For a town of barely 4,000 inhabitants, Deauville has a pretty sophisticated dining scene, thanks to the weekend influx of Parisians and the tourists drawn here for the horseracing, polo and film festival. Franco-Korean couple Mi-Ra and Charles recently won a Michelin star for their creative fusion at L’Essentiel, which includes dishes such as tom yam-style prawns with salsify and horseradish.
The cosy La Flambée showcases local ingredients – try their millefeuille of andouille sausage and onions. Locals love Marion, a modern brasserie with a great lunchtime set menu (€22) and desserts like tarte tatin with thick Normandy cream. For a platter of oysters, prawns and crab, stroll over the bridge to Trouville and Les Vapeurs brasserie, opposite the fish market.
The recent opening of Les Franciscaines has transformed Deauville’s cultural scene. The 19th-century convent has been spectacularly transformed by contemporary architect Alain Moatti to create a performance space in the chapel, temporary exhibition spaces, a permanent museum, a garden cafe and a multimedia public library. It’s a wonderfully serene place.
Once away from the crowds, there’s also serenity to be had on Deauville’s famous boardwalk, Les Planches. The way the light changes through the day here attracted impressionist painters including Monet and Boudin. Time stands still, as if the sea and sand are all for you. For me, Les Planches is just as beautiful in winter.
Place du Marché has a real sense of community among the stallholders and shopkeepers. It’s where everyone in Deauville comes to shop, sit out on cafe terraces, enjoy an aperitif or have dinner. In July and August the open-air market runs every day, and is the place to buy Norman specialities: camembert and pont-l’évêque cheeses, artisan cider and calvados, and tasty charcuterie. When the market closes, cafes and bars spread over the square.
There are cocktails at L’Équilibriste, ice-cream and cake at Les Accords Parfaits, and lunch at Yacht Café. Although Deauville is known as a summer resort, there are events on all year – cinema, music, book and photo festivals, and international polo and golf tournaments – so Place du Marché is always busy. We even have a hip craft beer bar, Sales Gosses, that stays lively well after midnight.
Deauville is dominated by its immense beach, with few green spaces in the centre. But verdant countryside is easily accessible by bike routes. A gem near the hamlet of Bénerville-sur-Mer, just three miles away, is Parc Calouste Gulbenkian. It was bought by the Armenian art collector in 1937 as his private sanctuary, and given to Deauville in 1973. With flower gardens, lawns and orchards, it is the ideal place for reading a book, quiet meditation or a picnic. In midsummer, the park is a haven of peace, with hardly a soul.
Whether you gamble or not, take a stroll through Deauville’s Casino, with its Grande Salle filled with roulette and blackjack tables rather than the usual slot machines. It was here in 1959 that writer Françoise Sagan, having tired of Saint-Tropez, won 8m (old) francs on the gaming tables and used it to buy a property in the nearby village of Équemauville.
Few out-of-towners know Café Marius, a rooftop bar full of luxuriant plants: it resembles a private club and is perfect for sunset drinks and tapas. I also love the historic wood-panelled cocktail bar at Hôtel Normandy and Brok Café, a Cuban bar with great music.
The late-night scene here cannot rival Cannes or Saint-Tropez, but for clubbing, Le Point Bar, opens at 11pm and parties till dawn.
In the centre, a few minutes from the beach, hotel Le Trophée (doubles from €135 B&B), is popular with visiting writers and artists.
Deuville native David Ezvan runs the Librairie du Marché bookshop on the town’s half-timbered market square