French roadside cafe selling €13 meals wins prized Michelin star (but there’s a twist)

There's nothing quite like a Michelin star to boost interest in your establishment - and that's exactly what the team at a down to earth roadside cafe in central France learned this week.

French roadside cafe selling €13 meals wins prized Michelin star (but there's a twist)
Photo: Google Street view

The Bouche à Oreille cafe, a favourite lunchtime stopover for workers, in the town of Bourges, offers cheap and cheerful French classics like moules frites and boeuf bourgignon for as cheap as €13.

And while it may not look like much of a fine dining establishment, the online 2017 Michelin guide awarded it the prestigious star of culinary excellence in its latest guide released last week. 

Then the customers came flocking to eat at the diner on Route de la Chapelle. 

“I’m starting to get snowed under, I have these new customers who want tables of two, three and four but at the same time I have all my regular customers,” the owner Véronique Jacquet told Le Parisian. “The problem is we don't have a big area and we only have four hands.”

But the rush may only be temporary.

As it turns out it was all a mistake, because the prized Michelin star was meant for another restaurant of the same name on a very similarly named street – Rue de la Chapelle – but in the very different town of Boutervilliers, to the south of Paris. 

“When we heard about the mix up we laughed about it,” owner told The Local. “Michelin rang us to tell us it was a mistake,” she added.

Order has since been restored, with Michelin giving the star back to the right restaurant, where diners will have to fork out a little more for a meal.

For €48 clients can dine on a haute cuisine menu offering ray wing and lobster tart. 

The accidental star, however, proved to be a happy mistake for the bistro owners, who have become the darlings of the French media and who say they won't let the sudden fame go to their head.

And it doesn't mean their food is not worth checking out if you are ever in Bourges.

“I'm going to continue to work just like before. The spirit here is that our door is open to everyone. We make quick food, home-made, buffets, plat du jours and desserts,” Jacquet told France Bleu.


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Michelin unveils Covid-era France picks despite criticism

The Michelin Guide reveals Monday its annual pick of France's top restaurants despite criticism over its decision to hold the awards while establishments remain closed in the Covid-19 pandemic.

Michelin unveils Covid-era France picks despite criticism
Auberge du Pont de Collonges. Photo: AFP

Three-star chefs can rest easy, however, after Michelin said none will be demoted as the health crisis rages.

The industry bible's boss Gwendal Poullennec defended inspections that led to 57 new stars overall, even though restaurants remain shuttered after lockdowns imposed last spring and again since October.

“It's an important decision to support the industry, despite the current situation and perhaps even because of the situation,” Poullennec told AFP.

“All the establishments that have kept their star this year or won one are restaurants that fully deserve it,” he said.

READ MORE: Michelin calls off its 2021 France ceremony, but insists there will still be a guide

Michelin has drawn fire for bestowing its verdicts as chefs rack up losses while adapting their menus for takeaway or deliveries — and food fans have little chance of booking tables anytime soon, with or without face masks.

The rival Best 50 list, based in Britain, cancelled its 2020 ranking last year, while France's La Liste said this month that instead of rankings it would honour innovative chefs who have persevered amid the pandemic.

Michelin called off the lavish gala ceremony that was to be held in Cognac, southwest France – the first time outside Paris – and instead will announce the 2021 winners in a YouTube broadcast from the Eiffel Tower.

'Consistent quality'

But Poullennec said all three-star restaurants will keep their stars – France including Monaco counts 29 – while the handful of demotions will affect only restaurants that have closed or changed their dining concept.

He insisted that inspectors worked double duty and even cancelled their sacrosanct summer holidays to eat and drink as much as possible when restaurants were allowed to open under strict virus restrictions between France's lockdowns.

Michelin also brought in inspectors from elsewhere in Europe and even Asia to back up the French team.

“This selection has been made with the same serious attention, and inspectors were able to judge as many meals as the previous year,” he said.

“Despite the difficulties, chefs have risen to the occasion and maintained consistent quality, at times even succeeding in making further progress,” he added.

Poullennec, who took over the guide in 2018, has overseen several choices that have raised eyebrows among chefs and foodies alike.

Last year Michelin shocked industry insiders by downgrading the Auberge du Pont de Collonges — the oldest three-starred restaurant in the world — after the death of its legendary chef Paul Bocuse.

And in January 2019, Marc Veyrat became the first chef to sue the famous red guidebook after it withdrew the third star for his French Alps restaurant La Maison des Bois just a year after it was awarded.

Veyrat, who lost his case, has said he never wants to see a Michelin inspector in any of his restaurants ever again.