...the current generation of winemakers are much more well-travelled than their parents, and certainly their grandparents who may not have even visited neighbouring villages! This current generation has not only travelled widely but are much more open to new ideas and tastes. They’re also very likely to have tasted wines from around the world as well as neighbouring winemakers in their own village – something their grandparents probably did not do. The same goes for the culinary scene in Burgundy.
While there’s no shortage of the regional classics (think snails, charcuterie & rich braised dishes like beef Bourguignon and coq au vin) to be found, there’s also a generation of younger chefs very much open to new ideas and influences. This generation understands that the classic Burgundy cuisine can sometimes be too rich and cook with a lighter touch. This is welcome news as I can attest to.
I spend a lot of time in the region and I’m personally very thankful for the diversity now available. When I first started visiting Burgundy, I felt like I needed to diet for a month after spending a week in the region! Let me share with you a selection of my absolute favourite places to eat in this wonderful region:
Au Fil du Zinc, Chablis
This restaurant is one of the culinary highlights of the entire Burgundy region. It’s a shame that so many visitors to Burgundy never make it to Chablis as the food (and the exceptional, fairly priced wine list) are absolutely world class. Chef Ryo Nagahama worked early in his career with the legendary chef Joel Robuchon, in his atelier in Paris. Now from his quiet base in Chablis he turns out French classics such as coquilles St Jacques and fillet of beef Rossini with his own unique touch which often pay homage to his Japanese heritage. Book well in advance as the restaurant is often booked out months ahead!
Le Bistrot Lucien, Gevrey-Chambertin
Le Bistrot Lucien is a great spot for lunch if you’re visiting domaines in the Côte de Nuits. Chef Thomas Collomb and his team turn classic bistro entées like terrine de campagne, oeuf en meurette (a Burgundy classic of eggs poached in red wine with shallots and bacon) and the best snails I’ve ever had! Mains feature local meats, fish and seasonal vegetables cooked with a deft hand. Bistro classics are elevated here into something truly incredible by the use of the best local and seasonal ingredients combined with intelligent, precise cooking. The wine list features numerous star domaines of the Côte de Nuits but sadly prices are rather on the high side. My advice is to choose wines from lower down the appellation hierarchy made by top growers and let the great food take centre stage!
Castel de Très Girard, Morey-Saint-Denis
Belonging to the 4-star hotel of the same name, the restaurant Castel de Très Girard is another great lunch spot in the Côte de Nuits. Modern, elegant brasserie is the order of the day here. Local seasonal ingredients are prepared using a combination of classic and modern techniques and the menu is constantly changing to reflect the seasons. The wine list is one of the best in the Côte de Nuits. There’s a dazzling array of top grower Champagnes, white Burgundy from top domaines from Chablis in the north and Mâcconais to the south and everything in between. Unsurprisingly the list of Côte de Nuits reds here truly amazing. It features an encyclopaedic range of top growers and crus from the Côte de Nuits and a well-chosen (if somewhat shorter) selection of top Côte de Beaune. One special feature of the restaurant is that you can always have every one of the Morey-Saint-Denis Grand Crus by the glass. Definitely not one to miss!
Le Millésime, Chambolle-Musigny
If you’re looking for one of the best value lunches around, look no further than the gastronomic restaurant Le Millésime in Chambolle-Musigny. The kitchen is ambitious and the style here is plates that aspire to one Michelin star levels. Happily, they offer a fixed daily lunch menu during the week for just 19.90 Euros. The wine card is solid, if not amazing with prices just north of what’s technically correct. Value on the wine list certainly can be found if one looks outside the Côte d’Or or lower down the appellation hierarchy.
Au Petit Bonheur, Curtil Vergy
This gem of a restaurant is a little bit of the beaten track. It’s situated in the town of Curtil Vergy in the Hautes Côtes de Nuits above Vosne-Romanée, close to the historical Abbaye Saint-Vivant which is currently being restored and whose history is closely linked to Burgundy wine (Romanée-St-Vivant anyone?!) and is itself well worth the detour. The restaurant menu is simple and classic, with entrées including Burgundy classics such as snails, oeufs en meurette and a wonderful homemade terrine de campagne which is also available to buy in jars and take away. Mains are seasonal and constantly changing. One of the stars and always to be found is the delicious ‘Supreme de Poulet Fermier Gaston Gérard’ – one of the best chicken dishes I’ve ever had. The wine list is small, serviceable and more than fairly priced. The owners are music lovers as the decorations in the dining room attest to, and throughout the year the restaurant holds music concerts with up and coming bands.
La Cabotte, Nuits-Saint-Georges
This long running restaurant in Nuits-Saint-Georges has for years been turning out Burgundy classics made with great ingredients and a steady hand. With the changing seasons, other more modern dishes feature meaning that there’s always something new to try, though the food here is always rather on the solid (read heavy!) side. The wine list is a virtual roll call of top names from all over Burgundy as well as top grower Champagnes and top names from other parts of France. Prices are a little on the high side so don’t expect to find a great bargain, though you’ll always find something to drink that’s at least fairly priced.
Ermitage de Corton, Chorey-les-Beaune
This often-overlooked restaurant can be found directly on the main road (D974) heading north from the Côte de Beaune to the Côte de Nuits in Chorey-les-Beaune making it a useful stop if you have Côte de Beaune appointments in the morning and Côte de Nuits appointments after lunch - or vice versa. The restaurant belongs to the hotel of the same name. Elegant bistro dishes are prepared with proudly local ingredients. The food here doesn’t rely on rich sauces or an excess of cream and butter, but on carefully selected seasonal ingredients cooked precisely to showcase their natural flavours. The wine list is very good, the prices correct if not outstanding value. As it always is when seeking wine list values, it’s worth to look to the top growers from Chablis, Côte Chalonnaise and Mâcconais.
Bistro de l’Hotel, Beaune
The bistro at the luxurious 5-star l’Hôtel de Beaune just off the Place Carnot in the centre of Beaune is a Burgundy institution and is not to be missed. French bistro classics are produced here without any modern twists but are executed perfectly. The dining room is the perfect balance between elegance and welcoming comfort. The white tablecloths neatly pressed - the epitome of French elegance! A steak may cost a bit more here than at other restaurants but is always cooked perfectly, and the side dishes and sauces are simple perfection and are deeply satisfying. Entrées include Burgundy classics like snails, oeufs en meurette, charcuterie as well as salads and lighter options. For mains the sharing dishes are epic. Roast sea bass or the peerless Poulet de Bresse (best roast chicken ever, seriously!) are carved and served at the table with a range of sauces and side dishes such as ‘frites’ (French fries) cooked in goose fat, vegetables and salads. Finally, for dessert, their crêpes Suzette is flambeed at the table and is a worthy end to a great meal! The only negative is the wine list. You can have nearly all the big names here, but the prices are painfully high! This is again a situation where looking for wines outside the Côte d’Or or down the appellation hierarchy is virtually essential, unless you have very deep pockets! The food and experience are, however, unmissable!
La Lune, Beaune
This tiny restaurant is one of the hottest places in Beaune and is virtually always fully booked. If you want a table, make sure to book well in advance. The restaurant consists of an open kitchen with seating at the bar overlooking the one solitary chef Seiichi Hirobe as he produces beautiful Japanese inspired French cuisine. His business partner Julien is in charge of service and is extremely charming and welcoming. The concept is original – all dishes can be adjusted in size depending on the size of the group and level of hunger. They are all meant to be shared. The karaage chicken is definitely one of the signature dishes – crisp battered pieces of chicken thigh served with fresh iceberg lettuce and a delicious miso/mirin-based sauce is frightfully addictive. Be sure to order a larger portion of this. Other dishes include cured fish with yuzu and ginger, grilled scallops and grilled seasonal mushrooms. The menu changes seasonally but don’t worry, the karaage is always available! The wine list is small, well-chosen and fairly priced. It often features lesser-known domaines that are rising in quality and is a great place to discover new names.
Le Relais de Saulx, Beaune
Describing itself as a ‘restaurant bistronomique’, Le Relais de Saulx makes bistro style food with many modern twists. Some of the combinations are quite left of centre - poached eggs with sweet potato cream are served with coffee mousse and bacon. Other combinations are more down to earth such as grilled veal with pureed lemon and seasonal vegetables – though the food is always very creative and pushes the envelope in execution and technique. The wine list is compact but serviceable and fairly priced. The only drawback is their reservations policy. They only take bookings for even numbered groups (2 persons ,4 persons, etc.) so if you’re 3 people looking for a table, you’re out of luck. I really don’t understand why!
Caves Madeleine, Beaune
Caves Madeleine is another Burgundy institution, but compared to, say, Bistro de l’Hotel, it couldn’t be any more different. The atmosphere is very relaxed with wine bottles lining the walls lending a slightly cluttered old-world charm. The food however is top-notch. Freshest seasonal ingredients are left to shine, with a minimal of fuss and without heavy saucing. Perfectly ripe tomatoes are served as a salad with little else on the plate. Simplicity itself, the main ingredient left to shine. Fish and meat dishes are likewise cooked as many competent cooks would do at home – uncluttered and accompanied simply by vegetables which let the let all the ingredients express their freshness and quality. Despite the simplicity, all the dishes are cooked precisely and for me show the confidence of the chef and his belief in the quality of the ingredients. The wine list is equally impressive, without showing off. You will find bottles from some of the greatest domaines of Burgundy rubbing shoulders with equally exciting rising stars, and prices are more than fair. It often pays handsomely to let the sommelier choose a bottle that fits the food - they really know their stuff.
Le Comptoir de Tontons, Beaune
Le Comptoir de Tontons, just a few doors down from Caves Madeleine is a unique restaurant/delicatessen/wine shop. The owner is very passionate about local organic produce and virtually everything on the menu is local, seasonal and organic. The food isn’t sophisticated, but it’s cooked well, seasoned occasionally with too much enthusiasm, but never lacking character. Entrées feature local charcuterie, as well as unique ingredients from further afield. The main course often features local pork cooked simply, or game birds when in season. Accompaniments are rustic but satisfying. Virtually everything on the menu has specific origins (and a story) and is noted in the menu. The wine list (with most wines also available to buy to take away) is filled with organic, biodynamic and natural wines from all over France but clearly with the lion’s share going to Burgundy. There is also a selection of wines from star domaines including some of the most fairly priced Domaine de la Romanée-Conti you’ll see anywhere.
La Superb, Beaune
This small ‘bar à manger’ just off Place Carnot on the Rue d’Alsace in the center of Beaune is another culinary delight. The food is modern French and cooked with precision and creativity. Croque monsieur with white Alba truffle (when in season), perfectly cooked mussels in wine, scallop carpaccio with caviar and the best grilled sweetbreads I’ve ever had feature on an ever-changing menu. The food is essentially simple, but through the addition of exceptional and sometimes luxurious ingredients these simple dishes are lifted up to new heights. The open kitchen allows diners to watch the chef working as they eat. The wines list is relatively small but perfectly serviceable with a good selection of good, less famous domaines at sensible prices.
Maison du Colombier, Beaune
Owner Roland Chanliaud used to be the chef at the (then) Michelin starred Le Jardin de Remparts. Wanting to start a new project that was altogether more relaxed, he and his charming partner Françoise Roux created the Maison du Colombier. Described as a ‘Gastro-Bar & Gîtes Urbains’, it combines a small number of rather luxurious small apartments that can be rented with a wine bar/tapas style restaurant. While working at Le Jardin de Remparts, Roland built relationships with nearly every top domaine in Burgundy and happily when he started Maison du Colombier, he was able to take his allocations from these domaines with him. The wine list is simply amazing, and in addition to great Burgundy there’s an abundance of great Champagne, Rhône, Loire and much, much more. Prices are fair. The food is ideal for a wine bar – top quality charcuterie, Tartines (basically toast with delicious toppings), and seasonal plates provide sustenance through long hours of conversation and great bottles. It’s also a great place to meet winemakers as virtually any night of the week numerous top winemakers can be found there enjoying a bottle or three!
Le Bout du Monde, Beaune
Le Bout du Monde is the ‘other’ great wine bar in Beaune. Run by the charming Fabienne Parra Escoffier who used to co-manage the famous restaurant Ma Cuisine with her ex-husband Pierre Escoffier. When she left Ma Cuisine (which is still run by Pierre) she took part of the wine allocations with her and let me tell you – they were pretty serious allocations. All the star domaines of Burgundy can be found and tasted here, at very reasonable prices. As some domaines hold back wines for gastronomy some older vintages are available though most wines are current or recent vintages. Some small bar snacks are available (croque monsieur, charcuterie, etc.) but this is really a bar, not a restaurant. The atmosphere is laid back, the décor somewhat rustic, but it works well. In addition to wine there is a good selection of spirits and you’ll be just as well looked after if you’re in the mood for a gin & tonic as you would if you’re thirsty for an Armand Rousseau Chambertin!
If you’re spending a few days, or a few weeks in Burgundy (as I often do!) you may eventually grow tired of the Burgundian heavy food. For a change try Koki. This small restaurant is essentially a ‘sushi-train’ style restaurant with small plates of sushi and other Japanese dishes like gyoza, steamed fish with miso, karaage (Japanese fried chicken) and salads travelling through the restaurant on a conveyor belt. The food is really rather good and the atmosphere very casual. There’s a fixed price depending on whether it’s lunch or dinner and whether mid-week or weekend but at lunchtime during the week it’s less than 20 Euros and you can eat as much as you like. In addition, there’s a good range of wines at fair prices and some in half bottles including Ramonet, Hubert Lamy & Vincent Dancer. A great option if you’re in the mood for a very easy-going break from more serious gastronomy.
Auprès du Clocher, Pommard
This stylish restaurant in Pommard does modern takes on Burgundy classics, though they’re usually just as heavy if not heavier than the original! Foie gras, snails and local charcuterie are all here reinterpreted with flair and creativity. Mains are largely meat based, though there’s often a fish option. Vegetarians are not so well served coming here. The wine list is happily Côte de Beaune-centric with many great domaines and prices just north of correct, but reasonably so. One particularly delicious dish here (though please plan a good walk afterwards to work if off!) is a signature dessert of warm mousse of époisses cheese containing pain d’épcices – a sweet spiced bread often served with cheese.
Le Soufflot, Meursault
This relatively new restaurant is a personal favourite of mine. The highly talented Jeremy Peze runs the kitchen and turns out beautiful plates of food with Michelin star ambitions. The restaurant is open Monday to Friday for lunch and dinner. There is always just one menu. Lunch is 3 courses, entrée, main (fish or meat) and dessert for 32 Euros. Dinner is 6 courses for 50 Euros. Both are ridiculously good value when you consider the technical genius in the kitchen. The starter is always variations on the theme of egg and mushroom and is always delicious. Other dishes come and go with the seasons and all are highly creative, beautifully presented and delicious. House-cured or raw fish served with seasonal herbs, vegetables and fermented citrus purees are often featured. Dessert here is also always extremely good with contrasting textures and temperatures adding excitement to the plate. If you order coffee, be ready for a small and incredibly delicious (and heavy) miniature chocolate cake. If the food alone weren’t reason enough to visit, the restaurant boasts one the best wine lists in the region with many big names and cult domaines. Prices are so fair that you are forced to wonder how they can stay in business. Absolutely don’t miss!
Le Montrachet, Puligny-Montrachet
Despite having lost its’ Michelin star, Le Montrachet is still a very good restaurant. Situated on the main square in sleepy Puligny-Montrachet and belonging to the hotel of the same name, Le Montrachet is a good place to find classical French cooking with a small touch of modern flair. Burgundy classics can be found (the snails are fantastic here) next to more modern dishes like poached john dory with carrots roasted with seaweed butter or grilled veal with pea gnocchi. The menu changes with the seasons and there’s even a kid’s menu for 15 Euros – something not found everywhere. The wine list unsurprisingly features heavily the great white wines of Puligny-Montrachet and you’re unlikely to find a longer list of Grand Cru Montrachet anywhere in the world. Wine prices are a little steep, but values can certainly be found outside the Côte d’Or and down the appellation hierarchy.
Auberge de Vieux Vigneron, Corpeau
Situated a few minutes’ drive from Puligny-Montrachet, this restaurant is hugely popular with local winemakers who flock here for lunch to enjoy unfussy, authentic regional food. Snails, jambon persillé (classic Burgundy charcuterie consisting of pork with parsley in jelly) and hearty salads all feature as entrées. For mains a selection of meats and sausage can be had, grilled over a wood fire and served with potatoes and vegetables. Simple country cuisine full of honesty and character – it may sound rustic but it’s deeply satisfying. The wine list is not huge but there’s plenty of options and prices are very fair. Some domaines are very well represented (there’s loads of Ramonet here) though don’t come looking for cult red wines – you’re in white wine country here! Definitely worth the detour.
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