SaQuaNa ★★ // Honfleur // France

Honfleur, an ancient fishing town on the Normandy coast may seem like an odd location for a fine dining Asian/French fusion restaurant, but in amongst the touristy galleries and the local bars, that’s exactly what you’ll find. This unlikely offering is due to chef Alexandre Bourdas having roots in the region (as well as Aveyron) combined with a three-year stint of working in Japan.

With no à la carte offered, guests experience either a short or long menu, both heavily influenced by the daily seafood catch.  Three amuses-bouches start the meal, with the best being a creamy algae custard-like concoction, topped with a dash of soy to add a deep salty note.

The first course is a gently cooked piece of monkfish, topped with a grating of lime zest, sitting on a bed of wilted spinach. While that might not sound very exciting to the UK reader, it’s the delicacy of the additional coconut broth and a kaffir lime leaf oil that make this dish a real pleasure to eat.

Next up is a classic Aveyron dish, the pascade, which is essentially a large Yorkshire pudding with a caramelised rim, balanced with the salty finish that the British diner will recognise. Though it’s the hint of truffle running through the base and the kick of chives that takes this eggy galette to a new level.

Best of the meat dishes is the sous-vide chicken, which is as hoped, magnificently tender and moist. The poultry is then dressed with a richer version of the olive oil based sauce-vierge with some stonking Normandy cream. While traditional herbs still punctuate the sauce, it’s the addition of caviar that adds a salty element to make this dish a bit of a fancy lady. Though, as often is the case, the caviar taste is very delicate so the effect is lovely rather than outstanding.

The second main of beef was perhaps the least well-executed course. While the homemade cress pasta added a creative touch, the slices of oven-cooked potato, covered with shavings of truffle did not do enough to make us forgive this tough piece of Charolais beef. While we were told that the beef was selected specifically because of its texture, the cooking technique didn’t make the most of it, which was a shame.

That said, SaQueNa easily provides an overall **2 star performance. Dessert lovers will be in heaven too with no less than four petits-fours served after two separate courses. Though what is particularly pleasing about this restaurant is that it marries local seafood with inventive, yet technical cooking. It’s this fusion approach that really makes you feel like you’ve had a special experience.