Beaune is a fabulous little town in the heart of Burgundy wine country. It’s hardly the easiest spot in France to get to, but your efforts are greatly rewarded once there. Forget for a moment that in the surrounding towns and villages are the vineyards and people that make many of the world’s top wines, Beaune is also a haven of fashionable boutiques, colorful patisseries and a restaurant scene to rival any large European city.
This is a region of haute cuisine when you consider that it has given us boeuf Bourgignon, coq au vin, ouefs en muerette (eggs in red wine sauce), not to mention Burgundy truffles and a certain mustard from nearby Dijon.
While I wouldn’t suggest harboring high hopes of a breakfast of anything other than a pain au chocolat and mediocre coffee while in Beaune, I would heartily recommend you bring an appetite for the remaining meals of the day.
The first thing to know about Burgundian fare is that it isn’t well-suited to vegetarians or those watching their waistlines – and forget about clean breath since everything is cooked with a healthy helping of garlic. However, if your idea of the perfect meal is a thick steak with a side of sausages, topped with layers of foie gras and accompanied by a plate of sweetbreads or kidneys, then this is the place for you!
On a previous visit the B-21 team had an infusion of meat at the countrified Le Goret which is truly the refuge for any serious carnivore. However, on our recent trip in January, we discovered some of the area’s more refined establishments. (Click here to view photos from our Trip!)
Here are three suggestions for when you next find yourself a bit peckish in Burgundy wine country.
Nestled near the hill of Corton in Pernand-Vergelesses and surrounded by vineyards, sits this unassuming Michelin starred restaurant. It’s a favorite of locals looking for a break from the butcher’s block and they find it in the French-Japanese fusion cuisine of chef Laurent Peugeot.
The décor is minimalist in the mode of feng shui, with a long wall of windows overlooking the vines. The well-spaced tables are illuminated by overhead spotlights and the staff is attentive, multi-lingual, knowledgeable and unobtrusive. The decidedly different menu consists of several seven-plus course selections and amongst us we delighted in dishes of beef tartare with matcha green tea foam, scallop and egg with whisky and corn topped with popcorn and balsamic, sushi rice with tuna tartare with soya and sake vinegar over frozen, grated foie gras. One word of advice – learn from our mistake and don’t arrive earlier than 7:30, if you do your evening will likely start stranded in the parking lot.
Le Cellier Volnaysien
As the name suggests, this converted home is found in Volnay, the village between Beaune and Meursault. The entrance is a wooden door in a large stone façade and leads quickly down to a cozy, dimly lit room adorned along one side by naked vines. Nathalie Gente-Pont is the charismatic owner whose ancestors called this building home. Here you’ll not only find the traditional staples of coq au vin, escargots and fondue Bourguignonne (meat fondue), but also Paysanne salad and delicate filets of trout.
In the winter, try for a table in the first room near the front door, it’s warmer with more ambience, but in the summer, I can imagine the larger rooms at the back with the tall windows or the outdoor terrace would be the ideal spot to savor the sun. It’s the perfect lunch spot as it’s only open for dinner on Saturday.
Back to Beaune and a restaurant renowned for its fresh produce and support of the local farmers and fishermen – Le Fleury. Owners Jerome and Cécile ensure only the finest quality ingredients for their comprehensive menu of both à la carte and prie fixe offerings.
A few of the dishes that caught my eye were starters of Velouté de Potiron, Eclats de Pain d’Epices, Crème Fouettée (warm pumpkin soup with raisin spiced toast and whipped cream) and the foie gras flan with creamy lentils and hazelnuts. Then your choices expand to Tournedos de Volaille Farci aux Champignons (chicken breasts stuffed with mushrooms) or beef filets from Charolais with truffle jus with mashed potatoes and leeks. You’re not done at this stage as Beaune is also known for its indulgent local cheeses and particularly the stinky but sensational Epoisses – it’s a must if you haven’t had it before and especially if you have!
The lighting is a bit too bright and the dining room is nothing special, but the food and hospitality more than make up for these negligible shortcomings.
Needless to say, but I’ll say it anyway, these and all the restaurants in and around Beaune have wine lists with more vintages from more producers of the finest wines of Burgundy than the imagination can conjure – and that is reason alone to visit! So even though it may take planes, trains and automobiles to get to here, you are assured of being well fed once you arrive in beautiful Beaune.