Following news that the region of Champagne is promoting itself as a major tourist destination, we round up the best places to eat in the appellation – according to those who live and work in it.
It was announced yesterday by the drinks business that the region of Champagne has created a new slogan and logoto encapsulate its appeal to tourists – La Champagne, refined art de vivre– coupled with a new website for potential visitors – visitlachampagne.travel
However, for many years dbhas been exploring the options available to those travelling toand through Champagne, and in ourlatest Champagne Report – which be downloaded here– we looked closely at the best places to eat and drink in the region.
As part of this, we also quizzed some of the key figures in the region on where they like to eat and drink – which we have reproduced for your reference below and over the following pages.
From my own perspective, having visited the region annually for more than 15 years, I have a few places that I particularly like to dine at, which, initially, I have shared below.
If you have never been to Les Crayères hotelon the outskirts of the city, then this is a must for the gourmand, primarily for its Michelin two-star restaurant called Le Parc. However, for something less pricy, and less formal, with a wonderful bright feel and first-rate food, then I’ve always been fond of the same place’s Brasserie le Jardin, set in hotel’s landscaped grounds.
Unless you are staying at the hotel itself, going to either of these restaurants requires a car or a cab, and because I usually stay in the centre of Reims, I tend to go to places within walking distance. If I can get a table, somewhere I always enjoy dining at is Le Crypto, on the pleasant Place du Forum. The food is consistent, good, reasonably-priced bistro fayre, and the selection of Champagnes is brilliant, while the mark-ups are far from greedy. It’s why the place is always filled with cellarmasters from the major grandes marquesto the smaller grower Champagnes. If you have to wait for a table, or just want a drink before or after dinner, then a few doors down is a fun wine bar, with good charcuterie, called Le Wine Bar by Le Vintage, which I also thoroughly recommend.
One other place in Reims that I should single out is Le Foch, primarily for its fish, and specifically its sea bass cooked in a clay casing, which is cracked open in front of the diner.
If I’m in Epernay, then there are more mid-range restaurants that appeal to my tastes than I find in Reims, even though the former city is much smaller.
And somewhere I always like to lunch at is La Grillade Gourmandefor excellent classic French cooking, and warm, attentive service – and a sign of the mood in the region, as the fireplace contains vases holding all the Champagne corks from bottles opened that year, arranged month by month (pictured).
For something more serious, and attracting a Michelin-star, then Les Berceauxis highly sought-after, and consistently first-rate, although I’m equally happy taking the more low-key dining option from this establishment, which is called Bistro le 7.
And if you want to wander up the legendary Avenue de Champagne, then as you near the top, on the left hand side, take a flute of fizz at the wonderful nineteenth century château now owned by De Venoge, which has turned one of its gatehouses into a wine and tapas bar called L’Écurie, while the other offers cosy and upmarket accommodation – should you need it.
Outside the cities
There’s also a plenty to choose from if you have a car and you want to head into the countryside of Champagne. Among the options I urge you to try the Michelin-starred Le Grand Cerf,although leaving the car park requires decisive driving – it empties onto a sharp bend as the traffic races down a steep descent from the Montagne de Reims towards the city by the same name.
And, on the other side of the same mountain, with a view over the Marne Valley towards Epernay, is the new Royal ChampagneHotel. I have yet to dine here, but the terrace is a must for the view, and the bar is seriously well stocked, but the drinks seriously pricy too.
For something more basic, but nearby, I have never had a bad meal at the charming brasserie in the heart of Aÿ, called Rôtisserie Henri IV.
Another good place nearby, but without the same atmospheric charm, is Les Grains d’Argent.
Now, read on for the top dining choices in Champagne from those who live and work in the region.