09 January 2012 by Jonathan Boston
Top Ten Regional Restaurants in France
A Culinary roadtrip around France
With France on our doorstep, it is no wonder that thousands of holidaymakers enjoy a break across the channel every year – many citing the weather and wonderful cuisine as two of the reasons it is their destination of choice.
As a self-confessed foodie (some would say it’s bordering on an obsession) I naturally tend to plan pretty much every holiday and short break around good food and wine. Over the years the destination decision-making process has started to include other factors such as a secure pool for the kids to enjoy and easy to reach beaches, but the main question in my mind is still “Where can we eat great food?”
I find the process of researching and planning a cuisine packed trip almost as much fun as the trip itself! It’s a great excuse to scour my library of recipe books and lose a few hours Googling restaurant reviews and finding out about a particular chefs’ signature dishes and the amazing local produce I could soon be enjoying.
Then there are vital logistical issues to consider such as exactly how much cheese and wine one can fit in the back of a family hatch-back…?
Throughout my travels over the years taking in many countries and many, many restaurants ranging from tiny village bistros to world-renowned three star Michelin establishments, I still come back to one basic truth: the French really understand good food.
Spain has its clutch of molecular gastronomy geniuses, Italy has an incredibly rich food heritage and even the UK has a lot to offer in the international culinary stakes having transformed over the last twenty years, but in the end it’s hard to dispute the fact that French cuisine is still second to none.
And fortunately for us Brits it’s right there on our doorstep – just pack the car, take the kids, drive through beautiful countryside and enjoy the experience; great produce and great cooking wherever you go. Great holidays!
So here are my personal top 10 restaurants to eat regional food in France, listed in “my dream road-trip” order:
- Auberge du Pont d’Acigné
Le Pont d’Acigné, 35530 Noyal-sur-Vilaine, France
Excellent modern Breton cooking with a great view of the River Vilaine from the terrace
5 Rue Saint Jean du Pérot, 17000 Rochelle La, France
In the heart of La Rochelle port area the restaurant looks like a ship and the menu features plenty of fresh local seafood. Children are made welcome and can choose from dishes including sole with vanilla beurre blanc or moules mariniere to join in with the culinary experience.
- Le Pressoir d’Argent
5 Cours de L’Intendance, 33000, Bordeaux, France
Very smart restaurant located opposite the impressive Opera House in the heart of Bordeaux. Especially good food and wine pairing, as you’d expect from the world’s greatest wine region.
Route de l’Aubrac, 12210 Laguiole, France
Set in beautiful rural surroundings the space age exterior conceals a peaceful modern dining room with glass walls showcasing the nature that inspires the menu. For twenty years Michel Bras has been designing and producing exceptional food using ingredients foraged from the local area. His dishes have inspired a generation of exciting new chefs but experiencing the original was a real treat. The signature dish ‘Le Gargouillou’ uses over 50 ingredients including vegetables, herbs and flowers, each blanched and seasoned to perfection.
- Le Jardin des Sens
11 Avenue Saint-Lazare, 34000 Montpellier, France
An exceptional restaurant run by the incredibly talented Pourcel twins who create a fine dining experience second to none. The Philippe Stark designed interior is contemporary and opulent and a great match for the cuisine. Excellent cellar too, including the best regional wines of the Languedoc.
- Maison Pic
285, avenue Victor-Hugo 26000 Valence, France
Anne-Sophie Pic is one of very few women to make a real name for themselves in the intensely competitive world of fine dining. The daughter of the great chef Jacques Pic is now recognised in her own right as her experimental flavours create sensational, beautiful dishes served in the modern, relaxed surroundings of this exceptional 3 Michelin starred restaurant. She says “Taste evokes emotion. This idea of emotion is often linked to the past and so to childhood memories that are a major inspiration of my cuisine today”.
- Auberge du Pont de Collonges-Paul Bocuse
40 Rue de la Plage, 69660 Collonges-au-Mont-d’Or, France
Paul Bocuse’s restaurant provides an authentic fine dining experience with classic dishes that have graced the three starred menu since the 1960s. My favourites are the famous Truffle Soup encased under a puff pastry lid that must be broken to release the fantastic earthy aromas of black truffle and foie gras and the delicious Volaille de Bresse en Vessie (Bresse chicken cooked in a pig’s bladder and flavoured with truffles). This restaurant is pure theatre, step back in time and experience a golden age in gourmet French cuisine.
- Maison Troisgros
Place Jean Troisgros, 42300 Roanne, France
Michel Troisgros grew up at this restaurant and now carries on his family’s proud tradition of exceptional French cuisine adding influences from his passion for Japanese and Italian food. Maison Troisgros has held three Michelin stars since 1968 and the signature dish of Escalope of Salmon with Sorrel has been on the menu since 1965. There is also a café-delicatessen next to the hotel offering fresh seasonal food in a relaxed environment and the chance to buy delicious preserves, oils and wines to take home.
- Le Bon Laboureur
6, rue du Bretonneau, F-37150 Chenonceaux, France
Set in the most elegantly converted post office I’ve ever seen and located very near the Chateau of Chenonceau, this hotel restaurant is well worth a visit.
- La Rapiere
53 rue St Jean, 14400 Bayeux, France
A delightfully authentic French restaurant where you can enjoy a personal service and great food at very reasonable prices. Try the lobster menu for 55€ that includes various lobster dishes including a bisque and lobster tail main course.