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RESTAURANTS

The five best French restaurants ‘in the world’

The "world’s top 50 restaurants" of 2015 have been revealed, and five are from France. Here's a closer look at which they are, what they serve, and how to find them.

The five best French restaurants 'in the world'
The interior of the Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée in Paris. Photo: Pierre Monetta

Yes, five of the world's “top 50 restaurants” are French (and four are in Paris), according to the 50 Best Restaurant awards, held in London on Monday night.

Even though many in the French restaurant industry were unhappy with the way rankings were put together, we think having ten percent of the world's best restaurants is worth celebrating.

Here is a closer look at the best of the best.  

1) Mirazur (11th worldwide)

Mirazur, perched on a hillside by the French-Italian border in Menton, is run by Argentine-born chef Mauro Colagreco.

The 50 Best praised its “impeccably presented dishes”, and the chef's ability to “combine avant-garde techniques to tell a story where the local, fresh produce plays the role as protagonist, surprising guests with exciting cooking methods, textures, and temperatures”.

The restaurant itself is in the 1930s style, with wall-to-wall glass windows with stunning sea views.
 
Where: Southeastern France, east of Nice
Read more on the official site here
 
2) L’Arpège (12th worldwide)
 
Hot on the heels of Mirazur is L’Arpège at number 12. Head chef Alain Passard turned heads several years ago upon announcing that he was turning his focus to vegetables from his biodynamic farm near Paris. 
 
 
But he pulled it off – and 50 Best was quick label him “a culinary genius”. They singled out his tarte tatin:
 
“His brilliant reimagining of the tarte tatin doesn’t deconstruct the dish, but improves it, forming the apple slices into rosettes atop the pastry to maximise the surface area for caramelisation and texture.”
 
Where: Paris, 7th arrondissement
Read more on the official site here.
 
3) Le Chateaubriand (21st worldwide)
 
Inaki Aizpitarte has been praised with starting a “mini-revolution in the Parisian restaurant scene”. 50 Best notes that he is a figurehead of the ‘bistronomie’ movement, casting aside the starched tablecloths and uptight service in favour of good prices and a relaxed approach. 
 
 
Le Chateaubriand blends French, Asian and Latin American culinary influences, where the line up changes daily but can include anything from warm squid salad to veal with almonds. 
 
Be sure to book in advance, many reserve a table for the first sitting at least two weeks in advance.
 
Where: Paris, 11th arrondissement
Read more on the official site here.
 

4) L'Astrance (36th worldwide)
 
Head chef Pascal Barbot is widely fêted for redefining French fine dining, writes 50 Best. He actually worked for five years at L’Arpège (above), honing his craft, before working in the South Pacific as a chef with the French navy. 
 
 
Now he is in Paris, in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower, where he mixes French haute-cuisine with exotic ingredients from the Far East.
 
The restaurant has no menu, rather, patrons choose from ingredients what they feel like eating and leave the rest up to the chefs.
 
Where: Paris, 16th arrondissement
Read more on the official site here.
 
5) Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée (47th worldwide)
 
Alain Ducasse, “arguably the most successful chef on the planet”, heads this restaurant, which has been lauded by 50 Best for its luxurious interior as well as its food.  
 
 
The menu is based around fish, vegetables and cereal – with a focus on healthy and organic eating. 
 
Expect menu items like Anjou quinoa, morels and green asparagus or Brittany langoustines with golden caviar, and main courses including turbot with lovage, borage and warm oysters. 
 
Where: Paris, 8th arrondissement
Read more on the official site here.
 

 
 

 

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ECONOMY

‘Fully booked for a month’ – France’s bars and cafés prepare to reopen after six months of closure

France's bars, restaurants and cafés will finally be allowed to reopen on Wednesday after six months of closure. But with reduced capacity and a bad weather forecast, it's not be the reopening many were hoping for.

'Fully booked for a month' - France's bars and cafés prepare to reopen after six months of closure
Terraces will be able to reopen at a 50 percent capacity with a maximum of six people per table maximum (everyone must be seated). Photo by BERTRAND GUAY / AFP

Wednesday, May 19th marks phase two of France’s reopening plan, which allows bars, restaurants and cafés to open up their outdoor areas only.

IN DETAIL France’s calendar for reopening 

All booked up

At Pipalottes, a restaurant in the 9th arrondissement, everyone is busy cleaning and getting the place ready for the big day. “We’re trying to make the most of the space on the terrace to be able to get everyone in, but we’re having to cancel some reservations,” said Maximilien, the owner whose terrace will accommodate 48 people. “We’re trying our best to keep everyone happy.”

On Wednesday, large terraces can reopen at a 50 percent capacity with a maximum of six people per table (everyone must be seated), and the curfew will be shifted from 7pm to 9pm. Indoor spaces will reopen on June 9th, when the curfew will be shifted to 10pm.

A ten minute walk away is Sausalito, a wine bar and restaurant that is also fully booked for Wednesday and Thursday night. “We’ve been booked up for the 19th for about a month,” said the owner, Antoine.

He is looking forward to reopening but like many business owners, he hopes this will be the final reopening. “I know that in the UK they are getting worried about the Indian variant, so we need to be careful and play by the rules. We’re crossing our fingers that we will be able to stay open all summer.”

“Parisians love having a drink on a terrasse. Six months without terraces is far too long. It’s just a pity that the weather isn’t great,” added Antoine.

Bad weather forecast

Others aren’t so optimistic, with storms and heavy rain forecast for much of the country.

“I think we’ll have our usual customers who will at least pop in for a drink,” says Alex, the owner of Source Infinie, a restaurant in the 10th arrondissement, which currently has 30 tables facing the street. “But we definitely won’t have the same amount of people we would have if we had good weather.” 

READ ALSO: Storms, rain and strong winds forecast for week France’s café terraces reopen

It’s bad news for François, the owner of Le Bistrot de Madeleine in the 9th arrondissement, who can expand capacity from 14 to 40 if the weather is good enough.

“It’s a real problem, because if it rains I can only seat people in this area,” he says gesturing at the space covered by a blue awning.

“We’ll open on the 19th, it’s important and we are looking forward to seeing our customers again. But we might have to close on some days if the weather is bad, and it’s not worth it for us if we can only serve 12 or 14 people,” he said.

“We are very dependent on the weather. But we are also very happy to be able to reopen, so we’ll have to take it one day at a time,” he said.

Social distancing and strict rules on capacity 

The capital’s bars and restaurants were allowed to stretch their outdoor terraces onto the pavement or the street last summer to allow more outdoor socialising, and these changes have been extended until at least June 2021 – after which they will have to be paid for.

Sausalito is one of the many businesses to have set up a terrance made from wooden pallets in what would usually be taken up by parked cars. “At some point we will have to pay for it, but we don’t know when yet.” said the owner, Antoine. 

Asia, the owner of Les Jolies Mômes in the 9th, has benefited from this measure, which means she can spread out her tables for 50 customers and maintain social distancing more easily. “We are lucky enough to be on a small pedestrian square, and the increased terrace space means we can follow the health restrictions.”

Large terraces will only be allowed to fill up half their space on Wednesday, but last week government officials announced that establishments with small terraces will not be subject to this rule – as long as social distancing measures are followed.

“We will make sure to keep around 1m between tables, but we haven’t been given any precise indications,” said François.

READ ALSO: Paris to keep its expanded outdoor café terraces until summer 2021

Serving food outside

The risk of bad weather, reduced number of tables and the curfew at 9pm makes it very difficult for some restaurants to serve food.

Source Infinie has decided to wait until June 9th, when aside customers being able to sit indoors, the curfew will be shifted to 10pm. “We are a restaurant, but since we are not able to welcome customers inside, and only have 50 percent of the space on our terraces, we’ve decided we’ll only be serving drinks for the time being,” says Alex, the restaurant’s director. 

“It’s far too expensive for the number of customers are allowed to seat, especially with the weather we have at the moment,” he said. “We’ll try to do our best, but I think we’ll have to be patient and unfortunately, even if people are looking forward to eating out again, we won’t be going back to normal straight away.”

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