The Rouen Puces .. And The Tête de Veau!

Yesterday ‘Husband à l’Etranger’ and I went to the Rouen Puces together for the first time since living in France. The Rouen Puces are advertised as ‘the most beautiful indoor brocante in France’ and for a nominal entry fee it is a wonderful way to pass a day wandering amongst beautiful antiques and bric-a-brac.

There are five halls to wander through, brocanteurs packed together, sometimes with tables loaded with lamps, or bibelots (ornaments) and othertimes with complete room-sets of beautiful French antique furniture, lamps and paintings on the walls. ‘Husband à l’Etranger and I were in heaven!


This year we were both on a bit of a mission. Having stayed in the chateau a few weeks earlier and having some beautiful ornate plasterwork ceilings in our apartment, we were on the lookout for a chandelier, or at very least a pair of Girondoles (table top chandeliers). Having passed a good three hours ‘flaning’ the halls,(a word specific to strolling through brocantes) as every good ‘flaneur’ should, it began to dawn on us that we were getting hungry!



The Rouen Puces have made over one hall to an impromptu restaurant. However, in true French style, this was not any old basic restaurant! At a guess the hall could seat a couple of hundred diners, and the ‘menu du jour’ was written out on huge blackboards, the tables were surrounded by ornamental urns and pillars each topped with an enormous fern, whilst here and there large cream-coloured outdoor canvas umbrellas helped us believe we were in the garden of a luxurious ‘Cote d’Azur’ hotel.

A small queue of a ‘dizaine’ were waiting patiently for a table, and the Maitre D was calmly shepherding people to vacant tables. Behind a couple of ‘femmes gourmandes’ we were also waiting our turn. Finally the Maitre D approached and said he had a table for four, and if we were happy to share with the ‘femmes gourmandes’ we could eat immediately.  No guessing that we readily agreed!

The ‘femmes gourmandes’ took the aisle seats, whilst we wriggled ourselves through the narrower gap between tables. Respectfully pulling our seats towards the edge of the table to allow the two women their conversational privacy, as much as one can when sharing a small square table, the ‘femme’ next to me grabbed the side of my seat to yank me closer saying..

“Je  ne mord pas”  “I won’t bite” (well thank heavens for that!) and we set to  to studying the menus.

‘Husband à l’etranger leaned conspiratorially across the table to whisper…

“I really think they are going to order the Tête de veau” (veal’s head)

..and a second later, at the table the other side of us, the waiter approached with a steaming blue enamel pot. ‘Husband à l’Etranger’ grimaced at the idea of the skull lurking within, and I leant over to ask them if there was really an entire ‘cerveau’ (brain) inside. The couple and the ‘femmes gourmandes’ roared with laughter and lifted the lid to reveal a fairly innocent looking stew of somewhat floppy meat and vegetables and declared it was delicious.

Moments later a blue enamel pot arrived at our table and the femmes gourmandes rubbed their hands in anticipation and lifted the lid; and just at that moment ‘Husband à l’Etranger’ let out a loud…


Tête de veau will never be the same again for any of us!


Clearly, the small ‘pichets’ of wine supplied at our meals were subsidized by the stall holders. Our innocent little pitcher contained a deceptive quantity of wine. We were rather more cavalier after the meal than before and it wasn’t long before we were once more standing in front of the chandeliers and girondolles. Some hard bartering and walking away a few times secured a good price for the pair and we left the Puces happy with our purchases, and having thoroughly enjoyed our day.

Pit Stops during the Tour de France in Rouen.

Thanks to the request of an English visitor coming to Rouen to enjoy the Tour de France, I am going to pass a few moments – a very few, about great places to eat out or drink at whilst soaking up the atmosphere. It’s not a hugely great idea to ask me, because although I have a few personal favorites – eating out is not a huge pass-time – my ‘husband à l’etranger’ might start to wonder who my new found dining companions were. Here are a few recommendations:


1. The Metropole: This is my favorite place to eat breakfast and one I savor for special occasions. It is not that it’s croissants are home made or that huge variety is the order of the day but it’s the atmosphere that counts for me. If you like people watching, it is situated a few metres from the station, a great example of Art Deco Architecture with an  awning under which you can sit, come rain or shine and watch the world go by. Their croissants and baguettes are deliciously fresh and go down well with their superb coffee (reliably sampled and verified by aforesaid ‘husband à l’etranger’ as being the best of the cafe’s in our Quartier. They serve freshly squeezed orange juice, and I don’t know where they source their oranges – but with a choice of a large or small glass, one would be mad to order anything other than a large based on how delicious it is. I may be slightly biased as I know the proprietor and his wife, and that always contributes to the conviviality of a place.

At 1 Rue Verte, a few paces from the station, a breakfast will cost just under 5€. A Menu du Jour will cost about 9.50€ if you find yourself in the area at lunch time. But remember they are closed on Sundays.

2. Le Couleur Café – Rue Eau de Robec. If several choices of coffee or tea are what you are looking for then head to Rue Eau de Robec. This is not far from the Mairie and the Eglise St Ouen, and the street is pretty with its little brook that gurgles the length of the street. This cafe has a large selection of everything including Vienoisserie and is a great choice for anyone thinking of making their way towards Place St Marc and the huge market which is held on both Saturdays and Sundays.

Again for 5€ you can expect a delicious breakfast. Saturday is an easy day for finding a traditional café. If you find yourself paying 5€ for a vienoisserie, a coffee and an orange juice, you are in the right place. If not – walk on and find somewhere else!


It’s important to remember that the French eat their main meal at lunchtime. On a saturday it is easy to find somewhere  to eat. The Rouen Gare area of town has severalcafé/restaurants all serving a main meal and display the Menu du Jour on a chalkboard outside. Some of the Cafés are more attractive than others but all serve their menu for about 10€ a head which usually includes Entrée, Assiette and Café, or Assiette, Dessert and Café.

If you have already discovered Rue Eau de Robec at Breakfast you will have noticed that the road is pedestrianised and lined with cafés and restaurants. There are a good variety, from Savory Crèpes to authentic French. Look out for the sister Atelier of ‘Fait Le Vous Même’ (where I took my Patisserie classes) where the food produced by students at the Atelier under the guidance of experienced French Chef’s is served in the small café attached. ( Note that Fait le Vous Meme is only open Monday to Friday – but a meal will cost between 7 and 10€). An average Menu du Jour should cost in the region of 10 – 15€ and the price will rise the closer to the cathedral and the Vieux Marché one goes.

3. Rue de l’Ecureuil

A stone’s throw from the Palais de Justice, on the north side, passing by the modern ‘FNAC’ store and it’s associated apartments, one passes into a large square with a fountain in the centre. (The fountain sometimes does not work, but do not confuse it for the preceeding fountainless square that forms part of the modern FNAC building.) There are several restaurants in this square, but my preferred is Le Socrates that sits on the semi-pedestrianised Rue de l’Ecureuil. This is great for a lunchtime serving a huge variety of very large salads. Caesar, Niçoise, Goats cheese to name but a few. At about 10-14€ this in another good place to eat bang in the centre of town and a great favorite with locals.


There are two main areas for eating out in the evening. Restaurants in both areas will need booking in advance.

The most expensive area is the Vieux Marché. There re several great restaurants facing onto the square. One that I have personally tried and loved was:

1. Le Petit Zinc

Le petit zinc is the old french word for the bar (describing the counter top). This restaurant, on the north side of the square is traditional french with a wide menu and a medium sized convivial setting. A couple of large traditional french ‘rooms’ with classic French decoration. The menus are always displayed outside, but last time I went a meal for two including wine was in the region of 70€ depending on the menu choice.


2. Rue de Vieux Palais

Not far away on the other side of the square, this small road runs southwards toward the river. This road houses two excellent pizza restaurants and also a delightful small ‘Kebab’ restaurant. I do not mean the ubiquitous ‘end of a night out’ style kebab. These are barbequed squewered meats of the customers choice served with potatoes, couscous and vegetables in an authentic french restaurant. The prices were significantly lower than the Vieux Marché whilst being only a few paces away.

The other side of the Cathedral:

3. Rue de Martainville/ Eglise St Maclou

Passing the cathedral on the left hand side (walking away from the Gros Horlodge) and passing through the narrow Rue St Romain, and crossing Rue de la Republique one comes to the Eglise St Maclou Square (sadly covered in scaffolding). Taking the lane on the left side of the church there are several restaurants with outside seating jumbled together in traditional colombage timber framed buildings. The architecture is delightful, the restaurants engaging but I cannot comment on the prices. The menu du jour comes in at about 17€.

Get the Tourist information office in the Cathedral square to mark the four prime areas on a map:

1. Rouen Gare

2. FNAC and Rue de l’Ecureuil

3. Rue Eau de Robec and Eglise St Maclou

4. Vieux Marché

As for drinks, most of the cafe’s in the the region about FNAC, and also Rouen gare serve drinks independently of food. One can expect to pay in the region of 1.50€ for a coffee, 2-4€ for a glass of wine depending on the decorative level of the café, and around 4€50 for a beer depending on the brand. Soft drinks , coke, lemonade etc will always be in the region of 2.5€


The Tour de France