Piscine in Roubaix, a 30-minute drive away. The museum is housed in a converted Art Deco swimming pool with stained glass windows. The original tiled showers and changing rooms have been renovated to house a range of exhibits, from sculptures to tapestries.
If time permits, stop at Dunkirk on your way to and from Calais. This historic seaside town is a world apart from the gloomy images of war movies. Instead, you’ll be greeted by white sandy beaches, colorful beach huts and scattered bars and cafes.
Feeling inspired? Hit the road in style with DS Automobiles’ Test Drive From Your Drive. This is a 48-hour bespoke test drive where DS Concierge will deliver the model to your door at your convenience. Click here to book your experience or learn more at dsautomobiles.co.uk.