Michelin has over the course of more than a century revolutionized the way diners regard restaurants with their Michelin Guide becoming a culinary benchmark synonymous with top quality cooking.
The French Riviera has over 25 Michelin-starred restaurants including a handful that have been awarded the highly coveted three-star rating.
History of the Michelin Guide
The Michelin Guide originated in 1900 when brothers Ándre and Édouard Michelin who had started a tire company 11 years earlier, decided that a ratings guide for helpful amenities for drivers would compel the limited number of drivers to use up their tires and buy more.
At that time, less than 3,500 cars were on the roads and the French government had yet to establish an extensive road system. The Michelins aimed to change perceptions that cars were a novelty that took drivers to a Sunday picnic to a viable mode of transportation over longer distances.
Michelin gave out free guides that catalogued hotels, restaurants, mechanics, and gasoline vendors throughout France. After launching country-specific editions throughout Europe their popularity convinced the brothers to start charging for the Guides, and in 1922 the booklets began to be charged for, at 7 Francs a copy.
In 1926, the Michelin Guide expanded to the industry that made it famous today — fine dining. Five years later, the three-star rating system was introduced.
France is traditionally the last Michelin Guide published around the end of February each year, to be followed by the Main Cities of Europe Guide about a month later.
Significance of Michelin Status
The Michelin Guide usually refers to the Michelin Red Guide, which is the oldest and best-known European hotel and restaurant reference guide.
Michelin Stars are awarded for excellence and when a restaurant is awarded one of the prestigious stars it is a sign that the chef has reached the highest level.
The acquisition or loss of a Michelin star can have significant effects on the success of a restaurant.
How do restaurants receive a Michelin Star/s?
The allocation of Michelin stars is done annually by Michelin, based on anonymous visits by their inspectors. There are just 120 inspectors covering the whole world and they are barred from speaking to journalists about the exact definition of what is looked for in a restaurant in order to gain a Michelin star. Many of the inspectors are former chefs and they all have an extensive background in the culinary arts.
While the rating process is a fiercely guarded secret of Michelin there is no doubt that inspectors are considering mastery of technique, quality, personality and consistency of the food, in making the reviews. They do not consider interior decor, table setting, or service quality in awarding stars, though the Michelin Guide shows forks and spoons which describes how opulent or casual a restaurant can be.
The Michelin Star System
The Michelin Guides use the following definitions for starred restaurants:
ONE STAR: A good place to stop on your journey, indicating a very good restaurant in its category, offering cuisine prepared to a consistently high standard.
TWO STARS: A restaurant worth a detour, indicating excellent cuisine and skilfully and carefully crafted dishes of outstanding quality.
THREE STARS: A restaurant worth a special journey, indicating exceptional cuisine where diners eat extremely well, often superbly. Distinctive dishes are precisely executed, using superlative ingredients.
Other Dining Tips
As well as top Michelin-starred restaurants, the Michelin Guide also lists restaurants considered very good value. They are called Bonnes Petites Tables and appear in the Guide with a small icon called the ‘Bib Gourmand’ – Bib is derived from Bibendum, the proper name of the Michelin Man. To make it onto this list, the restaurants must offer a 3-course menu (starter, main course, dessert) for a maximum cost of €32. Some regional Bib Gourmand eateries are Les Voiles Saint-Raphael (Saint-Raphael), Oscar’s (Antibes) and Café de la Fontaine (La Turbie).
Aside from the Michelin Guide, Gault & Millau is another influential French restaurant guide so if you are dining on the French Riviera keep a look out for restaurants appearing in either Guide.
Here is Bespoke Yacht Charter’s insight into 5 of our favourite Michelin-starred restaurants in the region:
1. Eze Village – La Chèvre d’Or **
The beautiful perched village of Eze is home to two restaurants bestowed with Michelin prestige – the single-starred Château Eza and double-starred La Chèvre d’Or.
La Chèvre d’Or opened in 1953, gaining a Michelin star forty years ago and a second star in 2000, which it has retained ever since. The restaurant occupies a magnificent position overlooking the sea, and you can savour modern Provençal flavours and textures at lunch or dinner including Mediterranean octopus and squab pigeon.
We recommend making a reservation and checking opening days before you go as it varies by season.
6 Rue du Barri, 06260 Eze Village, France
2. Mandelieu La Napoule – L’Oasis **
Situated in a pleasant setting in pretty La Napoule with garden patio, L’Oasis is overseen by three brothers Antoine, François and Stéphane Raimbault who use daily produce from Marché Forville in nearby Cannes to craft sublime Asian and Mediterranean cuisine such as steamed sea bass with truffled bourride, and wagyu beef fillet with duck foie gras.
L’Oasis has held two-stars since 1992 and has an impressive champagne cellar and cigar collection. They also operate an adjoining boutique that retails macarons, olive oils, jams, cakes and chocolates.
6 Rue Jean-Honoré Carle, 06210 Mandelieu-la-Napoule, France
3. Monte-Carlo – Le Louis XV – Alain Ducasse ***
Le Louis XV – Alain Ducasse opened in May 1987 in the Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo, and today is one of the most opulent eateries in the French Riviera region with décor consisting of marble, gold leaf and a spectacular 7-metre diameter chandelier.
Alain Ducasse, at that time was a two Michelin star chef and he was recruited and given a challenge by Prince Rainier III – to create a three Michelin star restaurant in Monaco within four years.
The menu highlights the outstanding quality of Mediterranean produce with dishes such as blue lobster with myrtle berries and ginger, and Provence garden vegetables with black truffles. The extensive wine cellar offers over 4,000 separate wines!
The seasonal lunch menu is exceptional value (around €145) and entitles you to appetisers, three courses, cheese, mignardises, mineral water, coffee and a bottle of wine to share. Sadly, diners won’t get to experience the joy of dining at Le Louis XV again until early 2016 – due to renovations at the Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo the restaurant is closed for 5 months from late September so bookmark a reservation for next year.
Place du Casino, 98000 Monaco
4. Nice – Le Chantecler **
Located at the grand Hotel Negresco, Le Chantecler’s menu draws on the best of French gastronomy with wine pairings from an impressive cellar home to 15,000 bottles. Open for dinner only from Tuesday to Saturday, a meal here will cost you from €110 excluding drinks and feature mouth-watering cuisine such as crab and mango cannelloni with Prestige caviar, and desserts like nut soufflé with brandy.
As with all chefs who strive to make use of the freshest ingredients, Le Chantecler’s chef Jean-Denis Rieubland’s goes one better than most – his father, Jean François, drives produce down from the family farm 35 minutes from Nice to the Negresco twice a week and the culinary results have earned the restaurant two Michelin stars.
37 Promenade des Anglais, 06000 Nice, France
5. Saint Tropez – La Vague d’Or ***
La Vague d’Or belongs to the exclusive club of fine restaurants awarded the highly-prized three Michelin stars.
Chef Arnaud Donckele, who trained under Alain Ducasse, presents outstanding tasting menus that feature the best of Provençal fish, herbs and vegetables.
The service is of the highest calibre and the setting overlooking the Gulf of St Tropez with a terrace shadowed by pine trees is perfect for a special occasion.
Plage de Bouillabaisse, 83990 Saint-Tropez, France
List of some other Michelin-Starred Restaurants
Antibes, Cap d’Antibes and Juan les Pins
* Bacon – 664 Boulevard de Bacon, 06160 Antibes, France
* Le Figuier de St Espirit – 14 Rue du Saint-Esprit, 06600 Antibes, France
* La Passagère – Hôtel Belles Rives, 33 Boulevard Edouard Baudoin, 06160 Juan-les-Pins, France
* Les Pecheurs – 10 Boulevard Maréchal Juin, 06160 Antibes, France
Beaulieu sur Mer
* Restaurant des Rois – 5 boulevard Maréchal Leclerc, 06310 Beaulieu-sur-Mer, France
* Les Terrailliers – 11 Chemin Neuf, 06410 Biot, France
** La Palme d’Or – 73 Boulevard de la Croisette, 06400 Cannes, France
* Le Park 45 – 45 Boulevard de la Croisette, 06400 Cannes, France
** La Villa Madie – Avenue du Revestel, 13260 Cassis, France
Èze Bord de Mer
* La Table de Patrick Raingeard – 1312 Avenue Raymond Poincaré, 06360 Èze, France
Grasse & Grasse (Magagnosc)
* La Bastide Saint Antoine – 48 Avenue Henri Dunant, 06130 Grasse, France
* Au Fil du Temps – 83 Avenue Auguste Renoir, 06520 Grasse, France
La Colle sur Loup
* Alain Llorca – 350 Route de Saint-Paul, 06480 La Colle-sur-Loup, France
* Hostellerie Jerome – 20 Rue du Comté de Cessole, 06320 La Turbie
** Bruno Oger, Villa Archange – Rue de l’Ouest, 06110 Le Cannet, France
* Le Clos Saint Pierre – Chemin de Saint-Pons, 06650 Le Rouret, France
*** Le Petit Nice – 17 Rue des Braves, 13007 Marseille, France
** Mirazur – 30 Avenue Aristide Briand, 06500 Menton, France
Monaco / Monte Carlo
* Blue Bay – 40 Avenue Princesse Grace, 98000 Monaco
* Elsa – Avenue Princesse Grace, 98000 Monaco
* Le Vistamar – Square Beaumarchais, Avenue Princesse Alice, 98000 Monaco
* Yoshi – 4 Avenue de la Madone, Monaco
* Le Mas Candille – Boulevard Clément Rebuffel, 06250 Mougins, France
** Paloma – 47 Avenue du Moulin de la Croix, 06250 Mougins, France
* Flaveur – 25 Rue Gubernatis, 06000 Nice, France
* Jan – 12 Rue Lascaris, 06300 Nice, France
* L’Aromate – 20 Avenue Maréchal Foch, 06000 Nice, France
* Le Mas du Langoustiers – Le Mas du Langoustiers, 83400 Hyères, France
* Auberge Le Robur – Rue Centrale, 06420 Roure, France
* Le Cap – Grand-Hôtel du Cap-Ferrat, 71 Boulevard du Général de Gaulle, 06230 Saint-Jean Cap-Ferrat, France
* Archange – Place Kennedy, 83700 Saint-Raphaël, France
* Villa Belrose – Boulevard des Crêtes, 83580 Gassin, France
Tourettes sur Loup
* Clovis – 21 Grand’Rue, 06140 Tourrettes-Sur-Loup, France
* Les Bacchanales – 247 Avenue de Provence, 06140 Vence, France
This article was written by Rebecca Whitlocke, who with over 10 years travel industry experience loves to share ‘must-do’ destination tips and hidden spots to discover in France and beyond.
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