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The Best Upscale Restaurants

  • Restaurant Plaza Athénée (Alain Ducasse; Paris; tel. 01-53-67-65-00): A coveted three-star rating from Michelin hardly seemed to challenge this brash chef. Ducasse is the darling of foodies and the spiritual heir of the legendary Escoffier. No one can outdo his pasta bathed in cream, sweetbreads, truffles, and (get this) the combs and kidneys of a proud, strutting cock.
  • Le Grand Véfour (Paris; tel. 01-42-96-56-27): Amid the arcades of the Palais Royal, this has been a dining spot since the reign of Louis XV, attracting such notables as Colette, Victor Hugo, and the forever-loyal Jean Cocteau. Jean Taittinger, of the champagne family, runs it today, and his kitchen brings originality to French classics -- everything from pigeon in the style of Rainier of Monaco to French-roasted sole and sea scallops in velvety pumpkin sauce.
  • Taillevent (Paris; tel. 01-44-95-15-01): Dining here is the social and gastronomic high point of a Paris visit. Its premises (an antique house near the Arc de Triomphe) are suitably grand, and its cuisine as appropriately stylish as the Jackie Onassis look-alikes who dine here.
  • Les Crayères (Reims, Champagne; tel. 03-26-82-80-80; www.lescrayeres.com): This restaurant's setting is a lavish but dignified château with soaring ceilings and French Empire decor. Built in 1904 as the home of the Pommery family (of champagne fortune) and surrounded by a 5.6-hectare (14-acre) park, it's maintained by a staff that appreciates the nuances of service rituals. You can retire directly to your room after consuming a bottle or two of the region's bubbly.
  • A la Côte St-Jacques (Joigny, Burgundy; tel. 03-86-62-09-70; www.cotesaintjacques.com): On the edge of Burgundy, beside the river Yonne, this is the quintessential restaurant avec chambres. Indulge your taste for well-prepared food and wine, and then totter off to one of the carefully furnished guest rooms in the historic compound. One of our favorite dishes is cassoulet of morels and frogs' legs, sublime accompanied by a half bottle of red burgundy.
  • L'Espérance (Vézelay, Burgundy; tel. 03-86-33-39-10; www.marc-meneau-esperance.com): In a farmhouse at the base of a hill (La Colline de Vézelay) that has been a holy site for thousands of years, L'Espérance is run by one of Europe's most famous chefs, Marc Meneau, and his wife, Françoise. The place combines country comforts with great sophistication.
  • Paul Bocuse (Collonges-au-Mont-d'Or, near Lyon, Rhône Valley; tel. 04-72-42-90-90): Bocuse was the enfant terrible of French gastronomy through most of his youth. Today he's the world's most famous chef, catering to Europe's hardest-to-please customers. The cuisine is ostensibly Lyonnais, but Bocuse has never been limited by provincialism, and his mind wanders the world for inspiration. His signature dishes range from pigeon in puff pastry with foie gras to his notable black truffle soup.
  • La Maison Troisgros (Roanne, Rhône Valley; tel. 04-77-71-66-97; www.troisgros.com): The setting is the dining room of a once-nondescript hotel near a train station. The cuisine is a celebration of the agrarian bounty of France. Mingling regional specialties, the menu attracts diners from as far away as Paris.
  • Auberge du Père-Bise (Talloires, French Alps; tel. 04-50-60-72-01; www.perebise.com): A mysterious alchemy transformed a simple lakeside chalet into an illustrious restaurant. Beside Lac d'Annecy in eastern France, it's outfitted like a provincial home of local gentry, yet it serves elegant food favored by generations of patrons, including the Rothschilds.
  • Le Moulin de Mougins (Mougins, Côte d'Azur; tel. 04-93-75-78-24; www.moulin-mougins.com): Occupying a 16th-century olive mill in a Provence forest, this long-celebrated destination is a showcase for the cuisine of Alain Llorca, one of the most talented and written-about chefs on the French Riviera. He concocts what he calls the "cuisine of the sun."
  • The Best Affordable Restaurants

  • Crémerie-Restaurant Polidor (Paris; tel. 01-43-26-95-34): For many Parisians, the cuisine here evokes dinners their grandmothers might have cooked in the days after World War II. The unpretentious setting, with lace curtains filtering the sunlight, drew even such iconoclasts as André Gide.
  • Les Vapeurs (Trouville, Normandy; tel. 02-31-88-15-24): An anomaly among the Norman coast's high-priced brasseries, this restaurant overlooking the port is no-frills, from its Art Deco decor to its fresh, well-priced seafood. Patrons enjoy the festive ambience.
  • L'Auberge de Pélican (Dinan, Brittany; tel. 02-96-39-47-05): Many visitors drive up from Paris for the day, followed by a dinner here in this old-fashioned Breton establishment, where even the bread is homemade. Dishes with an emphasis on fresh fish are based on time-honored recipes.
  • Brasserie de l'Ancienne Douane (Strasbourg, Alsace-Lorraine; tel. 03-88-15-78-78; www.anciennedouane.fr): In a city known for its Alsatian cuisine, this restaurant is a front-runner in the moderate category. In a medieval building, you can feast on the sauerkraut and foie gras of the region, as well as on a succulent specialty, chicken in Riesling wine.
  • Au Chalet de Brou (Bourg-en-Bresse, Rhône Valley; tel. 04-74-22-26-28): In a town famous for its poultry, this restaurant sits across from the village church. It offers the local birds at amazingly low prices, and food critics travel here from all over France for the hearty roast chicken.
  • Le Bistro Latin (Aix-en-Provence, Provence; tel. 04-42-38-22-88): In Paul Cézanne's hometown, seek out its best and most affordable little bistro, serving classic Provençal cuisine in each of its two intimate dining rooms. Its fixed-price menus are the best deal in town.
  • Chez Servais (Libourne, Bordeaux wine district; tel. 05-57-51-83-97): As you're touring the wine district outside Bordeaux, one of your finest and best-value meals is likely to be in this little market town at the junction of the Dordogne and Isle rivers. The cuisine is a savory blend of classical and modern.
  • Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.