10 Michelin-starred restaurants in France to visit

Picking out some of the best additions to the Michelin Guide 2019, we serve up a gastronomic tour of France

Salsifis et crème de panais au chocolat blanc at David Toutain. Photo by Thai Toutain
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At the glamorous Parisian awards ceremony for the Michelin Guide France 2019, there was a serious buzz as the guide's new director, 38-year-old Gwendal Poullennec, took to the stage.

In less than six months at the helm, he has initiated a revolution at the venerable “guide rouge”. In a shake up of the French foodie world, old-guard establishment chefs like Marc Veyrat, Pascal Barbot and Marc Haeberlin all lost one of their precious three stars. An unheard of 68 restaurants were awarded their first stars, including a new generation of female chefs, while five young chefs were moved up to two stars.

Of the two restaurants elevated to the exclusive three-stars club, one is run by an Argentine chef, the first foreigner to attain France’s gastronomic holy grail. Here are 10 of the top new addresses for the perfect gourmet Tour de France. 

1. David Toutain

Parisians have been waiting for the day when Michelin gave its two-star seal of approval to everyone's favourite chef, David Toutain. He has been wowing foodies with his inventive 20-dish menus from when he oversaw the cult Agape Substance (while it was still open) and, since 2014, at his eponymous fine-dining restaurant. Brimming with natural light, the oak-, concrete- and glass-filled space is designed to be "creative, convivial and open". Toutain acquired his first star in 2015, and in 2017 was recognised by the Gault & Millau guide. His cuisine is theatrical, but full of surprising flavours, beautifully presented like a work of art, but delicious too; imagine a marriage of salsify, parsnip mousse and white chocolate.

29 Rue Surcouf, 75007 Paris, +33 1 4550 1110, www.davidtoutain.com

2. Restaurant Lalique

Restaurant LALIQUE at Château Lafaurie-Peyraguey. Photo by Agi Simoes and Reto Guntli
Restaurant LALIQUE at Château Lafaurie-Peyraguey. Photo by Agi Simoes and Reto Guntli

The man behind Lalique crystal, the Swiss wine and food lover Silvio Denz, has lovingly restored the monumental 17th-century Château-Lafaurie-Peyraguey, which is surrounded by vineyards and just a stone’s throw away from the legendary Château d’Yquem. Six months after opening, chef Jérome Schilling was awarded a first star and you feel that this is just the beginning. The menu is a tempting mix of classic French cuisine – veal sweetbreads roasted with black truffles and cep mushrooms – and surprising vegetarian creations, like a beetroot tartare, quail egg and ewe’s cheese.

Lieu-dit Peyraguey, Bommes, +33 5 242 28011, www.chateau-lafaurie-peyraguey.com

3. Am Par Alexandre Mazzia

When I visited Marseille recently, the godfather of the city's fine-dining scene, the three-star legend Gérald Passédat told me to eat at the restaurant of rising star Alexandre Mazzia. The chef cooks in front of customers in his casual dining room, where there is no written menu, although some 20 to 30 dishes appear through the meal. I was so knocked out by the cuisine that it was no surprise when his name was announced as one of the new two stars. It was daring for Michelin to promote a decidedly non-traditionalist chef who uses manioc and tapioca from Africa, and kumbawa and satay sauce from Asia.

9 Rue François Rocca, Marseille, +33 4 9124 8363, alexandremazzia.com 

4. Le coquillage 

A short drive along the coast from the Mont Saint-Michel, a family tradition is being firmly renewed with the rise of young Breton Hugo Roellinger to the privileged rank of two Michelin stars. His father, Olivier, was one of France's most respected chefs, but sensationally relinquished his three stars back in 2008. Hugo forsook a career as a naval officer to follow in his father's footsteps, taking over the family restaurant three years ago. Continuing the Roellinger tradition of a cuisine inspired by exotic spices from across the globe, Hugo prepares surprising recipes like local langoustines served raw with Sansho pepper, rhubarb and elderberry.

Le Buot, Saint-Méloir-des-Ondes, +33 2 9989 2525, www.maisons-de-bricourt.com

5. Chateau de Vault de Lugny

In the heart of rural Burgundy, this grand castle has long been a luxurious bolthole, and now its discrete restaurant has come on to Michelin’s radar. A star has been awarded to a young couple of chefs from the island of Mauritius. Karina Laval handles desserts and patisseries, while Franco Bowanee guides the main kitchen. In the summer, diners sit out in the château’s splendid grounds, and many ingredients come from the chef’s own garden, especially highlighted in his five-course vegetarian tasting menu served at the venue.

11 Rue du Château, Vault-de-Lugny, tel:+33 386340786, www.lugny.fr

6. Le Mirazur

France's Riviera has not boasted a prestigious three-star Michelin address for some time, but now the Côte d'Azur is firmly back on the gastronomic map, with Michelin awarding its highest distinction to 42-year-old Argentine chef Mauro Colagreco. Despite holding third place on the World's 50 Best Restaurants list, it was clear at the awards that this was the ultimate consecration for an emotional Colagreco. On the Mediterranean waterfront of Menton, better known as the birthplace of Jean Cocteau and the colourful annual Lemon Festival, the chef blends his cosmopolitan heritage with seasonal local products, in dishes such as scampi carpaccio with crunchy apple and zesty lemon vinaigrette. 

30 Avenue Aristide Briand, Menton, +33 4 9241 8686, www.mirazur.fr

7. Le Clos Des Sens

While Colagreco represents a new generation of chefs, the other new three star is a much more old-school, discrete restaurant in the Savoy Alps, surrounded by lakes Annecy, Le Bourget and Leman. Laurence Petit, who looks more like a bookish professor than a chef, has made his name cooking unique freshwater fish like char and féra from the deep lakes. He also offers dazzling vegetal dishes such as tarte de légumes d'été using freshly picked ingredients from the restaurant's permaculture garden, where he cultivates 40 varieties of herbs and 160 different fruits, vegetables and edible flowers.

13 Rue Jean Mermoz, Annecy-le-Vieux, +33 4 50230790, www.closdessens.com

8. Virtus

This fashionable diner is a symbol of how the Michelin Guide has metamorphosed this year. Located far from the elegant neighbourhoods around the Champs-Elysées, where most of the classic starred restaurants are located, Virtus is near the Bastille, a stone's throw from the funky Aligre food market. The cuisine is created by the fashionable four-hands system – two chefs cooking together, in this case, Argentinian Marcelo Di Giacamo and Chiho Kanzaki from Japan. Working directly with producers, they propose a diverse, daily-changing menu, which could feature a juicy duck fillet with confit pumpkin and black sesame, or line-fished tuna, Jerusalem artichokes and a tangy anchovy sauce.

29 Rue de Cotte, 75012 Paris, +33 9 8068 0808, www.virtus-paris.com

9. La Mirande

Main dining room at La Mirande. Courtesy La Mirande
Main dining room at La Mirande. Courtesy La Mirande

Just a few steps from the landmark medieval Palace of the Popes in the heart of Avignon is luxury hotel La Mirande. Its restaurant is the domain of maverick chef Florent Pietravalle, who has made his name with innovative locavore dishes such as organic pigeon, smoked on hay and served with a spelt risotto. The lemongrass baba au rhum is also to die for. Diners can choose a gastronomic meal in the romantic 18th- century dining room or the more casual buffet at La Table d'Hôte, especially popular during the annual Avignon Theatre Festival.

4 Place de l'Amirande, Avignon, +33 4 9014 2020, www.la-mirande.fr

10. Aponem

A new generation of female chefs has been recognised this year by Michelin all over France. This idyllic lakeside locale, hidden away in an ancient village of 150 inhabitants in the Languedoc hills, is a zen retreat where the 30-year-old chef, Amélie Darvas, creates a daily-changing menu. Only arriving in 2018, Darvas was rapidly anointed chef of the year 2019 by the more alternative Le Fooding Guide, and Michelin has decided to follow suit by giving her a first star. Many ingredients come from Darvas's garden, with local farms supplying organic produce like plump pigeon, gently braised in her recipe with a tonka bean jus and white figs. 

1 Rue de l’Eglise, Vailhan, +33 4 6724 7649, www.aponem-aubergedupresbytere.fr