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Opinions on our Michelin stars during a 4 1/2 week trip through southern france?

knh Jun 17, 2011 11:57 AM

(with special advance thanks to mangeur, delucacheesmonger, rrems, ptipois and the other giants of this board who have heavily influenced this list)

We're starting and ending in Lyons with 4 1/2 weeks. After hunting, haunting, etc. here is what I've come up with so far, trying to hit some of the best but leaving time for bistros, discoveries, the markets, etc. this might be a once in a life time trip so not every restaurant down below is a star, but more are...

6/23 Lyons - Daniel et Denise
6/24 Lyons - La Mere Brazier
6/25 Lyons - Le Gourmet de Seze
6/27 Vienne - La Pyramid
6/28 Avignon - D'Europe (leaning to changing this to Les 5 Sens or Hiely-Lucullus) thoughts?
6/29 Avignon - Christian-Etienne
6/31 Arles - L'Atelier de JL Raband
7/2 Nimes - Le Lelisita
7/4 Uzes - Le Tracteur
7/6 Montpellier - Le Jardin des Sens
7/8 Narbonne - La Table St. Crescent
7/9-7/18 winding our way from narbonne through carcassone, toulouse, albi, figeac. need ideas! help!
7/19 Laguiole - Bras
7/21 Clermont Ferrand ...help! which one??

7/22 lunch at Trois Gros (my parents went 40 years ago so this is partly sentimental...please don't tell me it stinks)
7/23 back to NYC where we check into the cardiac unit at Mt. SInai.

I promise to make a long trip report and welcome hearing from those who have blazed this trail before me.

  1. ChefJune Jun 17, 2011 12:14 PM

    <7/22 lunch at Trois Gros> It's just one word. The name of the owners.... Troisgros. and no, it doesn't "stink," as you say..... (wish we had emoticons here!)

    and there's no "s" on Lyon. For some reason American maps insist on putting one there. It's pronounced leeOWN.

    Two meals in Avignon? I'd make sure one was at Hiely. It's always been wonderful in my experience.

    I'm just going to say that some of the best meals I've eaten in France have been in No-Stars bistros and cafes. I think you may be doing your psyche as well as your digestive system a disservice by planning so many BIG meals one on top the other. For me, at least, it makes the special meals less special.

    3 Replies
    1. re: ChefJune
      knh Jun 17, 2011 02:10 PM

      hey june - thanks for correcting the typos! wouldn't want anyone on chow to think i was a dumb american :-)
      and the "stink" comment was only me being irreverant.....
      we'll be in france for a total of 31 nights, so 1/3 of the meals being at starred restaurants seems like more of a luxurious indulgence than mania. since there are more starred restaurants in lyon/prvence the list is front weighted. having said that it's a "suggested" list, and would welcome suggestions about which ones, in your experience, are the most easily sacrificed.
      love benefiting from your experience! thanks!
      as well as suggestions about what to replace them with.

      1. re: knh
        Ptipois Jun 18, 2011 07:03 AM

        Okay, more typos then.
        La Pyramide with a final e, L'Atelier de Jean-Luc Rabanel,

        Other suggestions : La Cantine de l'Entonnoir in Sète (if you can grab a table), Ô Bontemps in Magalas (book a few days ahead).

        In Clermont-Ferrand : Le Radio (actually in Chamalières), Les Quatre Saisons, Le Rallye.

        L'Atelier de Jean-Luc Rabanel
        Rue des Carmes, Arles, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur 13200, FR

        1. re: Ptipois
          knh Jun 18, 2011 07:27 AM

          and to think i was an english major...(of course my high school french, unlike Trois Gros) really does stink.
          thanks for the suggestions re: Clermont-Ferrand: will definitely check them out. and also putting husband in charge of Sete and Magalas (he does maps, I do restaurants/hotels)

    2. e
      EatDrinkLyon Jun 17, 2011 03:30 PM

      This is a stunning restaurant in Uzes I'd urge you to consider

      No menu - everything cooked according to the whim of the chef. Had incredible confit of snails that were smoky and tender as well as delicious beef and several other courses. Stunning setting. But more expensive than Tracteur.

      I have a friend who eats at Troisgros several times each times she visits. In her opinion it's some of the best food she's ever tasted. It definitely doesn't 'stink'!

      2 Replies
      1. re: EatDrinkLyon
        knh Jun 17, 2011 03:43 PM

        if i could take back that "stink" comment....i swear, i swear, I was just being silly!!
        thanks so much for the idea re: lartemise.
        other people on the board have been crooning over the virtues of le tracteur...even when you are in one area for weeks it's not enough time to eat all the fabulous meals you want to eat!
        will most definitely check it out...frankly would rather have dinner in uze than lunch en route...we tend to run in the morning and eat only one meal a day (other wise we would weigh 2x as much as we do!)

        1. re: EatDrinkLyon
          knh Jun 18, 2011 07:28 AM

          EDL - Thanks! we have a reservation at L'Artemise and right now hoping to go to Tracteur on my birthday, 2 july. great reccomendation - apprciate it

        2. johannabanana Jun 17, 2011 03:55 PM

          Try to add La Chassagnette, ideally at lunchtime on a sunny day! The food is excellent and the setting idyllic and I generally really like the vibe of the place.

          On a tasty/more affordable level, Le Tracteur was super last time I went. Can be slightly hard to find so worth leaving time to get there.

          3 Replies
          1. re: johannabanana
            knh Jun 17, 2011 04:09 PM

            jb - thanks so much! la chassagnette was definitely on my list....i just sent them a message via facebook requesting a reservation. your recommendation was the clincher!!

            le tracteur is tough! they have stopped serving lunch ...so many great restaurants so little time. my husband and i are both celebrating our birthdays during this trip, so admit...we really are blowing the bank and going all out.

            1. re: knh
              mangeur Jun 17, 2011 05:53 PM

              Le Tracteur is some 15-20 minutes from downtown Uzes. An easy dinner option if you are staying in Uzes.

            2. re: johannabanana
              sderham Jun 18, 2011 01:48 AM


              I live in Provence. Last June I had lunch at La Chassagenette with some friends from the Napa Valley. VERY disappointing. We had a first course of very starchy and large peas with ecrevisses (the ecrevisses were good) but the peas totally out of season. We asked the sommelier to choose a local wine for us. It was still fermenting in the bottle!! We asked about the wine, the sommelier insisted it was the way it should be. Finally resorted to telling him we were from the Napa valley and actually knew something about wine. He tasted it, and finally agreed. This was a very unpleasant situation. My friends didn't want to insist but I wouldn't let it go. 38 euros was too much to pay for a bottle of bad Camargue wine. A very food knowledgeable friend has had bad experiences as well.
              Good luck.
              I have spent quite a bit of time recently in the Camargue preparing for small group tours and even the best places are not great. Les Tellines is the most charming of places, located in an old mas, big fireplace in the small dining room. Limited menu.

            3. r
              rrems Jun 17, 2011 09:27 PM

              My top recommendation for Toulouse is Le 7 (7 Place St. Sernin). No stars, but I think it is deserving of one. We chose the chef's surprise menu with wine parings and it was superb. This was in early autumn, and one of the courses was grouse, which is not seen on very many menus, so we were particularly delighted with that. In Carcassonne, we had a wonderful lunch at Le Comte Roger.

              1. j
                johnmarseille Jun 18, 2011 02:12 AM

                No chez Anne-Sophie Pic in Valence? Admittedly, one can't do everything ,but both the hotel and the restaurant are spectacular---no false notes whatsoever!

                3 Replies
                1. re: johnmarseille
                  EatDrinkLyon Jun 18, 2011 03:29 AM

                  I second Pic - a friend who is visiting me went there for lunch last Saturday (easy trip from Lyon by train - 35 mins) and said it was superb - although she still thinks Troisgros has the edge! (She's spending this entire weekend there!)

                  1. re: EatDrinkLyon
                    johannabanana Jun 18, 2011 03:42 AM

                    Yes, I haven't been but Pic would certainly be on my list also (see Food Snob's blog write-up).

                    1. re: johannabanana
                      knh Jun 18, 2011 07:30 AM

                      I'm trying!! it doesn't fit into our trip when we soon arrive, but have sent a fax politely asking (aka begging) for a table for lunch on our last day. fingers crossed. good thing i'm bringing my lipitor drip.

                2. Laidback Jun 18, 2011 06:34 AM

                  With Lyon as your beginning and end point you could go to La Pyramide in Vienne going and Pic in Valence returning. Do not miss Troisgros, we went years ago when the brothers were still there and again recently under Pierre's son Michel...superb both times but definitely modernized under Michel, although he has kept a couple of their classics. If you can, try to stay there as it is not real close to anywhere and the wine list is pretty special. The same goes for Michel Bras, which I hope you can book. Don't miss his gargouillou of young vegetables; one of the best salad type preparations of all time.

                  I was perhaps too hyped over J-L Rabanel in Arles and was thus rather disappointed...nothing bad, just a tad too foamy/pretentious for my taste.

                  A charming hotel in Uzes about 100 meters from the market square is the Hostellerie Provençale with a gourmet restaurant, La Parenthese, which was our favorite in the town proper.

                  On your trip between Toulouse and Carcassone you could do worse than staying and dining at Hotel l'Eychenne in St. Girons; they have a good cellar and the setting of the village is just one more little lovely mountain meadow in the Pyrenées. The restaurant had a star when we last visited.

                  Your trip sounds touched by divinity. Bon Voyage

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: Laidback
                    mangeur Jun 18, 2011 07:06 AM

                    When you visit Troisgros, consider spending a couple of nights at their country place, 20km north of Roanne. You stay in your separate "cadole", modern free-standing fully equipped apartment. Everything is stocked for breakfast each morning, and the country restaurant is quite good at lunch and dinner. You could drive into town for one dinner at the flagship restaurant and have one in the country. This was special and memorable stop for us. The cadole in the garden is particularly nicely situated.


                    1. re: mangeur
                      knh Jun 18, 2011 07:22 AM

                      mangeur - i love your hotel recommendations. husband and i have a general rule of thumb...stay close to the restaurant so that driving is minimized after the wine. actually have changed our trip around somewhat on your excellent recommendations of st. urcize (close enough to bras) and le tracteur....

                      we are looking forward to retirement when we have two months to spend instead of one!

                    2. re: Laidback
                      knh Jun 18, 2011 07:19 AM

                      ladiback - great minds must think alike. this was exactly the solution my husband and I came up with this morning. Lunch at La Pyramide (sorry for my typos!) on our way out of Lyon and lunch at Pic on our last day before catching the TGV to CDG for flight to JFK home in NYC (see - can't do typos if everything's an acronym!).
                      And don't worry - we have secured a reservation at both Trois Gros and Bras. RIght now the challenge is seeing if we can get into Pic. If not, is their bistro worth it??
                      Hotels...we tend to spend our hard earned dollars on fabulous restaurants, which means we stay in more economical hotels. wish we could do both, but budgets do have their limits (especially when we're there for 4 1/2 weeks).
                      Uzes - Hostellerie Provencale has been booked forever. Decided to stay in Collias so that we are close to Le Tracteur and can settle into a small town. Has anyone stayed at the Hostellerie le Castellas and eaten at their restuarant?
                      We might end up agreeing with you re: JL Rabanel but decided - hey! we're there...
                      Any thoughts about skipping Pepirgnan in favor of spending more time between carcassone and toulouse (e.g. in St. Girons and other small places?)
                      My trip is touched not by divinity, but by my business being really bad and my husband's investments being very good.

                      1. re: knh
                        johannabanana Jun 18, 2011 08:22 AM

                        Les sardines aux yeux bleus is also a good, fairly economical base: http://www.les-sardines.com/

                      2. re: Laidback
                        Mike C. Miller Jun 1, 2012 09:18 AM

                        Troisgros -- wine list -- "pretty special"??!!!

                        A master of understatement, I see. Let's be honest. It's an absolutely killer list.

                      3. e
                        ElizabethS Jun 19, 2011 04:29 AM

                        We had a really disappointing dinner at Troisgros in February - we had been there twice before but not for 15 years, and were so looking forward to our return. The service was terrible - indifferent, uncoordinated - and there were a couple of dishes that just weren't good (I had the truffle tasting menu).

                        1. e
                          ElizabethS Jun 19, 2011 04:36 AM

                          We had a really disappointing dinner at Troisgros in February of this year. We had dinner there 3 times (but not for 15 years) and unfortunately our experience was not good. Service was terrible - indifferent and uncoordinated - and some of the dishes just didn't work (I had the truffle tasting menu)

                          On your way to Figeac you might want to stop (stay?) in Belcastel - a beautiful village with a lovely gite (see blog link below). Also, be sure to drive over the Millau Viaduct - an amazing new bridge


                          1. h
                            hmspector May 29, 2012 11:51 AM

                            I'd love to see some suggestions on the 7/9-7/18 period (carcassone, toulouse, albi, figeac) as we will also be driving Orleans-Limoges-Toulouse this fall and want to piggy-back on this thread.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: hmspector
                              Julian Teoh May 29, 2012 06:31 PM

                              I like Michel Sarran's (a two-star in Toulouse) food a lot. I haven't visited his restaurant, but Sarran came out to Singapore a couple of weeks ago and prepared a wonderful tasting menu of his signature dishes. Riso pasta cooked in mimolette with sea urchin was very good, Mont Royal pigeon breast in kataifi pastry and squid ink even more so. We finished with a very light Tarbais bean mash in a foam of old rum and coconut milk.

                              What impressed us even more was that he was able to produce such quality despite his being hosted in a Chinese restaurant (where the kitchen staff were presumably less familiar with various ingredients and techniques).

                            2. ChefJune May 29, 2012 12:35 PM

                              would have been nice/appropriate if knh had returned to chowhound to tell us how everything was...

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