There is a certain cache behind the image of those glamorous women who devote their lunchtimes to meeting their equally chic friends over a glass of wine and a delicious meal. But these events are not restricted to the very wealthy, it’s refreshing for anyone to dress up in the middle of the day and saunter along to the restaurant of choice to see and be seen. Hats are an optional extra.
For the best in style and sophistication a meal at Le Meurice is the ultimate in fine dining. The building is more palace than restaurant; the famous Philippe Starck designed the décor in a contemporary baroque style. Le Meurice overlooks the Tuileries Gardens and, there is a certain irony here given that the Tuileries Palace became the new seat of government during the French Revolution. The food is heavenly; in fact the restaurant comes with the ultimate in gourmet accolades, three Michelin stars. Those ladies who prefer to nibble rather than enjoy a hearty meal will be relieved to discover that a taster menu is available.
For those who thrive on the thrust of an intellectual debate, the Café de Flore on Paris’s Left Bank is the place to be seen. This redoubtable venue has been going strong since the 19th century and is as famous for its guests as for its delicious menu. The Café owns a stunning painting by Philippe Derome, which beautifully illustrates the many ladies who come to lunch within its hallowed precepts.
Discovering the countryside
France is famous for its national gastronomy and it isn’t just within the confines of the capital that the best restaurants can be found. Car rental is advised for those who wish to explore the French countryside in search of the ultimate gourmand experience. For anyone who has the time to spare, La Chassagnette, in Arles, Provence, is certain to prove rewarding. The venue is popular with locals and visitors alike and is frequently compared to paradise in international comment forums. Apart from the menu, local produce and divine tastes, one of the attractions of La Chassagnette is that this jewel really is a place where diners really can just sit and watch the world go by.
For those who wish to stay in the south, Marseilles will tempt the most jaded of taste buds. ‘Le Petit Nice’ is famous throughout France for the freshness of its fish and also for its sumptuous 14-course seafood tasting meal. No one should leave this city without sampling the regional Bouillabaisse and the offering from Le Petit Nice is often praised as being of the best in the whole of Provence. The restaurant isn’t cheap, but it does have three Michelin stars, so any meal here will linger in the memory for many years to come.
To the south of Paris lies Lyons, the city that has frequently been described as the ‘food capital’ of the world. Quite a few of the restaurants here are more familiar with the locals and are not on the general tourist itinerary. For a very special experience, head over to ‘Regis et Jacques Marcon’ this tiny restaurant has received the ultimate in accolades, the Bocuse d’Or; bon appetit.