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Alsace: Best bars and restaurants for wine lovers

Panos Kakaviatos recommends the best spots to eat and drink when travelling in Alsace, starting in the region’s capital city of Strasbourg.

Alsatian wine without food is like homemade waffle cones without ice cream. What makes a visit to the northeastern French wine region especially appealing is the extent to which culinary options have improved. Having lived in Strasbourg for the better part of the last 25 years, I have noticed over this time an upturn in customer service – and not just for the expensive locations.

Alsace is one of the most heralded regions in Michelin’s famous guide; it counted 29 starred restaurants in 2020, with 33 in 2021 – and no one lost a star. Many earned the ‘Bib gourmand’, which recognises value for money. A total of 30 restaurants obtained the green star, rewarding chefs for a ‘commitment to sustainable gastronomy, respect for the environment, and sustainable development’.


Aux Armes de Strasbourg

Aux Armes de StrasbourgStrasbourg boasts two brasseries you should visit. Aux Armes de Strasbourg at Place Gutenbourg provides friendly, efficient service matched in a jovial, pleasingly kitsch setting: cute wooden Alsatian furnishing and Alsatian red and white tablecloths. Since it had opened under the Wilhelmine era in 1900 as ‘Zuem Stadtwappe’, the food remains classic Alsatian: from Baekeoff and choucroute, to chicken suprême with Riesling.

9 Pl. Gutenberg, 67000 Strasbourg


Les Haras

Les HarasFor a more upscale experience, don’t miss Les Haras, located in a beautiful 18th century building that once housed a royal stable. Paris-based design firm Jouin Manku has created an expansive, elegant two-decker restaurant linked by a curving glass-and-steel staircase.

I have lunched on the patio in summer, inside in the winter. Winner of the 2014 best restaurant prize from the London-based ‘Restaurant & Bar Design Awards’ and recognised by The Wall Street Journal as one of the world’s ‘most beautiful restaurants’, the design is matched by excellent cuisine and service at fair pricing. Marc Haeberlin of the Michelin-three-starred L’Auberge de l’Ill in Illhaeusern supervises menus that feature both traditional fare and more modern, creative specialties. If waiting for your table, take a seat at the bar for a cocktail under the impressive staircase or choose from over 100 wines.

23 Rue des Glacières, 67000 Strasbourg


Les Plaisirs Gourmands

Les Plaisirs GourmandsTopping Trip Advisor’s best restaurant list in Strasbourg (2022), Les Plaisirs Gourmands is so good that I went twice before this article. Located in a somewhat humdrum residential suburb, the doors open to the excellent cuisine and tasteful décor of chef Guillaume Scheer and wife Charlotte Gate. And it counts among the most economically priced (one-star) Michelin experiences you can find.

For example, for a table of three, €380 / £320 (tax and tip included) covered a six-course lunch, including two bottles of wine. But get ready for at least three hours of culinary pleasure. From langoustine carpaccio with green pepper and subtle vanilla sauce to local seared trout served with pumpkin in late autumn, superb pastries for dessert are hard to beat. I also enjoyed the lunch set menu (entrée, plat, dessert or cheese) at only €40 per person. Great wine list too!

35 Rte du Général de Gaulle, 67300 Schiltigheim


Mademoiselle 10

Mademoiselle 10A perfect non-tourist choice for dining close to the Strasbourg Cathedral is Mademoiselle 10. In November 2021, I joined US Consul General Darragh Paradiso for an ‘Americans in Strasbourg’ lunch, where we enjoyed superb butternut squash soup and roast chicken with a coconut emulsion sauce, nicely paired with the Domaine Marcel Deiss Berckem white, which blends 50% Riesling with… 12 other Alsace varieties.

Chef Jean luc Nopre proposes affordable, high quality fare, from traditional Alsace foie de canard with mango chutney to filet of Alsace deer in a wine reduction sauce and garlic. There’s an excellent selection of vegetarian dishes, too. Overlooking the picturesque Ill tributary, the restaurant offers a cosy, relaxed setting. Hours have changed however, so you cannot stay until after 10pm on Fridays and Saturdays. About 60 wine listed.

10 Quai des Pêcheurs, 67000 Strasbourg


Léonor

LéonorI cannot recommend highly enough the Léonor, which opened last year in what once was the central Strasbourg police station! The opening amuse bouche of local trout served as tartare with creamy Alsatian fromage blanc (Bibelskass), accentuated with pickled radish proved a promising start to a lunch that included meatier-than-usual frogs legs roasted in butter, rosemary and garlic, and graced by a turnip mousseline emulsion and heirloom vegetables.

Duck confit slow cooked over local red cabbage flavoured with cinnamon and accompanied by Alsatian spaetzel pasta proved a delight with Alsatian Pinot Noir. And the duo dessert of mango sorbet followed by hazelnut cake covered by what appeared to be flower petals (but all chocolate) was fabulous: Perfect with an Alsatian rosé cremant. With some 120 wines listed and growing, a great place to eat.

11 Rue de la Nuée-Bleue, 67000 Strasbourg


Villa René Lalique

Villa René LaliqueTasting Rieslings in the expansive underground wine cellar (2,500+ listed) with head sommelier Romain Iltis set the right tone for a €230/£195 marathon dinner. Austrian chef Paul Stradner, who had previously earned a second star at Brenner’s Park luxury resort in nearby Baden-Baden, Germany recently joined chef Jean-Georges to welcome guests to Villa René Lalique, a luxurious restaurant and adjoining boutique hotel in the northern Alsatian village of Wingen-sur-Moder: 45-minute’s drive from Strasbourg.

Most servings are locally sourced, such as game hunted in a nearby forest, but Stradner stresses: ‘We have been paying just as much attention to non meat plates as an increasing number of clients favour vegetables’. Take for example the red cabbage symphony of cooked red cabbage in cannelloni combined with red cabbage sorbet with a green apple emulsion, perfectly paired with dry Pinot Gris.

Both the setting and décor – elegantly highlighted with flowers and genuine Lalique crystal – provide visual feasts to match the food. If the price tag for one of the six suites at Rene Lalique’s former 1920 home (renovated in 2015) next to the restaurant is too pricy, stay at Villa Hochberg, also part of Group Lalique: stylish and more affordable, and five minutes away. Worth a day trip for the superb museum that explains the Lalique story.

18 Rue Bellevue, 67290 Wingen-sur-Moder


Wine Bars

Ill VinoLooking for a wine bar, try the recently opened L’Alsace à Boire, which includes examples of nearly all of Alsace’s 51 grands crus, in a comfortable and central location. Lit by an impressive overhead series of empty Alsace wine bottles, take a seat at the bar and order a high quality Alsatian Crémant, or benefit from many by-the-glass selections to go with your cheese plate. I wish the location was a bit more prominently in the centre, and with a larger entrance sign to include a large map of the Alsace wine route!

Lovers of casual modern ambiance should go to Ill Vino. Located on a barge on the Ill tributary in the Strasbourg city centre, the bar is managed by Stephan Maure, a wine trade expert who proposes copious selections – and not just from France, but also Europe and from the New World. Try the seared scallops with Riesling or a copious charcuterie (or veggies selection) either at the bar or at one of several tables. It is fun to go in warmer months so you can sit outside on the boat.

L’Alsace a Boire: 14 Rue du Vingt-Deux Novembre, 67000 Strasbourg
Ill Vino: 19a Quai des Pêcheurs, 67000 Strasbourg


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