Calais Grand Theatre + Gustave Malgras Delmas

Gilead’s Calling | The Innate Ordinariness of a Saturday Morning

“This is an interesting planet. It deserves all the attention you can give it.” Marilynne Robinson

The Grand Theatre, like the Town Hall, was built to belatedly celebrate the 1885 merger of the towns of Calais and Saint-Pierre. The site was once a cemetery. President Emile Loubet laid the foundation stone in 1903. Its architect was Gustave Malgras Delmas. He was no stranger to municipal projects, having designed the Palace of Fervaques in nearby Saint-Quentin where most of his work is concentrated. The building is pure architectural theatre, a palatial performance in stone. First floor statues between the coupled Corinthian columns propping up the façade represent comedy, poetry, dance and music. Second floor busts commemorate the composer Pierre-Alexandre Monsigny (1729 to 1817), the dramatists Alain-René Lesage (1668 to 1747) and Guillaume Pigault-Leburn (1753 to 1835), and author of The Siege of Calais Pierre de Belloy (1727 to 1775). In front of the Grand Theatre is a 1910 statue to Lillois Joseph Jacquard, inventor of an advanced weaving loom which greatly contributed to the success of the Calais lace industry. Gustave’s brother-in-law was the composer Marc Delmas.

“It’s not a man’s working hours that is important, it is how he spends his leisure time.” Marilynne Robinson

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The Crespo Family + Le Channel Restaurant Calais

Burgher Joint

Calais Canal © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

“Son cadre, ses produits de la mer, ses vins…”

Calais Yachts © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Along Boulevard de la Résistance occupying a ground floor unit of a typical modernist Calais beachy block (think Corbu in Corfu) and looking diagonally across to Bassin du Paradis is Le Channel Restaurant. Names, names, names, from war to heaven. It’s actually in a row of restaurants: La Sole Meunière to the left and Le Detroit to the right. They all look rather smart and share the same glorious coastal views, set to the sound of a dawn-to-dusk chorus of seagulls. Le Channel self identifies as a ‘gastronomique’ restaurant which translates as ‘gourmet’. Sounds promising.

Calais Bassin du Paradis © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

The relaxingly comfortable interior is filled with linen covered tables, burnt orange textured chairs and purple chaise longues. One wall is lined with rows of wine bottles. That’s a hint. There’s a circular glass panel in the floor looking down into dozens more wine bottles. That’s a clearer hint. Le Channel’s celebrated cellar contains more than 1,200 wines. The gleaming stainless steel kitchen was upgraded a couple of years ago. A charcoal oven takes pride of place.

Calais Old Town © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Le Channel Restaurant Calais © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Le Channel Restaurant Calais Plant © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Le Channel Restaurant Calais Kitchen © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Chef Le Channel Restaurant Calais Pudding © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Le Channel Restaurant Calais Amuse Bouche © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Le Channel Restaurant Calais Starter © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

A plaque in the restaurant is inscribed ‘Depuis 1978’. Le Channel was established by the two Crespo brothers four decades ago and their respective families are also now in the business. Two of the younger generation are on duty today: Arnaud is front of house and his brother Jérôme is chef. Given the name and the seaside setting – the long golden strand is a polished pebble’s throw away – it would be rude not to go the whole hog, do the full Montgomery, dive in deep and order fruits du mer. Their mother Madame Crespo arrives with what looks like half the ocean floor piled high on a plate. “Il est beaucoup de travaillé!” she smiles.

Le Channel Restaurant Calais Fruits de Mer © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Lunch set menu is €44 for four courses tucked between an appetite whetting amuse bouche and five corset exploding petit fours. Turbot with hollandaise sauce main course tastes seductively fresh from the channel. Both the cheese and pudding choices arrive on trolleys, or “chariots” as they’re more enticingly called in French. So much more interactive than a mere menu.

Le Channel Restaurant Calais Pudding © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

‘Promising’ means elevated expectations for gourmands: they’re met and surpassed. “As well as local regulars we have a lot of Russians living in London come to visit us,” confirms Madame Crespo. It’s well worth the hour on the Eurostar from St Pancras. The cornerstones of a successful lunch – excellence of food + wine, service, interior and atmosphere – are robustly upheld. Around the corner on Rue André Gerschell is Le Channel shop. It’s piled high with wines of course and plenty of cheeses. That’ll be why it’s called La Maison du Fromage et Des Vins Crespo. Heaven. Incidentally, André Gerschell was Mayor during the 1940 Siege of Calais. War, again.

Le Channel Restaurant Calais Petit Fours © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

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Calais + The Doors

Ferry Tales

Calais, full of surprises and more openings than a Bond Street gallery. Brassy, sassy and just a little bit classy.

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Calais + Parees

Twin Pearls Twin Peaks

For a hot minute we’re racing with the fastest set in town.

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Calais Lighthouse + Lavender’s Blue

This Matrix of Being

In the words of American essayist Marilynne Robinson, “There is something irreducibly thrilling about the universe.”

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Calais + Lavender’s Blue

There’s More to Life

Calais. It’s having a fashion moment. Official. Nice, no, niche, yes. Mid 20th century architecture is so early 21st century happening. Wherever there’s glamour there’s Lavender’s Blue.

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Calais + Rue Paul Bert

Callooh Callay 

We’re on our way!

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Richelieu Park Calais + Lavender’s Blue

Get Into the Grove

Marilynne Robinson once more: “We have looked into Melvillean nurseries, and glimpsed the births of stars that came into being many millions of years ago, an odd privilege of our relation to space and time.” The American essayist adds, “Properly speaking, we are the stuff of myth.” Our late afternoon stroll through Richelieu Park proves providential, echoing a strange efficacy, a special instance of cosmic time.

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The Opal Coast + Calais Beach

Chartered Waters | French Kits | You’re Not From Here

The past is a foreign country; sometimes so is the present. Golden crowns glisten upon the jasper sea off the Opal Coast. Waves beat in from an infinitude of azure horizons. Crossing the Channel, crossing the Rubicon. What Alexis de Tocqueville called “gifts which heaven shares out by chance”. Igniting unforeseen possibilities, purveying happenstance; renewals of experience apart, we are unacquainted with neo and pseudo. Marilynne Robinson writes in What Are We Doing Here? “And yet the beautiful persists, and so do eloquence and depth of thought, and they belong to all of us because they are the most pregnant evidence we have of what is possible in us.” The Bishop of Stepney nods, “We are all pregnant with our own death. We always carry the knowledge of our ending with us.” Keeping it surreal, precepts acknowledged, spangled heavens approaching, Calais stretches forth in eloquent beauty under an eternal sky, solecisms silenced, postprandial ponderings never ceasing.

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Dublin + The Doors

Fanlights Sidelights Streetlights Highlights

Best in world.

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