Champagne is a perfect winter getaway, but where should you dine at the end of a hard day’s tasting? At this year’s Decanter Fine Wine Encounter, we asked for insider tips from those working for some of the top Champagne houses…
Top restaurants in Champagne — recommended by the producers at DFWE 2017
L’Assiette Champenoise Reims
Literal translation: ‘the dish of Champagne’ — this restaurant epitomises the region’s haute cuisine. The local legend, chef Arnaud Lallement, has elevated L’Assiette Champenoise to its current three-Michelin star status. ‘Exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey’, praised the Michelin Guide 2017, also noting the excellent wine list.
Signature dishes include blue lobsters from Brittany and Alba white trufffles. A firm favourite among Champagne producers, you’ll find it just outside Reims, in the village of Tinqueux. Book now
Café du Palais Reims
Another Reims gastronomic institution, Café du Palais has been serving up classic French fare since 1930. Over the years its played host to concerts, film showings and even fashion shows.
History is layered into its interior, from the paintings, music and theatre bric-a-brac adorning the walls, to the 1928 Art Deco stain glass ceiling, a one-off design by Jacques Simon, depicting the heavens. The selection of Champagnes is pretty heavenly, too, starting at just €22 a bottle. Conveniently near the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Reims. Book now
Recommended by Olivier Krug, sixth-generation family member and director of Champagne Krug
Le Grand Cerf Villers-Allerand
A Michelin-starred restaurant at the foot of the Montagne de Reims, noted by Michelin’s expert inspectors for its ‘particularly interesting wine list’ and ‘fine ingredients’. In the dining room, floor-to-ceiling windows overlook the expansive garden and a nature theme is reflected in the modern wooded interior.
Max the sommelier can take care of your wine needs, while Dominique Giraudeau offers seasonal cuisine. Look out for the special truffle menu available during the winter truffle season. Book now
Racine is a Franco-Japanese fusion restaurant run by chef Kazuyuki Tanaka and his Burgundian wife, Marine. Chef Tanaka blends culinary traditions and flavours with an expert hand, earning Racine a Michelin star. The Michelin Guide 2017 says his menu is ‘lively, tasty, beautifully done’, with a wine list to match.
Located in the centre of Reims, not far from the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Reims. As it is a small restaurant — only seating around 20 people — booking is advised. Alternatively, a seven minute walk past the Place Royale will take you its more casual sister restaurant, Doko Koko, which is also a hit with local producers. Book now
Le Parc, Les Crayères Reims
Le Parc is the more opulent of the Les Crayères hotel restaurants, boasting two Michelin stars. Michelin inspectors noted the dining experience as ‘exceptional’. It’s created by the talented young chef Philippe Mille, pastry chef Yoann Normand and head sommelier Philippe Jamesse — a Champagne specialist so renowned he even has a collection of Lehmann wine glasses name after him.
Take time to enjoy the 7 hectare Domaine Les Crayères, former residence of the Polignac family, now a Relais & Château hotel. Book now
Recommended by Thomas Jorez of Champagne Philipponnat
Les Grains d’Argent Dizy
An independent boutique hotel with a gourmet restaurant, Les Grains d’Argent — or ‘the silver grapes’ — is located in Dizy, between Reims and Épernay at the ‘gateway to Paris’. If you happen to be paying a visit to the houses of Moët et Chandon or Perrier-Jouët, Les Grains d’Argent is a handy stop-off within 3km.
The restaurant is led by Michelin-starred chef Frédéric Simonin, whose signature dish is Champagne escargot with mushrooms, lardons and ratafia sauce. Their wine list is crafted by Champagne specialist Annabelle Hazard and features major houses, as well as independent growers. Book now
Hotel d’Angleterre Châlons-en-Champagne
Although Reims and Épernay may be more well known, Châlons-en-Champagne is historic capital of the Champagne-Ardennes region, with many charms for visitors. Near the striking gothic church, Notre-Dame-en-Vaux, you’ll find Hotel D’Angleterre, which is respected locally for the high standards of its Restaurant Jérome Feck.
Firefighter-turned-chef Jérome Feck cut his teeth in many notable Champagne establishments, including Le Foch and La Briqueterie. At Hotel d’Angleterre he serves up delights such as scallops with choron sauce and partridge roasted with peanuts. A classical, unfussy interior with wood panelling and stone floors. Book now
Recommended by Martin Gamman MW of Champagne Joseph Perrier
Le Millénaire Reims
A stone’s throw from Reims’ Place Royal, Le Millénaire is a Michelin-starred restaurant designed by architect Rémois Giovanni Pace. There are three dining spaces spread over two levels, which, though fairly small, are light, spacious and cutting edge thanks to Pace’s expertise. Expect golden wood tones paired with pristine white walls and table linen.
Chefs Laurent Laplaige and his son Thibault work together in the kitchen, creating ‘delicious, thoroughly modern cuisine’, according to the Michelin Guide inspectors. Sunday to Thursday you can enjoy three courses for 37 euros, or if you want to go all out there is a daily-changing ‘market’ menu set at 96 euros. Book now
Brasserie du Boulingrin Reims
This establishment is purportedly the site of oldest brewery in Reims, satisfying the appetites of the Champanoise locals since 1925. Today it’s an elegant Art Deco brasserie, spread over two floors and overlooking Place de République.
The menu specialises in traditional regional dishes and seafood, with different catches coming in fresh each morning. If oysters and Champagne is your thing look no further, you can select your dozen huîtres from Normandy, Marenne-Oléron or Brittany — also available to take away. Book now
Recommended by Kevin McKee of Champagne Taittinger
Le Foch Reims
After a stroll along Les Hautes Promenades in Reims, sidle into this sophisticated Michelin-starred restaurant, just off of Boulevard Foch. Le Foch is a family-run establishment, led by husband-and-wife team Jacky and Corinne Louaze — you’ll find their names proudly emblazoned across the awning at the entrance.
Corinne heads front of house, while Jacky is the talented chef — praised by Michelin inspectors for his ‘inventive culinary repertory’ and ‘premium produce’. Including Mont Saint-Michel mussels, veal, oysters, foie gras and even periwinkles. The Michelin Guide also classed the wine list as ‘excellent’.
Take advantage of the weekday lunch menu for €27, for evenings and weekends there are €51and €69 menus, or the grand seven-course tasting extravaganza for €95. Book now
Recommended by Willem Pinçon of Charles Heidsieck Champagne