Food and Drink For Members

Regional cuisine: What to eat and drink in central France

The Local France
The Local France - [email protected]
Regional cuisine: What to eat and drink in central France

When travelling through France ordering local dishes and drinks is always a good bet, so we're taking a virtual roadtrip through France, highlighting some of the must-try regional specialities.


This section of our roadtrip takes in the central part of France, from the tourist hotspots of the Alps and west coast seaside resorts through the less well know (but wonderful) central regions. 

The following is just our personal recommendation for some of the areas we're passing through - please leave your suggestions and foodie tips in the comments box below.

Savoie/Haut-Savoie - Extremely popular for winter sports, the French Alps are stunning all year round and a summer trip for hiking, cycling or water sports is also highly recommended. The long, cold winters and the popularity of sporty holidays means that many Savoie specialities tend towards the hearty, filling, cheese-based and calorific - fondue, raclette and tartiflette.

What to order: It has to be fondue - but this is really a winter dish. Although some tourist spots sell it in summer it's best enjoyed after a hard day hiking or skiing while watching the snow swirl around outside your window. The basics of a fondue are always the same - a big pot of melted cheese and some bread to dip in - but there are many varieties based on cheese type. We prefer a mixed-cheese option to get the full flavour spectrum, in the spirit of going local let's order the Fondue Savoyard.


To drink: Wine! Old Swiss and French grannies will tell you that drinking water with fondue can be fatal, as it causes the cheese to solidify and stick in your stomach. As far as we know this has never been proven with science, but it's definitely true that a crisp white wine is perfect to cut through the rich, fatty cheese.

Opt for a local vin jaune for the perfect partner.  

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Alpina Eclectic Hotel**** (@alpinaeclectichotel_chamonix)


Lyon - you might think that the whole of France is a foodie destination, but to French people Lyon is the ‘foodie capital’, and for that reason it’s a highly popular staycation destination with the French. Definitely check out the ‘bouchon’ restaurants which specialise in the best in local cuisine. 

What to order: Brioche de pralines rosé. There are so many delicious Lyon savoury specialities that it’s hard to pick one so we’ve gone for a sweet treat here. Pink pralines (nuts in a sugar coating) are the city’s signature sweet and while they’re great on their own, for an extra indulgent treat you can get brioche (sweet bread) studded with pink pralines. A slice (or two) with a pot of coffee is quite possibly the world’s best breakfast.

And to drink:  Beaujolais. Stick with us here, there's more to beaujolais than the much-derided beaujolais nouveau (although that is getting better these days). The wine appellation extends almost to Lyon and is home to hundreds of small vineyards all making beautiful wines, many of whom are taking up production of vins bio (organic) or vins naturel.  


View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Chocolate Maker • Pralus (@maisonpralus)

READ ALSO: Bio, natural or biodynamic: 5 things to know about French organic wines

Auvergne - central France tends to get missed by many tourists, which is a real shame because much of it is stunning, as well as being quieter and cheaper than the coastal areas. The area is dotted with mountains and (extinct) volcanoes which give it a really dramatic character.


What to order: Auvergnat cuisine is quite meat-based, although the region is also known for good cheeses. To combine the two into one meal, we highly recommend aligot - a type of silky, creamy mashed potato with lots of stringy cheese stirred in - topped with a sausage. Have this at a restaurant with a glass or good wine or buy it from a street stall and go watch the town’s famous rugby team. Either way, the experience will be sublime.

And to drink: Volvic. Those volcanoes that we mentioned earlier give the name to one of France's most famous mineral waters - Volvic. The water is apparently filtered through six layers of rock for five years, so give your liver a rest and sample some.


View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Ambassade d'Auvergne (@ambassadeauvergne)

Corrèze - moving west takes us into Corrèze, one of France's most sparsely populated départements and one that even some French people would struggle to point to on a map. Transport is not all that easy unless you have a car but if it's well worth the effort to visit this hidden but lovely corner of France.

What to order: Savoury dishes often feature mushrooms (especially ceps) and chestnuts and freshwater fish such as perch are also popular but we're going to pick a dessert - clafoutis. The baked fruit flan is hugely popular across France but is traditional in Corrèze - in the classic form it's made with cherries, but lots of different fruit options are available.


And to drink: They grow a lot of nuts in Corrèze and as well as eating them, they're often made into digéstifs as well. If by this stage of the roadtrip you are feeling a little heavy, try an after-dinner liqueur to help you digest (although, despite the name scientists claim that a digéstif doesn't actually help digestion).

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Constance 💛🌸 (@sport_andlife)


Île d’Oléron - We've now reached the west coast, and just off the shore of the Vendée are two beautiful islands. Île de Ré is known as the ‘French Hamptons’ because it’s such a popular holiday destination for rich Parisians, while its smaller brother Île d’Oléron is less high profile but equally lovely.

What to order: This area is the centre of France’s oyster production and if you take a trip around the island (or on the mainland) you will see hundreds of oyster beds. Virtually all local restaurants serve them, but you’ll also see them piled high at markets, where the stallholders will shuck them for you if you’re afraid of losing a finger in the process.

And to drink: The island is known for its white wines which pair perfectly with oysters. Stop off at the market for a quick glass (and an oyster or two) when you’ve finished your shopping or buy a bottle, plus a platter of oysters and have a picnic. 

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Anne Bories (@anne.bories5)


Head to our Food & Drink section to find guides to the regional specialities of southern and northern France.


Comments (3)

Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
Please keep comments civil, constructive and on topic – and make sure to read our terms of use before getting involved.

Please log in to leave a comment.

Anonymous 2022/08/19 17:42
Some odd suggestions here, not least in relation to Lyon - what sort of foodie would choose a something so ephemeral as brioche aux pralines in a city so famous for its gastronomic delights..? However, most of the local specialties are made from some part of the pig and some dishes (such as tablier de sapeur - beef tripe) are an acquired taste. Best go for a saucission chaud (warm pork sausage, even better with pistaches and en brioche) or boudin auc pommes (black pudding), commonly available in all bouchons. One of Lyon's underrated delights is quenelle de brochet sauce Nantua, which should rise like a souffle and with its rich fresh crayfish sauce is the perfect entree (essential to find restaurants where it's made properly to appreciate its delicacy). This can be followed by poulet de Bresse a la creme aux morilles, a gourmet's delight, and finished with a selection of regional cheeses (St Marcellin, Reblochon, Vacherin). A good Beaujolais or Cotes du Rhone makes is the ideal accompaniment. Incidentally, a vin jaune with a fondue..?? It's eye-wateringly expensive and too full for fondue: go for the local crisp Apremont or Roussette de Savoie. Fondue is fine once but don't miss out on a good gratin dauphinois, slowly cooked with plenty of garlic.
Anonymous 2022/08/19 13:13
Some odd suggestions here, not least for Lyon, famous most particularly for its pigmeat dishes and charcuterie. Try a saucisson chaud en brioche or a boudin noir that are served in most bouchons. One of the underrated glories of the region, so long as you choose your restaurant or bouchon carefully, is quenelle de brochet sauce Nantua - the quenelle should rise like a soufflé and the delicious rich crayfish sauce makes it a very satisfying entrée . Poulet de Bresse à la crème aux morilles is the perfect follow up, and the local cheeses (St Marcellin, Reblochon, Vacherin etc) go well with a good Beaujolais or Côtes du Rhône. Vin jaune is from the Jura, not Savoie, and is both very expensive and too full for a fondue. Better to choose a fresh crisp Apremont or Roussette de Savoie.
Anonymous 2022/05/18 10:07
Is La Creuse not in Central France ??

See Also