When Michel Bras opened his eponymous restaurant-hotel in 1992 in the remote Aubrac mountains of south-central France, the venue was the very definition of the Michelin guide's three-star ranking: "exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey." Today, a new crop of young French chef-proprietors are doing likewise abandoning the cities to create their own distant retreats. As 32-year-old Alexandre Gauthier puts it, "We're all the children of Bras." Here are three far-flung eateries that deserve a road trip.
L'Auberge de la Grenouillère
The cognoscenti are currently abuzz over Gauthier's recently expanded restaurant, housed in a converted farmhouse in a far corner of northern France. The auberge features accommodation in rustic-chic cabins and avant-garde cuisine inspired by the region's plains and marshes. With dishes such as lamb's tongue with thistle and nettles; or foie gras with green strawberries, cucumber, basil and smoked cod roe, Gauthier offers "a photograph of the territory." Details at lagrenouillere.fr.
La Nouvelle Maison de Marc Veyrat
On the glacial Lake Annecy in the Haute-Savoie, chef Yoann Conte has taken over the restaurant-hotel of his mentor, the legendary chef Marc Veyrat. Conte, a native of coastal Brittany who fell in love with the mountains, has risen to his new role by marrying his seafood savvy with Veyrat's herb- and flower-infused cuisine. Resulting creations include pine-bark-smoked blue lobster, sea bass with sherry-like vin jaune and goosefoot (a flowering herb), and local fish with ramson and crocus pistils. Visit yoann-conte.com.
La Mare aux Oiseaux
In the heart of the Brière National Park near the Atlantic coast, the restaurant of chef Eric Guérin makes for an implausibly remote dining destination. Yet visitors flock there to sleep in sumptuous guest rooms and savor dishes like pigeon roasted with Sarawak-pepper-infused honey, topped with squid and served with a tart of peas, onions and potatoes smoked in peat. "When you travel deeper into France, you can get closer to something authentic," says Guérin. And that, to many a foodie, is well worth the effort. See mareauxoiseaux.fr.
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