Ideal for a Gallic gastronomic getaway.

Anyone else been watching reruns of Rick Stein’s Secret France to sedate their longing for foreign, free wheeling travel? We at IDEAL stand guilty as charged, and if the program has shown us anything, it’s that to get under the skin of French cuisine, one needs to dig deep, to travel rurally and regionally to truly appreciate just how good Gallic gastronomy can be.

Rick certainly isn’t the only foodie to report on the country’s food – travellers have been eating their way around France forever, resulting in hundreds, if not thousands, of books on the art of French cuisine. 

Whilst we can live vicariously through all of this literature, imagining the flavours and aromas, at some point a holiday is going to be needed to try this amazing food at the source. So, we’re adding to the well worn, well written road; for IDEAL readers, here’s our pick of 4 of best places for foodie trips to France. 

DIEPPE 

We’re starting as close to home as possible (kinda). A four hour ferry ride from Newhaven near Brighton and a popular holiday destination for France’s beau monde for generations, Dieppe in Normandy has so much to offer. The architecture is beautiful, its maritime history fascinating, the beaches are great and the food is quite legendary. 

Dieppe has a well-earned reputation for serving up some of the best seafood in the world in any number of traditional cafes and restaurants that haven’t changed for generations, and just earlier this year, its market was named the ‘most beautiful market in France’.  

Head for the marina where you’ll find restaurants serving fresh off the boat things from the sea, with a view of it; and that’s what life is all about, right? Here you can dig into moules-frites and iced platters with crustaceans piled sky high. A must try is the local speciality la Marmite Dieppoise, a hearty fish stew which could give bouillabaisse a run for its bone, bread and butter. Try this gorgeous dish at its namesake, La Marmite, a Dieppe institution where this classic dish was created. Le Bistrot des Barrières, a contemporary style bistro cooking fresh fish and shellfish with the respect it deserves, is another popular place serving generous dishes by the marina. 

Other specialties of Dieppe include Sole à la Dieppoise (sole swimming in a white wine sauce) with mussels, shrimp and mushrooms, and Lisettes à la Dieppoise (mackerel marinated in cider). Etoile de Mer, starfish, is also beloved of locals here and to finish off, it has to be pâté aux poires de fisee – a scrumptious pear pie.   

The perennially popular Le Turbot and Restaurant du Port are well worth a visit too and for a Michelin-starred experience, head to Les Voiles d’Or, right on the water’s edge where the ferry docks.

The perennially popular Le Turbot and Restaurant du Port are well worth a visit too and for a Michelin-starred experience, head to Les Voiles d’Or, right on the water’s edge where the ferry docks.

PARIS

It’s a bit predictable, a bit cliched, a bit obvious, sure; but it’s known as Europe’s great food capital for a reason, right? It’s a city which smells of food, in the best possible way; there’s a certain aroma of sweet, freshly baked pastry which seems to permeate through every wall and linger on every street. 

Obviously, Paris has fine dining at its heart, with easily the most Michelin stars of any European city, but you can eat well here for surprisingly cheap, with the right planning and at the right time; even at some top-end places. If you’re looking for a mid-range option which still delivers knockout food, we highly recommend Les Cocottes. Or, if you’re looking for a taste of old school Paris, with dirt cheap wine, stereotypically brusque wait staff and hearty food, then look no further than Bouillon Chartier, a Parisian institution since 1896. Finally, for Michelin starred food which doesn’t feel at all stuffy or old fashioned, we just love Septime, in the 11th arrondissement; sustainable, forward thinking and most importantly, ambrosial. 

For those combining their culinary curiosity with some sightseeing, do check out our guide to the best restaurants within a mile of the Eiffel Tower. 

ROUSSILLON

Perhaps the urban sprawl, the Métro, the hustle and the bustle isn’t your jam, but you still want to eat well? If you’re looking for a holiday village in France, then it’s got to be Roussillon. Sitting at the base of the Pyrenees mountains, it boasts a reputation of being one of France’s most beautiful villages.  

The Russet-red buildings of Roussillon, in Vaucluse, South Eastern France, get their colour from the nearby ochre quarries, and housed within some of these buildings are a number of brilliant restaurants. The area has been a territory of both France and Catalonia and the food reflects it; a glorious amalgamation of influences which will have you eating very differently to anywhere further north. 

Snails are hugely popular in the French Catalonia region, and you’ll find Cargolade – stuffed, grilled snails served with aioli – enjoyed in and around Roussillon as something of a street food snack; eat standing with a cold glass of something fizzy for the authentic experience.

Take a seat at one of the village’s bistros and it’s certain that Clapassade will be on the specials board. This nourishing dish of lamb, olives and anise spicing originated here, and perennially remains on dining tables to this day. 

And you can’t leave Roussillon without eating squid or cuttlefish, both of which are adored in the region, and finally, French Catalonia’s version of bouillabaisse, which arrives white rather than the usual famous rust colour, because of the copious aioli and egg yolks used to enrichen it, and contains white fish rather than the more common shellfish. 

MENTON

Menton, also known as ‘The Pearl of France’, sits on the French Riviera and is walking distance from Italy. This prime position, to enjoy the most of the local produce and cross-cultural influence, leads to some incredible food, make no mistake.

Inspired by the area’s unique microclimate (reportedly 3°C warmer than the rest of France) and the resultant, abundant fresh ingredients, as well as its proximity to Bel Paese and the Mediterranean, the cuisine here has a personality all of its own; largely seafood and vegetable led, light-as-you-like and worth the trip alone to sample. 

The jewel in Menton’s crown is Mirazur, a 3 Michelin-starred restaurant run by Argentinian chef Mauro Colagreco, which was last year named as the world’s best in the World’s 50 Best Restaurant List. Refined, delicious and boasting incredible views of mountain and sea, it’s going to cost you; the tasting menu is around £300 per head. Interestingly, an episode of the UK Masterchef Professionals Finals week occurred here; check it out on Netflix for an insight into the glorious cuisine of the region!

If that’s a little out of your price range or you simply fancy something more traditional, then a meal on the terrace of Le Bistrot de Jardins, which has been serving fresh, fantastic Mediterranean food for forty years and counting, is definitely worth checking out. 

Citrus fruit is ubiquitous in Menton and the stuff here is considered some of the finest in the world. Head to one of the town’s markets or boutique shops to try Calissons, an almond biscuit often garnished with candied lemon, and finish with a limoncello, as popular on this side of the border as further up the road in Italy. At Au Pays De Citron, on Rue Saint-Michel, they sell some of the finest limoncellos in the world.

In a place with such a stellar reputation for fresh produce, perhaps the most foodie thing you could do in check out the self catering resorts available in the region, head to the markets on either side of the border, and cook up your own Michelin starred feast at just a fraction of the price.

To get a head start on that cooking, check out our tips on how to get the most from your self catering holiday. Never has there been a more succinct segue.