The Michelin Guide has become as synonymous with fine-dining. Today seen as the ultimate benchmark award to which restaurants can aspire, when it was first published in 1900 it had a much more straight-forward goal. Initially it was simply a device to help drive local tourism in France. And in the age when the motor car was enabling people to travel much further for their social activities, the guide was an essential way of promoting fine-dining to wider audiences. And of course cars travelling further distances meant that they needed to replace their tires more frequently, which of course served Michelin’s core interests.
For nearly 100 years the guide book has operated a star-rating system, the highest accolade being the coveted three-stars, which relates to ““exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey,” France with 27 restaurants meeting that standard is the second highest in the world after Japan (34) in the culinary world. Below are a small selection of what France has to offer; a best of the best that you ought to be (indeed you must be) decadently enjoying.
Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée, Paris, 8th Arrondissement
When the menu says “fresh-picked” it really means it, as everything from the baby Fava beans to the Bonnotte potatoes are grown exclusively for the restaurant and harvested that morning. Executive chef Romain Meder has driven a philosophy of fresh, pesticide-free produce, simple preparation techniques and a “fish-vegetables-cereal trilogy” to promote not only a wonderful dining experience but also a diet very much in tune with nature. Healthful indulgence indeed.
Christophe Bacquié, Le Castellet
New to the guide in 2018 the eponymous Christophe Bacquié at the Castellet Hotel prides itself on Mediterranean-influenced fayre prepared from local produce. Having learned to prepare fish working with Corsican fishermen, Le Castellet leads the way in high-flying, emotive and vibrant dishes. Michelin themselves extoll Bacquié’s virtues saying, “Each dish creates a memory; a testimony to his creative talent, his perfect technical skills and maturity.” As sophisticated as it gets.
Georges Blanc, Vonnas
Some restaurants come and go from the guide, some move up and down the ratings but both Georges Blanc the chef and his venue, Vonnas, have maintained three-stars for 38 years straight. He is the fourth generation of chefs to have run the restaurant, he sharpened his skills working in many of the finest kitchens in France, as well as serving time as a military cook, and has been running the family business since 1968. Vonnas is nothing less than a French culinary fixture. There is an uplifting spirit that infiltrates the food…an almost indiscernible delight which cannot be taught.
L’Ambroisie, Paris, 4th Arrondissement
As an orphan from an early age chef Bernard Pacaud found salvation in the kitchen of Eugénie Braizer’s Col de la Luère where he was given not only a roof over his head but the necessary training to become a successful chef and restauranteur in his own right. Having gained its third star in 1988, L’Ambroisie has held on to the top accolade longer than any other Parisian eatery. With a name literally meaning Food of The Gods, L’Ambroisie offers lavish plates, elegant artistry and stunning flavors fit for immortals.
La Maison des Bois, Manigod
Chef Marc Veryat identifies primarily as a peasant, at least in culinary terms, and has made it his mission to showcase wild botanicals and other pastoral gems from the region. The result is simple food served with wonderful gastronomical flourishes and the natural flavors are enhanced with herbs and flowers he gathers from the local countryside. The perfect blend of nature meeting art to produce an unforgettable dining experience.
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