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Is Relais & Chateaux designation an indicator of quality restaurants?

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[NOTE: We've moved this discussion from the thread at http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8586... -- The Chowhound Team]

I must say, I'm fascinated and a bit confused by your interest in the Relais and Chateau designation. Isn't that just a marketing association, not a reviewer like Michelin? Don't you join by submitting an application and paying a fee? Isn't it more of an association of hotels and their restuarants than it is restuarants per se?

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  1. No. It is like Michelin but with higher standards. If you go and experience a few, you'll understand.

    This is how they started out in 1941... http://www.relaischateaux.com/spip.ph...

    Here are the "terms and conditions" that have to be met before an establishment can qualify to even be considered. There is some sort of fee but if they are chosen, Relais sends them business and takes reservations for them.

    Then they have to go through periodic audits and review customer reviews of the establishment to prove that they continue to maintain their top quality.
    http://www.relaischateaux.com/IMG/pdf...

    Maybe you can get an idea by searching their website and seeing which places in the United States are actually listed and then go and check out the menus at those places. They are all extremely classy and uniquely special and all have food that tastes out of this world.

    There are only 27 of them in the eastern half of the United States. SC has one; NC has two; GA has none; TN has one. The majority are in the northeast and D.C.
    http://www.relaischateaux.com/en/?loa...

    2 Replies
    1. re: Emilybh

      I see. Here's the thing...i went to their website and checked for members in SC. None in Greenville, which is never surprising, no matter what one is looking for. But the only one in SC at all is Penninsula Grill, which is affiliated with a hotel. Noteably absent are Charleston's James Beard award winners, the restaurants that are currently being drooled over by the NY Times and every other media outlet from WSJ to Vogue.

      So then I checked Manhattan, and there are only 7 or so. In Chicago, 1 (and it's not Alinea). There's no doubt that there are some lovely places on the list. I think it's amusing you assume I haven't been to any of them. And I imagine the Michelin folks would be amused to learn their standards could be higher.

      But in any event, I'm not trying to criticize your choice of criteria, just that I don't think every restauranteur in the world is interested in being on this list. I think you're going to miss out on a lot opportunities, particulary the more cutting edge places, if you fixate on that. Good luck.

      1. re: danna

        It isn't enough to have a great chef. The chef has to have a history of being great. . You also have to have a top quality extremely classy place. You can't be part of a chain because this is just for SPECIAL UNIQUE boutique type inns and restaurants.

        You need to read their terms and conditions.

        Also the place has to APPLY to Relais for the designation.

    2. In Europe find the R&C notation an indication of a great hotel. The restaurant is usually at least good and sometimes extraordinary. Many ** and *** Michelin restaurants with hotels attached in Europe are R&C members.

      4 Replies
      1. re: Delucacheesemonger

        I agree -- while R&C would be the first place I'd go if I were looking for a wonderful weekend getaway for me and Mr. Sun, it probably wouldn't cross my mind to search for a special restaurant on the R&C site.

        1. re: sunshine842

          Unless you are willing to drive hours and hours and cross state lines, the chances are there won't be any R&C restaurants to choose between in your area. Some entire states only have one or none at all. California and the NE seem to have the highest concentration of them.

          1. re: Emilybh

            Actually -- I live in France, so there are 6 R&C properties within 90 minutes of me...my comment was more that the R&C listing in Europe is very well-known for the hotels, but that the restaurants generally have earned their reputations without the help of the R&C designation.

            ETA: I'd use it more as a guide to great hotels with great character, with the knowledge that the restaurant is very good.

            1. re: sunshine842

              Oh. Lucky you!

              I think the designation helps those traveling to Europe that don't know the restaurants rest assured their palates will be more than pleased at the R&C restaurants.

              Yes it is a great guide for some really extraordinary inns.

      2. R & C lists three hotels in my region of the UK (northwest England). They are all decent hotels - I have stayed in two and know the third. I've also eaten in all three restaurants. Again they are decent enough but I would not regard them as the best even in that part of the region (one recently lost its Michelin star, while the other two have never held one - nor, IMO, are they ever likely to hold one. )