This post was written by Deborah Grossman from the San Francisco Bay Area.
Passionate vintners craft world-class wine from the historic hillside vineyards of Burgundy. While winemakers tend the grapes, chefs in Beaune, the wine capital of the region, prepare outstanding cuisine to pair with their neighbor’s gems.
From luxurious fine dining to welcoming bistros, the small town of Beaune boasts over 100 restaurants, including four with Michelin-stars. During a recent visit to tour wineries and attend the 156th Hospices de Beaune wine charity auction in the city, we savored creative meals at these six top restaurants.
Loiseau des Vignes
This Michelin-starred restaurant delivers on both food and wine. The first French restaurant to offer a full wine list by the glass with their advanced wine preservation system, Loiseau des Vignes’ sommeliers offer tastes and selections of wines from both famous and up-and-coming appellations.
The elegant restaurant with fine-tuned service is part of the Bernard Loiseau group. The company’s founder was an early proponent of “clean food” by preparing lighter sauces to accompany entrées. In addition to Beaune, Dominique Loiseau carries on her late husband’s culinary philosophy and hospitality in Paris, and nearby Saulieu.
Our meal started with a refreshing kir made with local blackcurrant liqueur and Burgundian white wine. The broad menu listed starters such as autumn truffles with baby leeks, local cream and hazelnuts and segued to entrées from the “earth or sea.” Burgundy escargots accompanied by smoked potatoes in a light sauce—featuring local beer from Belenium microbrewery—were a non-traditional, gastronomic start to the meal. The guinea fowl with aromatic herbs was fork-tender. Despite multiple elements on the plate, the dessert of rolled “souffléed” crêpe with orange jam and spiced chocolate ice cream pleased with a mix of sweet, sour and spicy.
After the meal, I met Chef de Cuisine Mourad Haddouche, an enthusiastic gourmand who proudly showed off the Burgundian truffles he found at the market. It was obvious Haddouche’s passion is making people happy through food.
Le Carmin, modern sensibilities
Located on Beaune’s central square, the sleek black, white and red décor speaks to modernity while the food harkens to Burgundy traditions with a gastronomic lift. Chef-owner Christophe Quéant carries the high standards from his work with Paul Bocuse in Lyon and other culinary stars.
The artful vine centerpiece on the table immediately evokes the essence of Burgundy. While reviewing the à la carte menu and several tasting options, the welcoming amuse bouche of gougère cheese puffs with chestnuts nearly made me swoon.
Soon langoustine carpaccio with caviar and leek sprouts arrived with both art and flavor on the plate. The sweetbreads (pictured at top of page) in a veal sauce and a chicory-red onion reduction were outstanding. I discovered one of the most comprehensive cheese carts ever presented with an array of local mustards from Dijon, another Burgundian powerhouse town to the north. The simple dessert of yogurt ice cream with fresh figs and cracked walnuts was a refreshing ending to the meal.
A few blocks from the famous Hospices de Beaune building with its colorful, varnished tile roof, 21 Boulevard offers outstanding food and drink in a historic setting. The back room adjoins the temperature-controlled, old, stone cave housing the 700-bottle wine cellar. The restaurant boasts a Michelin assiette or “plate” rating, meaning ‘fresh ingredients, capable preparation, and a good meal.”
I made a wise decision to target escargots at 21 Boulevard. Chef Christophe Reuillon presents the local snails with a Rhone-Alps accompaniment: raviole du Royan, a tiny cheese-filled ravioli—in a pleasingly light garlic bouillon. Reuillon’s version of oeufs en meurette, poached eggs served in Burgundy wine, was excellent in its balance of texture and perfectly seasoned sauce. The tender, free-range chicken with Époisses sauce and fresh tagliatelle was satisfying in its simplicity.
When I talked to the chef, he was busy finishing off generous portion of beef cheeks Bourguignon and veal chops with small potatoes and sweetbreads in a morel sauce. Throughout the meal, the knowledgeable sommelier offered Burgundian wines from Grand Cru to village quality and generously offered tastes.
Again harking to top ingredients, the fresh, red wine-poached pear with blackcurrant sauce and house-made vanilla ice cream was a sweet treat. As a bonus to your 21 Boulevard meal, the owners also present Le Piano Bar and Lounge with a DJ, and large collection of world spirits.
In the heart of Beaune, Ecrit’Vin could double as a Paris bistro. The long, copper bar and the wine list scrawled on the chalkboard bring the big city ambience. A mix of original brick, stone wall and polished wood, along with modern lighting, the bistro presents a literary theme and also hosts two hotel rooms.
Chef de cuisine Étienne Wolff begins each day with the best the market offers, and the food is fait maison, or house made. The focus is traditional Burgundian-style food, but the chef adds his own style to the dishes.
The boeuf Charolais á la Bordelaise sauce shows Wolff’s independence—most restaurants avoid food from their arch rival wine region, Bordeaux. The suprême of free-range chicken with époisses sauce was the best of those encountered in Burgundy. The scalloped potatoes and haricots vert were excellent accompaniments. Hidden gem Burgundian bottlings such as regional Bourgogne from La Combe in Saint-Aubin and a Côte de Nuits-Villages Aux Vignottes wine from Antoine Lienhardt paired well throughout the meal. The desserts such as Baked Alaska-like omelet Norwegian were not overly sweet.
The vibe at Les Popiettes is modern, colorful, and non-touristy. A favorite recommendation from B&Bs and locals, we enjoyed the décor of fanciful teapots on the bar, photos strung on clothespins and chef-owner Giada Scarton’s teal hair along with the home style cooking and reasonably priced wines. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, the menu is concise and offers farm fresh takes on traditional food.
But note that Scarton is Italian, and she called her menu, “not necessarily French style.” Though trained as a pastry chef, Scarton excels on the savory side. Entrées included shoulder of veal and boeuf Bourguignon, but we chose seafood risotto made with specialty Aquarello rice from Piedmont, Italy. Scarton’s vegetarian cauliflower starter was made with vegetable stock and porcini mushrooms, finished with a roux of butter and a corn-rice blend to make it gluten free. Scarton’s tiramisu with figs is a must-try.
Les Caves Madeleine
A classic bistro and a Beaune favorite, Les Caves Madeleine offers serious food at affordable prices. You step down into the narrow space with artful artifacts on one wall and wine displayed on the opposite side. Notably the wines are selected for their taste and organic or biodynamic production methods.
Each item on the daily à la carte chalkboard is tempting. The veal tartare with lemon and hazelnuts sounded excellent, but I selected the poached foie gras “ravioli” with lentils in a savory, light duck broth. The poaching, said chef-owner Martial Blanchon, results in a less fatty dish. The roasted cod with vegetables and preserved lemon was excellent. An upscale surprise appeared: an intermezzo of lemon sorbet. The dessert of meringue filled with lemon custard and topped with orange zest was refreshing and light. The smiles of Chef Blanchon and the server were a grand send-off to a lovely Burgundian bistro evening.
Deborah Grossman is a freelance food, drink and travel writer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. You can find samples of her travels at deborahgrossman.com.