7 Spectacular Restaurant Settings To Savor In France
Normally, when you read a headline that promises “spectacular” restaurants, you’d expect something with a hefty bill at the end of the meal, because we automatically associate spectacular restaurants with spectacular dishes at spectacular prices.
This is absolutely true for famous restaurants like the Jules Verne, which I have already mentioned, and which has been included in the 14 best restaurants with a view. And while I’m not necessarily advocating spending a small fortune on fairly decent food but charged double due to where you are, it’s where you are that (almost) justified the inclusion of the restaurant in this list: right in the Eiffel Tower. Which, of course, makes it really special when the tower begins to sparkle every hour. But this list is different.
Here I want to mention some favorite and spectacular “restaurants”. I use this modern expression simply because all of these places I suggest are not restaurants as such, but rather places where the landscape, the setting, the surroundings – or all three – are the main attraction. Don’t worry, the food is good too, but my recommendations won’t include 14-course tasting menus, not that they don’t have their merits, but here we are talking about beautiful “spectacular” addresses for various reasons, and which also serve a good meal, be it pancakes or fine dining.
I’m going to point out what makes each place stand out in my mind, and I hope you’ll agree that by eating at each of these restaurants, you’ll win twice: you’ll eat great food and you’ll get a little something extra. Special. with food. And please note that the list is in no particular order, they are all great in their own way.
Enjoy your meal.
1. Chateau De La Treyne, Dordogne
Spectacular For Its Setting And The Otters
Château de la Treyne is a winner for so many reasons. Not only is it a castle where you can spend the night, a castle on the edge of a river with a simply magical restaurant terrace all around, and all with excellent cuisine, but there are also otters in the river. A few years ago my husband and I treated ourselves to a meal on the terrace overlooking the peaceful Dordogne river and spotted two river otters frolicking.
I’m sorry to admit that what we actually ate completely slipped my mind, but I can still imagine the otters today. The food was delicious, no doubt, and the setting so French, but the otters? Spectacular.
2. The Poterne, Moret-Sur-Loing
Spectacular for its views
On a day trip from Paris, I came across the small town of Moret-sur-Loing, so pretty it could easily star in a Hallmark movie, with old town gates, the gurgling Loing river and an old watermill right in the middle of the river. Swans, ducks and picnickers line the banks of the river, and the small main street has one or two small shops and a few welcoming restaurants.
Alas, arriving without a reservation on a Sunday, I couldn’t get into any of the restaurants, so instead I ended up in the local creperie – and thank goodness. Instead of fancy tablecloths and shiny wine glasses, I had a simple table by a small crooked window, cider served in a Breton-striped cup, and a wonderful, savory galette brimming with cheese.
But the delicious food aside, the view from that window was over the river, with the creperie actually towering over the banks, the swans swimming past, and as perfect as you could imagine.
3. Le Corps De Garde Creperie, Saint-Malo
Spectacular for sunsets over the ancient ramparts
And while recommending creperies, here is another one. In the beautiful town of Saint-Malo on the French Brittany coast, just above the sturdy old ramparts that surround the ancient city, is a small creperie with chairs and tables spilling out onto the path.
It’s a lovely place any time of the day. The pancakes are good, the cocktails even better, but at sunset this place buzzes. You’ll be well advised to come early for a few drinks before the sun goes down or to mark your spot.
The views of small rocky islands, the seemingly endless beach stretching out before you, the lighthouse to the left and the fortified towers to the right are all bathed in the ethereal light and colors of the sunset on the horizon.
4. Castle of the Islands, Paris
Spectacular to be on an island in Paris
When you live in Paris you tend to get a steady crowd of visitors from all over the world and always try to show them something new and unusual, and Chateau des Iles never fails to wow people.
You arrive by boat, a small ferry that takes you to Lake Superior, one of the most beautiful lakes in Europe that we hardly know exists. You will see the Eiffel Tower in the distance and land on a small island with a charming restaurant in a green setting.
It’s the sunset boat ride, the idea of sitting in what can only be described as a bucolic environment with buzzing Paris just steps away, and the many birds chirping around you (herons swans and ducks, they are all there) combined with a beautiful terrace highly recommended in summer for lunch, or the cozy restaurant looking like a country hunting lodge serving good traditional French cuisine, which makes it an excellent option for eat in Paris.
5. La Marine, Ile De Re
Spectacular For Maritime Setting
The Ile de Ré is one of the most beloved islands in France, and it deserves all the admiration it arouses. Connected to the mainland by a bridge just off the charming town of La Rochelle, Ile de Ré is a stunning island full of incredible beaches, a magnificent lighthouse, scruffy donkeys, endless cycle paths and stunning places to eat fresh Atlantic seafood.
The capital of the island, Saint-Martin-de-Ré, is the cutest town that is full of individual shops, Instagrammable houses and a picture-perfect marina. The marina, full of sailboats with flapping rigs, is hemmed with restaurants that all serve pretty much the same: fresh mussels, catch of the day and French favorites.
Which one to choose is not that important, although personally I return to La Marine to snack while enjoying the view from the terrace over the marina, the small island in the marina and the world passing by. This is French summer at its best.
6. Restaurant La Grotte, Trans-En-Provence
Spectacular to be in a cave
Thus, we have had rivers, ramparts, lakes and islands; what is missing is a mountain cave. To find it, you can pick your way through the many restaurants in the Dordogne, where cave dwelling has long been and still is a thing, but I’ve mentioned the Dordogne before, so this one is in Provence.
East of Aix-en-Provence and just north of Saint-Tropez, little Trans-en-Provence enjoys an amazing natural setting, with the Artuby river tumbling down wild cliffs, tumbling under the old bridge, and with rocky outcrops everywhere, revealing the mountainous setting of the area.
The restaurant La Grotte, la Cave, is dug into the rock, which makes it a magical setting. Cuisine inspired by France and neighboring Italy and Spain, the cuisine is hearty and good. And if you’re feeling a little claustrophobic in the cave surrounded by rocks, they also have a fabulous terrace where guests can breathe in the fresh air.
7. Cafe Marly, Paris
Spectacular For Setting And Views
Finally, probably the my go-to restaurant in Paris when I want to wow someone without breaking the bank is Café Marly under the arcades of the Louvre. Overlooking the Louvre pyramid, this place is utterly chic, full of people to see and so photogenic. Just go up to the bathroom and take a look out the window; it’s incredibly Instagramable, and yes, I posted from there.
The food is good, nothing fancy, and for lunch just have a glass of champagne and an omelette, a perfect and affordable combination. Service is a little slow, but that’s all the better because it gives you an excuse to linger and watch the Louvre queue go by, people standing at the bollards posing for photos, and iconic Paris spread out in front of you.
Last word: If a restaurant in France is open for lunch and dinner, it is always more economical to opt for the Fixed price menu, where you can opt for a two- or three-course meal at a fraction of the price of the a la carte selections. And the dishes featured on these daily changing menus always reflect the best the market had to offer that morning. They are therefore not only cheaper, but often much better than staple foods such as steak frites.
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