Worldwide //  Europe //  France


Mr. Harper's Travel Guide

France receives more foreign visitors than any other country in the world. It is not hard to see why; aside from its spectacular capital city, it offers tracts of exquisite countryside, Europe’s highest mountain and, of course, some of the world’s finest cuisine ...

France receives more foreign visitors than any other country in the world. It is not hard to see why; aside from its spectacular capital city, it offers tracts of exquisite countryside, Europe’s highest mountain and, of course, some of the world’s finest cuisine (even though some travelers grumble that the general standard of food is not as high as it used to be). Perhaps the most remarkable thing about France is its astonishing variety within a relatively small area. European countries tend to be either northern or southern in character, with the Alps and Pyrenees being the principal dividing lines. France is both: The coast of Pas-de-Calais is just 29 miles from Kent in southern England, while the shores of Provence are part of the warm, classical world of the Mediterranean. 

The enduring charms of France are manifest. A typical visit generally includes a stay in Paris (perhaps in a grande dame hotel as well as an intimate Left Bank alternative), followed by a jaunt down into the Loire Valley, Provence or the Riviera. But the options are nearly endless: a historical pilgrimage to the bleak coastline of Normandy; a stirring drive along the serpentine Alsace wine road; a sunny idyll in Corsica, one of the most pristine and wildly scenic islands in the Mediterranean. Barge cruises, which travel along a network of linked canals through medieval villages and rolling vineyards, are a particularly appealing and hassle-free way of exploring the French countryside. Other novel approaches to this classic destination include culinary courses, ballooning trips, grape harvest tours and biking vacations. Then again, one could also spend several weeks happily sequestered in a sleepy provincial village.


Passport (valid for at least three months beyond end of stay). Visit, and for travelers’ health information,


Northern and central France are typified by Paris. The south of France, exemplified by Marseille, has hot, dry summers and cool, rainy winters. In August, the Parisians all leave on vacation. The Cote d’Azur is also best avoided in August, when it is impossibly overcrowded. Visitors to Paris should check the dates of the spring and fall fashion collections, when many of the best hotels (and restaurants) are full. 

bird icon Recommended Luxury Hotels in France

All Andrew Harper-recommended hotels offer impeccable accommodations and high levels of personal service. Only the best of the best make our list, so we rate them on a scale from bird icon 90 to 100.

Best Restaurants in France

Located on the banks of the Loire, this popular restaurant has three dining rooms — two modern, one traditional — and offers dishes such as foie gras marinated in Muscat wine, roasted guinea hen with pistachio butter, and mille-feuille with passion fruit caramel. Closed Monday.

17 Quai Charles Guinot Amboise

The modern French comfort food at this friendly bistro is excellent, and it includes such dishes as foie gras, sole in lemon butter, and slow-cooked lamb. It also has one of the more interesting and reasonably priced wine lists in the city; hence, its popularity with the wine trade and local antique dealers is no surprise. Closed Sunday and Monday.

45 Rue Notre Dame Bordeaux US$50

This elegant limestone townhouse near the Assemblée Nationale on the Left Bank houses a Latin American cultural center. For knowledgeable locals, it also has one of the most beautiful gardens in Paris, where dinner and lunch are served during the summer months, weather permitting. Closed August.

217 Boulevard Saint-Germain Paris (7e)

Just across the street from the western wing of the Louvre, Le Fumoir is a great all-purpose address: a combination bar, café and restaurant. Inside, you’ll find bare wooden floors and a handsome mahogany bar imported from a Chicago speakeasy, and there are sidewalk tables when the weather is decent. The staff is young, alert and friendly, and the drink list is reasonably priced and expertly mixed. There are also complimentary newspapers, a good assortment of wines by the glass, and a generously served brunch on Sundays. 

6 Rue de l'Amiral de Coligny Paris (1e)

For many years, La Villette, the old slaughterhouse district in the 19th arrondissement, was the place to go in Paris for really good meat. Ever since I found this place on the Left Bank, however, there is no longer any need to make a long journey for a memorable carnivorous meal. Owner William Bernet presides over this French version of a great steakhouse and its excellent wine list. There is a wonderful assortment of charcuterie from Laguiole in the Auvergne to start, and then the large, beautifully cooked steaks arrive. The best is the rib steak, which is big enough to feed two or three and comes with a side of excellent fries. This insider’s address doesn’t look like much, but it pulls a well-heeled crowd that often includes a well-known face or two, and the atmosphere is relaxed and friendly. Closed Saturday and Sunday.

8 Rue des Plantes Paris (14e) US$100

A temple of Parisian haute cuisine since 1946, this celebrated power-broking establishment occupies a grand 19th-century townhouse off of the Champs- Elysées. Current chef Alain Solivérès presents elegant dishes such as sea bass with leeks, Champagne and osetra caviar; boudin of Breton lobster with an emulsion of tarragon and aniseed; and spit-roasted Bresse chicken for two with morel mushrooms and pats of butter infused with Jura wine tucked under the skin. Closed Saturday and Sunday, and from late July to late August.

15 Rue Lamennais Paris (8e) US$175. Tasting menu, US$240; seasonal menu, US$310

This glamorous restaurant with a streamlined modern décor and fine views from a hillside location is one of the most fashionable in the city. A renowned chef in Lyon, Christian Têtedoie serves delicious contemporary French dishes such as wild John Dory meunière served for two; beef entrecôte with Beaujolais sauce, Pont Neuf potatoes, eggplant and Béarnaise sauce; and a blueberry soufflé. 

Montée du Chemin Neuf Lyon US$75-US$146

This minimalist, 20-seat Japanese restaurant in Beaune is a break from the typical Burgundian establishment. Its 10-course tasting menu delivers world-class quality and creativity. The salted prawns and foie gras tempura stole the show, especially when paired with a glass of Meursault. The eclectic wine list offers noteworthy selections at reasonable prices. Book well in advance. 

42 Rue Maufoux Beaune US$110

Many of the best new tables are simple little places, a reflection of the Marseillais dislike of formality and pretension, and one of my favorites is Le Grain de Sel, located on a side street near the Vieux-Port and perfect for lunch. The chalkboard menu changes regularly, but runs to dishes such as green gazpacho with baby clams, and roast veal with polenta and anchovies. Closed Sunday and Monday.

39 Rue de la Paix Marcel Paul Marseille

This bustling bistro offers not only a fine array of traditional dishes but also a delicious dose of eternal Paris. It originally opened to feed the hungry stall-holders and workers from Les Halles, the central market of Paris, which was once just down the street. That market, sadly, is long gone (it moved to suburban Rungis in the ’70s and the original buildings were demolished), but the raucous, jolly mood of this place harks back to an era when farmers and merchants arrived in the middle of the night to peddle their wares. I can’t think of any happier cure for jet lag than a 2 a.m. feast at this place, which serves until 5:00 a.m., especially since it offers some of the best rib steaks in town with huge sides of crispy golden frites (a meal best washed down with the house Brouilly, still decanted from big barrels up front). Other good dishes include wonderful pâtés, mutton with white beans, andouillette (chitterling) sausages, and offal for those who don’t find it awful. Service is brisk and wisecracking, and there’s a lot of chatting between tables.

5 Rue des Prouvaires Paris (1e)

Since he took over his family’s simple auberge 18 years ago, chef Olivier Bellin has won two Michelin stars for his contemporary Breton cooking. His menu evolves constantly, but dishes such as langoustine with girolle mushrooms and apricots, sea bass with onion ravioli, and seaweed-infused pear tart with verbena ice cream are typical of his style. Closed Monday and Tuesday all day and Sunday evening.

7 Rue de la Plage Plomodiern Prix fixe menus, US$110 to US$215

If you want a sushi fix while you’re in Paris, this small, quiet bar overlooking the Seine on the Ile Saint-Louis is the place to go. It doesn’t have a lot of atmosphere, but chef Katsuo Nakamura works behind the counter with the freshest fish in Paris, and most of the other clients are likely to be Japanese. Pricey, but so is the finest fish, and the Zen calm here makes it a pleasant place for lunch during a wander around the islands (Ile de la Cité and the Ile Saint-Louis). Reservations are essential. Closed Sunday and Monday.

4 Quai d’Orléans Paris (4e)

Here, high ceilings and a beautiful 19th-century bar create a potently Parisian atmosphere. The modern French cooking — innovative without straying into the realm of the overly odd — makes this exactly the kind of place where you’re happy to settle in for a relaxed meal and a good bottle of wine. Starters include the likes of shredded crab meat with carrot-ginger mousse and Dublin Bay prawn foam with lemongrass; main courses run to roasted turbot with stuffed piquillo pepper, sweet onions and chorizo. An excellent wine list, and a jazz pianist on occasion, help the well-dressed crowd of corporate-types and others unwind. Closed Saturday and Sunday.

8 Rue Volney Paris (2e) US$65. Tasting menu, US$75

For a terrific catch-of-the-day menu in this seafood-loving city, try this casual and authentic place. Aside from superb fish from boats operating out of the port, it offers a spectacular setting overlooking the Mediterranean from a craggy promontory. Closed Sunday and Monday.

2 Boulevard de la Libération Marseille

Anyone who is curious about avant-garde French haute cuisine should not miss Pierre Gagnaire’s restaurant. His astonishingly elaborate dishes change according to market and season, but they have included langoustine tartare with green mango, gooseberry-mustard syrup, black radish and potato purée; and rack of lamb poached in oregano bouillon with a crust of fresh herbs accompanied by shrimp cooked in prune brandy. Closed Saturday and Sunday.

Hotel Balzac 6 Rue Balzac Paris (8e) US$175

Chef Paul Michelli is one of the most famous fish cooks in Paris, and after running a swanky eponymous seafood house in the 7th arrondissement for several years, he moved to this cozy, clubby little place in the heart of Saint-Germain-des-Prés a few years ago. It’s since become a real insider’s address with local gallery owners and antique dealers, many of whom dine here daily, because they love Minchelli’s minimalist cooking style—he believes that really fresh fish should never be overwhelmed by sauces or garnishes. 

21 Rue Mazarine Paris (6e)

A good choice on a day when the restaurant at Le Jardin des Plumes is closed (Monday and Tuesday), this well-run auberge 10 minutes from Giverny in Gasny serves appealing traditional French dishes such as soft-boiled eggs with creamed morel mushrooms, and steak with perfectly made sauce Albuféra. Closed Tuesday nights and Wednesdays.

1 Place de la République Gasny

After cooking at the famous Le Chantecler in Nice and several other well-known tables along the coast of France, talented chef Alain Llorca has opened an auberge not far from Saint-Paul de Vence. The shaded terrace offers fine views of Saint-Paul and the distant Mediterranean, and the menu runs to sophisticated southern French country dishes such as zucchini flowers stuffed with black truffles in mushroom butter; and stuffed Dover sole in a fine, niçoise-style ragout of mussels and langoustine. 

350 Route de Saint-Paul La Colle-sur-Loup US$130. Prix fixe menus, US$80-US$160

If all you want to eat when you come to Paris is foie gras and boeuf bourguignon, this stylish restaurant with a loft-like décor isn’t the right place. If, on the other hand, you want to sample some excellent and inventive contemporary French cooking, you might enjoy chef William Ledeuil’s very popular restaurant in Saint-German-des-Prés. Ledeuil is fascinated by Asian ingredients and recipes, and he creates unusual but unfailingly delicious hybrid dishes. It can be noisy here, and the friendly young staff lack a bit of polish, but Ze Kitchen Galerie has a lively atmosphere and attracts an interesting crowd of artists, antique dealers and gallery owners.


4 Rue des Grands Augustins Paris (6e)

This wonderfully old-fashioned restaurant is one of my favorite places to dine in Paris, and I never leave town without having a meal here. The cozy dining room decorated with red velvet banquettes, smoky mirrors and 1950s French ceramics has a preserved-in-amber charm, the service is charming (most of the waiters have been here for years), and its clubby atmosphere derives from the fact that this is one of the most enduringly elegant beau-monde addresses in Paris. Jackets advised for gents—this place is very chic in a casual and very Parisian way.

27 Quai Voltaire Paris (7e)

Formerly known as Pavillon Ledoyen, one of the oldest restaurants in Paris occupies a pretty pavilion in the gardens of the Champs-Elysées. There are lovely views of the surrounding chestnut trees from the first-floor dining room, which has an elegant Directoire décor. The restaurant and its design were refreshed with the 2014 arrival of chef Yannick Alléno (formerly of hotel Le Meurice), whose cooking received three stars in the 2015 Michelin Guide. A superb talent, Alléno has dazzled diners with dishes such as tronçon of turbot roasted with bone marrow; and wagyu beef served with crispy raviolis, olives and green tomato jam. This restaurant is as perfect for an important business lunch as it is for a romantic dinner. Closed Saturday and Sunday.

Carré des Champs-Elysées 8 Avenue Dutuit Paris (8e) US$220. Prix-fixe Menu, $270

This pleasant but unexpectedly simple Michelin-starred restaurant in a residential corner of Saint-Brieuc occupies an old granite house. Talented chef Jean- Marie Baudic changes his menu daily according to the season and the markets, and the only choice is whether to have two courses or three. Baudic has a particular love of seafood and vegetables, as seen in dishes such as a starter of dressed crab with quinoa, piquillo peppers, baby vegetables and shellfish jus; and a main course of brill with vegetables and a luscious deeply reduced meat sauce. Perfect for lunch. Closed Sunday and Monday.

5 Rue Palasne de Champeaux Saint-Brieuc Two-course menu, US$40; three courses, US$60

With gracious service, reasonable prices and fine views over the Bay of Cancale, this charming restaurant is a perfect choice for a traditional French seafood meal. Diners might try the ravioli of langoustine, or roasted ormeaux (a very rare and succulent conch caught off the Channel Islands), followed by cod with celery mousseline, or grilled lobster. Don’t miss the delicious chocolate tart with raspberry marmalade. Closed Wednesday; Sunday evening September to June; Tuesday evening October to June.

4 Rue Ernest Lamort Cancale Prix fixe menus, US$50 and US$60; tasting menu, US$70; seafood platter, US$100

I was wary of this auberge in the town 45 minutes north of Paris where Vincent van Gogh spent the last few months of his life, since I expected it to be a tourist trap. Instead, the dining room has been beautifully decorated to approximate what it may have looked like when Van Gogh was a boarder here, and the food — simple, hearty and generously served — is good. Try the pistachio-studded duck terrine, leg of lamb slow-cooked for seven hours, and chocolate mousse. Closed Mondays and Tuesdays.

52 Rue du Général de Gaulle Auvers-sur-Oise

For an experience of vintage Parisian elegance, this white-orchid-filled dining room with its small army of courtly waiters can’t be bettered. It occupies the first floor of a refined townhouse in the heart of the city, where a doorman escorts you from a small elevator to your table. The menu offers a superb selection of house classics such as the Challans duckling for two with cherries. Other dishes might include the classic beef Rossini with puffed potatoes, or line-caught John Dory with fennel and candied lemon. Closed Sunday and Monday; dinner only except Thursday and Friday.

17 Avenue Franklin Roosevelt Paris (8e) US$235. Tasting Menu, US$220

To be perfectly clear, the main reason to dine at Le Jules Verne is that it offers spectacular views over Paris from the city’s most famous landmark. So if you come here with tempered expectations and are prepared to pay dearly for the privilege of these magnificent panoramas, you’re likely to enjoy yourself. This restaurant is now part of the Alain Ducasse stable. The food is generally good, but not the best, and the wine list is predictably overpriced. Because of fire regulations, most of what you eat is actually prepared in a ground-floor kitchen and transferred to a service kitchen in the Eiffel Tower.

Eiffel Tower Avenue Gustave Eiffel Paris (7e)

If you happen to be in Paris on a warm summer’s day, the first thing you should do that morning is to book a terrace table at this restaurant in a corner of the Palais Royal. Dining alfresco here is unforgettable, as restaurant patrons can stay in this lovely urban garden after it has been closed to the public. Soigné service and a chic crowd add to the pleasure of a meal here.

110 Galerie de Valois Paris (1e)

Located in an unspoiled medieval village, Bruno Cirino’s restaurant has elegant dining rooms that spill out onto a sunny terrace. The Mediterranean cuisine is essentially French, but it draws on Italian, Spanish and Greek culinary traditions. Cirino searches the local markets and fills his menu with dishes that reflect what is best and in season with an emphasis on fresh seafood. Typical dishes could be grilled St. Pierre fish with stewed potatoes and olive oil, or roasted boneless squab with a black olive reduction and Bandol wine. Closed Monday and Tuesday September-June.

20 Rue Comté de Cessole La Turbie (five miles north of Monaco) Prix-fixe Menu, US$90; Tasting Menu, US$155

Just a few miles outside of Uzès, chef Julien Lavandet and his partner Jennifer Henriksen have created a delightful and deservedly popular restaurant with excellent market-driven Provençal cooking. The menu changes regularly, but dishes such as herb-garnished red tuna and shrimp tartare, and yellow pollock with Swiss chard, artichokes and spinach show off his style. Several large terraces provide venues for fine-weather dining.

12 Route d'Uzès Montaren-et-Saint-Médiers

Conveniently located in the heart of the Côte de Nuits region in the La Rôtisserie du Chambertin hotel, this bustling brasserie has a casual ambiance that belies its sophisticated cuisine. Featuring food rooted in local tradition, our mouthwatering meal included a hearty coq au vin, which was a splendid match with the Grand Cru Pinot Noir from the nearby Clos de Vougeot vineyard, and the most sublime profiteroles in recent memory. Closed Sunday and Monday.

6 Rue du Chambertin Gevrey-Chambertin US$75

This is a lively spot with tightly spaced tables, but as soon as your first course arrives, you’ll understand why it’s worth putting up with the raucous atmosphere of this popular Left Bank bistro. Chef Stéphane Jégo’s food is delicious, and includes dishes such as baby scallops in their shells with tiny croutons and flat parsley, or fricassee of guinea hen cooked with thyme, rosemary and girolles mushrooms. Closed Sunday and Monday.

27 Rue Malar Paris (7e) US$60

With an ornate traditional French décor of oil paintings on ochre walls and lavish floral arrangements, chef Orsi’s stylish restaurant has an old-school elegance. Expect formal service and classic dishes such as foie gras ravioli with a Port-truffle sauce, gently spiced lobster with artichokes, and roast pigeon with preserved garlic, along with an excellent cheese tray and sumptuous desserts. By reservation only. Closed Sunday and Monday.

3 Place Kléber Lyon Menus, US$110, US$135 and US$200

Even if you’re not staying at the hotel, the restaurant of chef Joackim Salliot is the best address for a memorable meal during a visit to Giverny. Salliot’s creativity is displayed in dishes such as grilled langoustines and squid in green tea-flavored cauliflower cream, and lamb fillet with baby leeks and pistachio oil. There is also a good-value prix-fixe lunch menu. Closed Mondays and Tuesdays.

1 rue du Milieu Giverny

A short walk from the Hôtel Brittany, this contemporary brasserie has a seaside setting, cordial service and an appealing menu of good, simple French dishes prepared with first-rate local produce. These dishes include excellent oysters; mussels served three different ways; and yellow pollock with buckwheat stuffing, baby vegetables and beurre blanc sauce. 

37 Rue de l'Amiral Courbet Roscoff US$45

The restaurant at Les Etangs de Corot won a Michelin star this year for chef Rémi Chambard’s excellent contemporary French cooking. Working with seasonal, often local produce, Chambard creates dishes such as wild sea bass carpaccio with beets, apples and caviar; and sole with Swiss chard, baby onions and gnocchi. The Grand Marnier and saffron soufflé makes the perfect finale to a fine meal. Closed Mondays and Tuesdays.

55 Rue de Versailles Ville-d'Avray

Young South African chef Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen’s stylish bistro is one of the most popular restaurants in Nice. Before opening it, Jan studied design and worked as a food writer and as a chef on a private yacht. These diverse experiences explain the cosmopolitan style of his cooking, which changes according to the market. Jan's menu has included dishes such as boned rack of lamb with lamb sweetbread croquettes; and a luscious dessert of malva pudding, a South African specialty of caramelized sponge cake. Closed Monday.

12 Rue Lascaris Nice Prix fixe menu, US$90; Tasting menu, US$110

Founded in 1903 by the Austrian pastry chef Antoine Rumpelmayer, this elegant tearoom is famous for its lusciously thick hot chocolate and Mont Blanc pastries. These rich meringues, topped with spiced chestnut cream, are a delightful treat after a walk around the Tuileries Garden across the street. Leather armchairs at green marble tables and elegant wall murals create a genteel atmosphere, and you’ll spot many a grandmother here with her happy grandchildren. The lemon and strawberry tarts are delicious, too, and this is an excellent place for afternoon tea.

226 rue de Rivoli Paris (1e)

The three-star table of chef Eric Frechon is one of the best and most reliable top-of-the-heap restaurants in Paris. It formerly migrated between a beautiful oak-paneled dining room (winter-fall) and a glass-walled space overlooking the hotel’s lovely courtyard garden (spring-summer), but has recently moved into a new marble-floored dining room with a slightly bland décor by French decorator Pierre-Yves Rochon. Service is impeccable; it has one of the best wine lists in Paris; and Frechon, an amiable Norman, is a superb cook. His menu evolves constantly, but dishes not to miss include macaroni stuffed with black truffles, foie gras and artichokes; the poularde de Bresse in two services — the breasts in a sauce of vin jaune with asparagus, crayfish and girolle mushrooms, and the thighs with a truffled leek-and-potato bouillon — and any of the chocolate desserts.

Le Bristol 112 Rue Faubourg Saint Honoré Paris (8e)

Located on the banks of the Seine in Saint-Germain-des-Prés, this romantic restaurant occupies a townhouse that dates to 1766 and has a long and fascinating history; the great French gastronome Auguste Escoffier was once the chef here. The main dining room has real Old World elegance, with low lighting, oil paintings and wood paneling, and they also have several private dining rooms where the scratches in the mirrors are said to have been made by ladies testing the veracity of diamonds newly offered by their suitors.  It is also very quiet and ideal for a tete a tete. 

51 Quai des Grands Augustins Paris (6e)

After a successful stint in Tours, young chef Olivier Arlot took over an established restaurant (La Chancelière) in nearby Montbazon and transformed it into one of the finest in the Loire Valley. His prix-fixe menus follow the seasons, but dishes such as shrimp with avocado and grapefruit, cod in red wine sauce on black rice with girolles, and peaches and raspberries in a Vouvray foam show off his inventive style. Closed Sunday and Monday.

1 Place des Marronniers La Chancelière Montbazon

In the heart of Beaune, this local institution has a bustling atmosphere reminiscent of a Parisian brasserie. The menu features a host of expertly prepared classic recipes such as scrambled eggs with truffles, and duck breast with wild mushrooms. The selections accompany what may be Burgundy’s top wine list, with many highly coveted bottlings available for a fraction of their retail market value. Save room for the bountiful cheese selections. Reserve well in advance. Closed Saturday, Sunday and Wednesday.

Passage Saint-Hélène Beaune US$75

Overlooking the sea, this hotel dining room is a fine destination for lunch, especially as a stop on an easygoing drive around the lovely Crozon peninsula (much recommended). Order one of the well-priced prix fixe menus, or go à la carte for fish soup, langoustine with homemade mayonnaise, grilled lobster, turbot with a buckwheat crust, or beef tenderloin with foie gras sauce and potato pancake. Closed Saturday lunch, Sunday evening and Monday. Closed all of January.

11 Quai du Fret Crozon Prix fixe menus, US$35 to US$85

This vintage wine shop in a chic corner of the 17th arrondissement feels almost like a film set: lacy curtains in the front window, a big zinc bar, mosaic tiles, and cornices overhead. It can be a trifle stuffy, but I enjoy the atmosphere and the seriousness of the well-heeled crowd here. The pours by the glass change weekly, but you can also purchase a bottle from the shop as long as you’re willing to swallow the steep corkage fee (worth doing, in my opinion, as the list is impressive). The menu features well-made French comfort food such as foie gras, duckling with green peppercorns, rabbit in mustard sauce, a superb cheese tray and a fine crème brûlée.

30 Bis avenue Niel Paris (17e)

Amiable service, a good wine list and the excellent cooking of chef Christophe Poirier make this intimate restaurant in a 1768 vintage half-timbered inn a perfect destination for lunch. Try dishes such as broccoli flan with shellfish or foie gras mille-feuille to start, then perhaps the duck breast in pastry with morel mushrooms, or sea bass with fennel and capers. Fresh strawberries in a vanilla dressing make an ideal dessert.

27 place Isaac Benserade Lyons-la-Forêt

After working at Le Meurice in Paris, chef Jacques Guillaumat took over this auberge outside of chenonceaux and now serves reasonably priced modern French cuisine. Expect dishes such as langoustine-and-crab-stuffed cannelloni with avocado mousseline, and pike-perch in vanilla sauce. Closed Tuesday and Wednesday.

30 Rue Nationale Chisseaux

With red-and-ivory-checked tablecloths, waiters in white aprons and a menu that runs to delicious dishes such as pâté de campagne, foie gras, duck confit and blanquette de veau, this is a classic French establishment with excellent service. A textbook example of the much-loved traditional Parisian bistro, a species that is sadly becoming endangered. 

129 Rue Saint-Dominique Paris (7e) US$70

Located in the silk-stocking 7th arrondissement, not far from the Eiffel Tower, chef Arnaud Pitrois’ stylish contemporary bistro is a soigné address popular with well-heeled locals and travelers in the know. I’ve been coming here for a long time, and always appreciate Madame Pitrois’ welcome and her husband’s inventive but reliably light and delicious contemporary French cooking. The menu follows the seasons, but dishes such as chestnut soup with chicken gnocchi, sea bass with black truffles and arugula sauce, and mandarin orange soufflé offer a good idea of the chef’s style. Good wine list and amiable service.

16 Avenue Rapp Paris (7e)

This cozy bistro in the residential 11th arrondissement is where you’re likely to find Paris food critics eating on their nights off. The blackboard menu changes daily but runs to dishes such as coddled eggs with wild mushrooms, cod with chanterelles, excellent steaks, and homemade seasonal fruit tarts. The wonderful wine list is especially strong on Côtes du Rhônes. Closed Sunday and Monday.

18 Rue Paul Bert Paris (11e) US$65

This friendly and casual bar à vin near the Palace of the Popes in Avignon is an excellent address for lunch or a light dinner. Owners Nicolas Martin and Véronique Bonnemer know their wines and serve a good selection by the glass. I especially recommend their take on shrimp tempura, and the lamb chops with pea purée. Closed Sundays.

46 rue de la Balance Avignon

Chef Sylvain Martin’s innovative and modern French cooking has made this stylish contemporary restaurant a local favorite. The menu changes often, but it always features a dependably good assortment of charcuterie to start and dishes such as trout with polenta in langoustine sauce, and crème brûlée with vanilla bourbon. Lunch only Sunday.

114 Cours de Verdun Bordeaux US$55

Among the bouchons (a local style of bistro), this one has been a local institution since 1726 and is notable for its wonderful atmosphere engendered by beamed ceilings and traditional furniture. Try dishes such as the house terrine made with pork and chicken livers, saucisson de Lyon (pork sausage with pistachios) with a side salad of lentils, and the celebrated poulet aux morilles à la crème (chicken with morel mushrooms). Closed Sunday evening.

25 Rue Guynemer Lyon US$50

A well-prepared "catch of the day" menu makes this friendly seafood house a good choice for lunch. There’s a nice selection of white Bordeaux to accompany dishes from the menu, which has at times included fish terrine, herring and beet salad, grilled razor shell clams, and croaker (a species of ray-finned fish) with herb butter. 

22 Rue du Parlement Saint-Pierre Bordeaux US$55

This restaurant has an idyllic garden-and-mansion setting, like the more famous Jardin des Remparts, but an edgier menu. I had an appetizer of tangy and intense mackerel escabeche with pickled fennel and dots of carrot purée and fish sauce. For my main, a tender slice of leg of lamb came with crispy lamb sweetbreads and savory kidney, as well as fresh corn kernels, baby corn, corn purée and corn foam. 

10-12 Boulevard Maréchal Foch Beaune US$65-US$105

This strategically located café just across the street from the Church of Saint-Germain-des-Prés takes its name from two “magots,” or Japanese statuettes, in the main salon. Its large terrace has been an excellent spot for people-watching since it opened in 1885. Much like its erstwhile rival the Café de Flore, it has attracted many artists and notables over the years and is very expensive. Les Deux Magots and the Café de Flore are the salt and pepper of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, eternally paired but also very different. Though Les Deux Magots also awards a famous literary prize, it pulls more shoppers than the Flore, and the crowd is often more international than Parisian.

6 Place Saint-Germain-des-Prés Paris (6e)

After a Sunday afternoon stroll around the Marais, I inevitably end up at this popular bistro featuring a simple décor, casual but correct service and an excellent chalkboard menu of seasonal French comfort-food dishes. It can be a bit noisy (the crowd is young, and the room is rather bare), but it is a bona fide neighborhood restaurant.  I enjoy dishes like the smoked garlic soup, smoked salmon or homemade country pâté to start, followed by a fine steak tartare, grilled Bigorre pork or maybe some game in season.  Note that this place is very popular, so bookings are always necessary. 

49 rue de Turenne Paris (3e)

Once a louche Montparnasse café frequented by writers and revolutionaries, today Le Dôme is one of the best seafood restaurants in Paris. The original art deco interior survives, with its stained-glass windows and cozy booths. This clubby restaurant is popular with French politicians and corporate brass. Service is precise and formal, and the catch of the day is one of the best in Paris, including excellent oysters, pan-roasted turbot with Hollandaise sauce, and excellent bouillabaisse. Finish up with some roasted figs and vanilla ice cream or maybe a cheese plate composed of fine cheeses from the Bras family (as in Michel Bras) in the Auvergne.

108 Boulevard Montparnasse Paris (14e)

Sadly, this storied restaurant has never been the same since the passing of Claude Terrail, the dapper owner and maître d’hôtel par excellence. Yet it still serves up one of the loveliest views in Paris (the back of Notre Dame, the Seine and its banks) and its famous roast caneton (duckling) in orange sauce. Service is serious and cordial in the best old-fashioned traditions of Gallic gastronomy. To be sure, the kitchen has had some ups and downs during the last few years, but my last meal here was excellent. It’s still a grand experience to daydream over the vista and be coddled in an elegant dining room. Come for lunch to get the view at its best, and also perhaps to take advantage of the good-value prix-fixe lunch menu.

15 quai de la Tournelle Paris (5e)

Occupying a pretty white pavilion in the gardens of the Champs Élysées, Laurent has a dual personality. It is a popular power lunch venue for French politicians and business people in the afternoon, and then it becomes quieter and more intimate in the evening. During the summer, weather permitting, they serve outside in one of the prettiest gardens in central Paris. Chef Alain Pégouret is a talented classicist with a deft culinary imagination. Excellent wine list and very good service.

41 Avenue Gabriel Paris (8e)

After cooking at Lasserre for several years, talented chef Jean-Louis Nomicos opened this strikingly modern restaurant in the 16th arrondissement, and immediately began attracting a well-heeled neighborhood crowd who appreciate his inventive contemporary cooking. Nomicos is from Marseilles, and many of the dishes he serves have a touch of the south in them. Attentive service and a dressy but relaxed atmosphere.

16 Avenue Bugeaud Paris (16e)

Though the atmosphere at this establishment — within an easy walk of the château de Verrières — can be a little stuffy, the contemporary cooking is delicious. The menu changes often, but runs to dishes such as shiitake mushroom soup with bacon, goat cheese éclair with arugula emulsion, and duck breast with a cashew nut crust. Excellent cheese selection and a notable wine list.

6 Rue de Lorraine Saumur

Though it’s located in the heart of the city on the busy Rue Réaumur, as soon as you step inside this simple, cozy bistro, you’ll think you’re in the French Basque Country. Garlands of red Espelette peppers hang from the ceiling, and the welcome is very warm in this casual room with a vintage mosaic floor, a long service bar and framed posters on the walls. Chef Bertrand Guéneron, who was once sous chef to Alain Senderens, turns out delicious renditions of Basque classics such as axoa, a hearty veal stew. 

38 Rue Réaumur Paris (3e)

After many years working in celebrated Paris kitchens, including Pavillon Ledoyen, Epicure and Arpège, young chef Stéphane Cosnier returned home and opened this modern French bistro, which is a perfect place for lunch after a visit to Carnac. His menu changes often, but runs to dishes such as roasted langoustines with crushed grilled peanuts, John Dory in mussel sauce, and a buckwheat waffle with stewed peaches and verbena ice cream. Closed Mondays.

36 Avenue de la Poste Carnac

Overlooking the Mont Saint-Michel Bay, this excellent Michelin-starred restaurant showcases the modern Breton-Japanese cooking of chef Raphaël-Fumio Kudaka, a native of Japan who previously worked with Olivier Roellinger. Kudaka’s cooking is delicate, precise and subtle, as seen in dishes such as lobster dumplings with pine nuts, Lepage Farm pork-and-morel gyoza, braised shiitake mushrooms and a clear yuzu broth; and fillet of fried John Dory with pointed cabbage, clams and a cabbage-and-garlic-oil broth. Excellent wine list. Closed Tuesday and Wednesday.

7 Quai Thomas First Floor Cancale Five-course menu, US$85; eight courses, US$150

I love the food of southwestern France, which is the specialty of this discreet restaurant not far from the Gare de Lyon (it’s a great place for lunch or dinner before you hop a TGV to the south of France). Though I liked the dining room better before it was redecorated several years ago, they had the good sense to leave the beautiful wedding-cake moldings untouched, and it’s a quiet, comfortable place for a meal. Desserts aren’t especially memorable, but there is a superb collection of Armagnacs.

40 Rue Taine Paris (12e)

This engaging, low-key bistro in the heart of the city takes its name from the fact that its cosmopolitan quartet of chefs hails from around the globe, with members from Japan, Israel, New Caledonia and France (via Vietnam). The worldly food prepared in the open kitchen reflects this diversity and includes excellent dishes such as monkfish with smoked chestnut purée, pork loin with vanilla-flavored celery root purée, and hibiscus-roasted figs with halva ice cream. Closed Sunday and Monday; dinner only on Saturday.

33 Rue du Cancera Bordeaux Five-course Tasting Menu, US$55

After cooking at Les Ambassadeurs in the Hôtel de Crillon for a time, chef Dominique Bouchet opened his own establishment in the early 2000s. This dining room, with its exposed stone walls and contemporary art, has since become one of my favorites in Paris. Bouchet is one of the most experienced chefs in town — he also cooked at Jamin when it was run by Joël Robuchon and at La Tour d’Argent, among others. This impressive gastronomic history informs his menu. Start with the king crab with avocado, mango and green apple, or try the imaginative sake-marinated foie gras with black cherry jam, quince and toasted brioche. Then, sample sea bass with crushed ratte potatoes, vanilla-flavored olive oil, capers and lemon; rack of lamb roasted with thyme flowers and served with black olive polenta and stir-fried chanterelles; or a perfect fillet of beef. Service is precise, and the atmosphere is dressy but low-key. Closed Saturday and Sunday.

11 Rue Treilhard Paris (8e) US$120. Tasting menus, US$120 and US$160

Located next to the little white lighthouse at the entrance to the fishing port of Sauzon on Belle-Ile, this simple seafood restaurant serves the excellent local catch of the day, including langoustines, mussels, oysters, lobster and sea bass. An enchanting terrace overlooks the harbor. Open April 1st through September 30th.

Quai Guerveur Hôtel du Phare Sauzon

This is one of the city’s iconic bouchons. Since some of these dishes are acquired tastes — chitterling sausage, calf’s head, and tripe, for example — we suggest you come for lunch and opt for dishes such as saucisson de Lyon, chicken in vinegar sauce, Saint-Marcellin cheese, or tarte pralinée. Closed Saturday and Sunday.

7 Rue du Garet Lyon US$40

The most famous literary café on the Left Bank has been a gathering place for writers, artists and glamorous eccentrics since it opened in 1887. Today, there are at least as many tourists in the crowd as there are creative types, but the Flore continues to be a bastion of the Saint-Germain-des-Prés intelligentsia and popular with fashion designers such as Karl Lagerfeld and Sonia Rykiel. The locals tend to sit inside the pretty art deco salon or, if they’re doing business, to head upstairs for extra discretion. Yes, it’s very expensive, but the price of a coffee is your ticket to one of the greatest shows in Paris. It remains the very definition of a great (many think the greatest) Paris café.

172 Boulevard Saint-Germain Paris (6e)

Featuring a glamorous dove-gray décor and a ceiling glittering with 10,000 suspended pieces of cut crystal (the work of young French interior designer Patrick Jouin), the Paris restaurant of globe-trotting chef Alain Ducasse offers a grand slam experience of contemporary French haute cuisine, with some of the best service in the world and a remarkable wine list. Ducasse himself is not in the kitchen, but his lieutenant Romain Reder creates delicious dishes. A real pomp-and-circumstance address with an international clientele, it’s also ideal for a special-occasion meal or a long, leisurely lunch. Jacket required. Closed Saturday and Sunday.

Hôtel Plaza-Athénée 25 Avenue Montaigne Paris (8e) US$250, with fixed menus priced higher

With a charming décor created by soft lighting, old beams, oil paintings and seasonal bouquets, this cozy restaurant stands on the site of an old convent where King Louis XIII was crowned in 1610. Before buying the establishment in 1996, chef Manuel Martinez cooked at many of the great restaurants of France, and this impressive background informs the precision of his delicious classical cooking. This place is ideal for a tête-à-tête.

8 Rue des Grands Augustins Paris (6e)

Argentine-born chef Mauro Colagreco is a rising star on the Riviera at this dramatically located restaurant that has beautiful views looking over the Mediterranean. Colagreco is a poetic cook who delights in using fresh herbs, vegetables and seasonal fruits in tasting menus that have included dishes such as shrimp carpaccio with a raspberry and blackberry purée, citrus and elderflower; and squab with risotto, strawberries and gizzard confit. Closed Monday and Tuesday.

30 Avenue Aristide Briand Menton Prix-fixe Menus, US$60, US$95 and US$160

Old-fashioned bistros are rarer in Paris these days, especially ones that are conveniently located in the heart of the city. This relaxed and quietly chic spot just off the Place des Victoires was a favorite of Julia Child, and the excellent traditional cooking makes it one of mine as well, especially for dishes such as chicken liver terrine, and grilled turbot with Béarnaise sauce. Closed Saturday and Sunday.

1 Rue du Mail Paris (2e) US$60

Though it’s off the beaten track, young chef Bertrand Grébaut’s bistro is worth discovering for his imaginative contemporary French dishes. Grébaut trained with chef Alain Passard at L’Arpège, a background that shows up in starters such as risotto with watercress and sorrel, and main courses like cod steak in a jus de poulet with fennel bulb shavings, or succulent pork rib with radishes and carrots. Friendly service in an attractive, loft-like space and an interesting wine list make this a great choice for casual dining. Closed Saturday and Sunday.

80 Rue de Charonne Paris (11e) US$75

For excellent southern French cooking, don’t miss this Marseille institution, perched on rock at the entrance to the old port of Vallon des Auffes. Chef Guillaume Sourrieu makes a superb fish soup, along with more elaborate dishes such as sea bass in caviar butter, John Dory with Swiss chard, gnocchi and black olive sauce, and chocolate soufflé with black-pepper ice cream. Closed Sunday and Monday.

Vallon des Auffes Marseille

With a chic Left Bank address near the Rodin Museum, chef Alain Passard’s L'Arpège, a pear wood-paneled dining room with Lalique glass inserts, is one of the more controversial haute cuisine establishments in Paris. Some adore Passard’s minimalist style and his love of vegetables, most of which come from his own farms in the Sarthe and Brittany, while others find dishes such as onions baked in rock salt and garnished with Parmesan overpriced relative to their simplicity. A brilliant choice for vegetarians or adventurous diners, it’s likely to disappoint if you love the grandeur of traditional French haute cuisine. For my part, I respect Passard’s talent and like his food, especially at lunch, but find the prices a bit wilting. Don’t miss the sautéed chicken with shallots, onions and potato purée — it’s great comfort food at the top of the Gallic food chain.

84 Rue de Varenne Paris (7e)

Located on an island in the Bois de Boulogne, the vast park on the western edge of Paris, this romantic good-weather-only pavilion is surrounded by flowering gardens and towering pines. You will have to take a cab to get here, but it’s a delightful outing on a warm day. A stylish crowd of Parisians enjoys an open-air terrace that is set with well-spaced tables and is candlelit at night. 

Bois de Boulogne Paris (16e)

Young chef Pascal Barbot is one of the rising stars of French cooking, which is why reservations at this tiny dining room with metallic walls and a handful of comfortably spaced tables are very difficult to obtain. Dishes typical of his imaginative cuisine have included a signature “ravioli” of avocado slices stuffed with crab, a small cake of mushrooms and foie gras, and a chocolate biscuit with milk sorbet. Closed Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

4 Rue Beethoven Paris (16e) Prix fixe menus, US$170 to US$260.

Englishman Mark Williamson launched the modern Parisian wine bar when he opened this still very popular place near the Palais-Royal in 1980. Small, convivial and stylish, it attracts a fashionable international crowd who enjoy the excellent pours by the glass and a good chalkboard menu that runs to dishes such as artichokes with marinated onions and foie gras, and pan-roasted guinea hen with girolles. A great destination after a stroll and some shopping in the Palais.

13 Rue des Petits Champs Paris (1e)

As real bistros are becoming hard to find in Saint-Germain-des-Prés — the rent is too high for most to make a go of it — it’s great news when a new one opens, especially if it’s as good as this snug, stylish dining room just off the Rue du Bac. Chef Guillaume Monnet, who previously cooked at Apicius, creates an ever-changing menu of delicious contemporary French dishes that has included starters such as oxtail ravioli with foie gras, and steamed eggs with smoked salmon; mains like poached John Dory with rutabaga purée and hazelnut butter, and grilled pork belly with salsify Tatin; and desserts such as a perfectly delicious chocolate soufflé. 

10 Rue de Saint-Simon Paris (7e) US$65

Self-taught chef Hervé Bourdon has developed a remarkable network of local suppliers, and he respects the quality of their produce by cooking it simply and precisely. This excellent seafood restaurant is where we celebrated the end of our cure with a superb meal of mackerel sashimi on cauliflower purée, and sea bass with artichokes and ginger.

11 Quai Saint-Ivy Portivy Saint-Pierre-Quiberon

Chef Tanguy Laviale’s cozy restaurant with limestone walls has the added draw of an excellent wine boutique up front. With an impeccable haute cuisine pedigree, Tanguy creates such appealing dishes as smoked tuna and duck foie gras, a fine roasted Pauillac lamb, and scallops with creamed wild mushrooms. Lunch offered Tuesday-Friday, dinner Thursday and Friday.

62 Rue Abbé de l'Épée Bordeaux Prix fixe five-course dinner, US$80

Reviving a famous restaurant such as La Mère Brazier is fraught with challenges, but chef Mathieu Viannay’s shrewd makeover of one of the best-loved tables in Lyon has been rewarded with two Michelin stars. While retaining dishes that date to the restaurant’s founding by Eugénie Brazier in 1921, Viannay has also introduced some of his own excellent creations, which have included a classic Grand Marnier soufflé; and wonderful Bresse chicken for two with crayfish, which features the breasts served with a classic Nantua sauce, while the legs and thighs are grilled and served with a tomato-based sauce vierge with crayfish oil. The excellent wine list features the best of the Rhône Valley. Closed Saturday and Sunday.

12 Rue Royale Lyon US$120. Tasting menu, US$180

Stylish Parisians hankering after a taste of the food they enjoyed during their Iberian holidays have made this sleek beige dining room on the banks of the Seine one of the most popular foreign restaurants in Paris. It is especially busy on Saturday and Sunday nights, when the locals come for the excellent paellas that emerge from chef Alberto Herraiz’s fogón (oven). Start with an assortment of tapas or some Spanish charcuterie before the mostly rice-based main courses. Service is friendly, and the atmosphere is relaxed but fashionable in a very Saint-Germain-des-Prés kind of way. Good Spanish wine selections.

45 Quai des Grands-Augustins Paris (6e)

This friendly, mostly seafood restaurant on a spit in the pleasant resort town of Saint-Lunaire (near Dinard) has spectacular sea views. It offers dishes that are perfectly sourced and cooked, such as grilled sole, cod steak with ratatouille, and a frangipane tart topped with preserved oranges. Closed Monday July and August; closed Monday and Tuesday April to June, September and October; open Friday, Saturday and Sunday lunch February and March.

1 Pointe du Décollé Saint-Lunaire Prix-fixe menus, US$35 and US$50

This chic restaurant is located in a 17th-century building in the heart of Chambolle-Musigny, a tranquil hamlet a few miles off of Autoroute 31, north of Beaune. The sumptuous fare features modern interpretations of traditional cuisine such as foie gras with smoked eel and leeks, and slow-cooked veal. Dishes are paired with selections from the excellent wine list. Closed Sunday and Monday.

1 Rue Traversière Chambolle-Musigny US$60

This welcoming restaurant in an old lodge adjacent to the Château de Blois serves intelligently updated French classics such as boned frogs’ legs in lettuce cream with goat cheese gnocchi, veal sweetbreads with mustard sauce, and Grand Marnier soufflé. Closed Sunday and Monday.

1 Avenue Jean-Laigret Blois

The 1930s villa housing this restaurant has pretty dining rooms, but the garden patio is its real glory. There we had an unforgettable lunch, starting with shelled escargot in a ring of fluffy garlic cream sauce. In the center, a hollow, falafel-like sphere contained more escargot bathed in butter infused with garlic and parsley. Just as good was the juicy Charolais beef with red wine sauce, mushrooms and a side of “mashed potatoes.” This crock of potato purée tasted ethereally light, and yet it was so rich with butter and cream that I have no doubt this dish has a place of honor on the dinner table in heaven. Closed Sunday and Monday.

10 Rue de l'Hôtel Dieu Beaune Tasting menus, US$75-US$85

Tucked away in Montmartre, this attractive restaurant with a stylish modern décor serves one of the most original menus in Paris. Chef Antoine Heerah is from the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius, and his distinctive cooking marries its culinary traditions (French, African, Chinese and Indian) to fresh French produce with intriguing results. During the summer, you can dine on one of the prettiest little terraces in Paris.

52 Rue Lamarck Paris (18e)
SIMILAR REGIONS TO Worldwide //  Europe //  France

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