French cooking has had a remarkable impact on the cuisines of countless world cultures, especially extravagant haute cuisine. Nonetheless, there’s far more to French food than the chefs-d'œuvre showcased in the country’s multi-Michelin-starred gastro palaces. Sure, the classics are known and replicated in plenty of far-flung places, yet an astonishing number of local dishes are also cherished throughout France’s 13 administrative regions, many of which are rarely served in restaurants, brasseries or bistros outside of their home provinces. From Brittany to Bourgogne, here’s our guide to the best regional French food highlights and where to eat them. Bon appetit!
Poulet de Bresse in Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes
Often labelled France’s gastronomic capital, Lyon is usually the first port of call when discussing the region of Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes’ culinary map. Although renowned for dishes such as blanquette de veau, various sausages and veal-heavy offal dishes, the city is also close to Bresse – home to some of the best poultry in the world. With appellation d’origine contrôlée status and registered as a Protected Designation of Origin under EU and UK law, the poulet de Bresse (or volaille de Bresse) is the white variety of poultry from the area of Bresse and the ‘Bresse’ breed. With blue feet, a red crest and white feathers and flesh, the birds have an intense flavour, gamier than standard chicken and significantly more expensive. But considering the chicken is revered as some of the earth’s finest, it’s certainly worth trying while visiting the region.
Where to eat it:
Daniel & Denise Saint-Jean, Lyon
In the historic district of Old Lyon, near the Saint-Jean Cathedral, this Lyonnaise Bouchon is warm and homely, serving a repertoire of outstanding French dishes. Here, the volaille de Bresse AOC is celebrated in true Lyonnais fashion, perfectly cooked and served with gorgeous morels.
36 Rue Tramassac, 69005 Lyon
La Mère Brazier
Michelin-starred La Mère Brazier has been open since 1921 and it continues to serve elegant haute-cuisine. The poulet de Bresse is a particular signature dish here, served in two services with blue lobster, confit potatoes and coral. It’s all a bit over the top (with a price tag to match, at €240 for two people), but it’s a must try for keen foodies in search of something special.
12 Rue Royale, 69001 Lyon
Galette Bretonne in Brittany
A traditional dish in Brittany, the galette Bretonne has become well known throughout France. While the dish can be eaten plain, it’s typically garnished with various fillings according to the base recipe. The galette Bretonne is generally made with buckwheat flour and topped with savoury accompaniments, while crêpes are generally made with wheat flour and commonly have sweet fillings. The use of buckwheat, however, dates back to around the 13th century, when it was first brought back from the Crusades. This particular version is readily available throughout the region – best topped with egg, ham and cheese.
Where to eat it:
Le Comptoir Breizh Café, Saint-Malo
In Saint-Malo, Le Comptoir Breizh Café offers refined takes on the galette Bretonne, with a Japanese slant that permeates the café, adjacent to a sushi restaurant. The classic ham and butter version is delicious, but the andouille, confit onions and cider galette is an absolute must-try.
6 Rue de l'Orme, 35400 Saint-Malo
Crêperie Ty Malou, La Trinité-sur-Mer
This harbourside café in La Trinité-sur-Mer serves galettes Bretonne of note, including a fine version with ham, cheese and eggs, plus a mixture of confit apples with salted caramel and butter, best washed down with a glass of local cider.
10 Cr des Quais, 56470 La Trinité-sur-Mer, France
Coq Au Vin in Bourgogne-Franche-Comté
In addition to its world-class wines, Burgundy is home to a number of dishes with rapturous international acclaim: most famously boeuf bourguignon and coq-au-vin. While the exact origins of coq-au-vin are murky, the dish is said to date back to ancient Gaul, now commonly associated with Burgundy – although other areas such as Alsace, Champagne and Auvergne all claim the dish as their own. While chicken is far more common today, the traditional peasant dish’s recipe calls for rooster, slowly braised in red wine (hence the name). Like many dishes of this nature, some of the best coq-au-vin can be found in people’s homes rather than restaurants, but it’s certainly worth searching for an authentic version while visiting.
Where to eat it:
Le Cellier Volnaysien, Volnay
A traditional Burgundian restaurant and wine shop, Le Cellier Volnaysien serves a menu of classic local dishes. Built into a hillside among the nearby Volnay vineyards, the restaurant’s coq au vin is served on a platter with crisp roast potatoes. Ideal for sharing, it’s simple, unpretentious and deeply satisfying.
2 Pl. de l'Église, 21190 Volnay
Restaurant l'Ouillette, Santenay
Showcasing seasonal produce, this hotel restaurant serves a rich, bold coq au vin accompanied by pickled onions and strips of fatty bacon, perfect with a glass (or bottle) of local red wine.
Pl. du Jet d'Eau, 21590 Santenay
Andouillette in Centre-Val de Loire
A famous getaway for historical French kings, due to its large number of Renaissance chateaux, the region of Centre-Val de Loire is perhaps more famous for its wines than its gastronomic offerings. Regional specialities include the likes of local goat’s cheese, rillettes de Tours and andouillette. An opinion-dividing dish, andouillette is a large sausage made using pig’s chitterlings, which can have a slightly off-putting smell. The taste, however, is honestly remarkable and demands to be savoured. Although perhaps more commonly associated with cities such as Lyon, on the whole andouillettes from the Centre-Val de Loire region are renowned for being prepared to traditional recipes, classically cooked in local Vouvray wine.
Where to eat it:
La Chope, Tours
Although the restaurant specialises in seafood, the andouillette au Vouvray at La Chope is worth sampling. This ‘Belle Epoque’ era Parisian-style brasserie serves a version of the thick, potent sausage cooked in Vouvray wine, served with candied onions and fries.
25 Bis Av. de Grammont, 37000 Tours
Au Bouchon Lyonnais, Blois
This warm, friendly, family-run bouchon in the centre of Blois technically has far more in common with Lyon than Centre-Val de Loire, but the food is generally excellent, inexpensive and widely accessible, with grilled andouillette proudly served alongside French fries, best washed down with a carafe of house red.
25 Rue des Violettes, 41000 Blois
Veau aux Olives in Corsica
The only French region of metropolitan France with its own island, Corsica is known for its beaches, but the unique food and wine shouldn’t be overlooked. The island’s signature dish, civet de sanglier is a rich stew of slow-cooked wild boar but is only available during certain times of the year. Veau aux olives (veal with olives) is another regional speciality: a stew of slow-cooked veal with pitted green olives (which are grown throughout the island) and Corsican red wine.
Where to eat it:
A Mandria di Pigna, Pigna
Corsican produce is celebrated here, but there’s strong Italian influences too. From the traditional section of the menu veau aux olives is made with rosé wine and served with a choice of potato or zucchini gratin, while slow-cooked ewe and suckling lamb are also available.
Pigna, 20220 Pigna
At Cantina di Ghjulia, Ajaccio
In the touristic heart of Ajaccio’s old town, At Cantina di Ghjulia is a family-run restaurant serving Corsican classics. Ingredients are sourced from the island, while only seasonal dishes are cooked. Veau aux olives is, of course, done well, as are the zucchini fritters and humble desserts.
21 Rue Conventionnel Chiappe, 20000 Ajaccio
Tarte Flambée in Grand Est
Also known as flammekueche or flammkuchen, tarte flambée is one of the most traditional Alsatian dishes. Contrary to the name’s translation, however, the dish isn’t actually flambéed, it’s a thin flatbread cooked in a wood-fired oven close to the embers, spread with either sour cream or fromage blanc – a tart local cheese – plus lardons and thinly sliced onions. Various versions are now readily available across the region of Alsace and beyond, largely thanks to the pizza craze of the 1960s. It’s the classic version, however, that’s an absolute must-try. Pair it with a glass of dry Alsatian white wine or a foamy pint from one of the local breweries.
Where to eat it:
L'Ancienne Douane, Strasbourg
This charming Strasbourg restaurant serves classic Alsatian dishes, including a selection of tarte flambées. The traditional version is delicious and creamy. A version with munster cheese and cumin is also offered alongside another crowned with Strasbourg sausage or apples and calvados. Hit up the terrace, which is delightful on a summer evening.
6 Rue de la Douane, 67000 Strasbourg
Auberge Saint-Martin, Kintzheim
The village of Kintzheim is worth visiting in search of tarte flambée, where Auberge Saint-Martin excels in serving the classic Alsatian flatbread. Super thin unleavened dough is crisped and capped with thick cream, lardons and onion. Versions with salmon, smoked ham, chanterelles or sweet apple are also served.
80 Rue de la Liberté, 67600 Kintzheim,
Carbonnade Flamande in Hauts-de-France
Given its busy ports of Calais and Dunkirk, France’s northernmost region is often the first part of France discovered by tourists travelling on wheels, with many passing through to further afield destinations. But, it’s worth sticking around for the food. The region has strong Belgian influences with dishes such as carbonnade flamande particularly popular and honorarily adopted by many restaurants. A Flemish stew traditionally made with beef or pork, onions and beer, the stew has a profoundly rich flavour, traditionally served with fries, boiled potatoes or stoemp – a side dish of pureed potatoes and other root vegetables.
Where to eat it:
Estaminet T’Risjel, Lille
With the term ‘estaminet’ loosely translated as pub or tavern, this venue is particularly renowned for its wide variety of beers, plus a broad menu of warming dishes. It’s the perfect setting for carbonnade flamande loaded with rich dark beer.
25 Rue de Gand, 59800 Lille, France
French Onion Soup in Île-de-France
Said to date back to the 17th century, soupe à l’oignon (or French onion soup) is likely to have been created elsewhere but is now synonymous with Paris. Thanks in part to the restaurants surrounding Les Halles – the city’s biggest open air-market – the soup became notorious during the 19th century: both the breakfast of market workers and a late-night cure-all for revellers leaving the cabarets in the early hours. Rampant with jammy caramelised onions and crowned with heaps of melted cheese, the dish is now a bistro classic, served in countless restaurants throughout the city, even in the traditional restaurants surrounding Les Halles where its notoriety was first gained.
Where to eat it:
Bouillon Pigalle, Paris
Although a new site has recently opened in République, the Pigalle original has become a modern favourite, honouring the bouillons of yesteryear. Expect to queue for lunch or dinner at this huge Montmartre restaurant, but it’s worth it. The French onion soup is both remarkable and eminently affordable at just €3.80.
22 Bd de Clichy, 75018 Paris
Au Pied de Cochon, Paris
First opened in 1947, Au Pied de Cochon has become a Paris institution. Open 24/7, the restaurant serves a vast menu of brasserie classics, including the famous soupe à l’oignon gratinée des Halles which contributed to making the soup an international icon. Additional highlights include various seafood dishes and the Tentation de Saint-Antoine, which honours the patron saint of charcutiers with breaded pig’s trotter, ears and tail: an unrelentingly delectable celebration of pig (although not for the faint of heart).
6 Rue Coquillière, 75001 Paris
Confit de Canard in Nouvelle-Aquitaine
Believed to have originated in the former province of Gascony, confit de canard (or confit duck) remains extremely popular in south-west France. Dishes such as magret de canard and foie gras are celebrated with almost religious fervour throughout the region of Nouvelle-Aquitaine today, but none are more delicious than confit de canard. Traditionally cooked by being submerged in duck fat for upwards of 24 hours, duck legs were stored in the rendered fat for preservation before refrigeration. This means of storage is no longer necessary, but remains popular considering the outstanding taste of the final result You’ll find it traditionally served with potatoes also fried in duck fat.
Where to eat it:
La P'tite Brasserie, Bordeaux
An authentic, no-fuss venue in Bordeaux, La P'tite Brasserie’s menu changes regularly, scrawled on a chalkboard. Highlights may include superlative confit de canard, salade landaise or entrecote with frites.
127 Rue Georges Bonnac, 33000 Bordeaux
Chez Dupont, Bordeaux
With an extensive, regularly changing menu and great wine selection, Chez Dupont’s confit de canard sees duck legs salted for two hours before being slow-cooked for a further 20 hours.
45 Rue Notre Dame, 33000 Bordeaux
Les Delices du Roy, Saint-Émilion
This Saint-Émilion restaurant is most famous for its duck breast burger loaded with foie gras and green pepper sauce. But, the classic confit de canard is a much better option with no need for ostentation.
1 Rue de la Prte Bouqueyre, 33330 Saint-Émilion
Pressed Duck in Normandy
A speciality of Rouen, pressed duck is a complex dish requiring a uniquely-designed press, which resembles something between a wine press and an iron maiden. A plump duck is generally presented at the table before being whisked off to the kitchen for roasting. The liver is removed and minced, while the legs and breasts are set aside for different courses. The main draw of pressed duck is the sauce that’s produced from placing the remaining carcass in the duck press and applying pressure to extract the blood, cooking juices and bone marrow. It all sounds a little macabre, but the chocolate brown sauce has a profound richness that an entire dairy of butter couldn’t produce.
La Couronne, Rouen
Founded in 1345, La Corounne (The Crown) is the place to eat pressed duck in Rouen. Believed to be the oldest inn in the whole country, chef and author Julia Child claimed that her first meal here inspired her to devote her life to French cooking: high praise indeed. The pressed duck is served for two people in various different courses segued by a refreshing calvados sorbet. Make sure you allow plenty of time for it to be prepared and cooked.
31 Pl. du Vieux Marché, 76000 Rouen
Toulouse in Occitanie
A slow-cooked casserole dish typically harbouring sausage, duck confit, white beans, rampant with garlic and crowned with breadcrumbs, cassoulet originated in southwest France, although three cities claim to be the official home of the dish. Castelnaudary cassoulet is based with white kidney beans, smoked ham and pork shoulder; Cassoulet de Carcassone comprises gamier meats such as mutton, partridge and quail; while (perhaps most famous of all) Tolousain cassoulet is packed with either duck or goose – something the area has absolutely no shortage of.
Where to eat it:
Chez Emile, Toulouse
While many nearby restaurants have cassoulet on the menu, Chez Emile is a particular standout, having had no reason to tweak their recipe for over 50 years.
13 Pl. Saint-Georges, 31000 Toulouse
Le Trivalou, Carcassonne
This Carcassonne restaurant serves cassoulet with a warming homely feel, best washed down with a glass of full-bodied red on a cold winter evening.
69 Rue Trivalle, 11000 Carcassonne
Considered one of the best versions in Carcassone, Adelaïde’s cassoulet has a top layer of slightly scorched, crisp beans which provide further textural depth to the rich, warming dish.
5 Rue Adélaïde de Toulouse, 11000 Carcassonne
Rillauds d’Anjou in Pays de la Loire
Somewhat similar to rillons, rillauds d’Anjou are chunks of pork belly soaked in brine and fried in lard, typically served with salad or bread. During the 19th and 20th centuries, pork was one of the few sources of meat in the Anjou countryside, yet pigs were slaughtered only two or three times each year. This meant conservation was a major issue, so the brining and cooking technique was adopted through necessity. The result is insalubriously delightful with various local aficionados. During the first weekend of July, Le Confrérie des Faiseux de Rillauds d’Anjou (the brotherhood of making rillauds) hosts a festival to celebrate the dish.
Where to eat it:
L’Authentic Restaurant, Angers
While rillauds d’Anjou is a local classic, the dish is fairly rare in Pays de la Loire restaurants. At L’Authentic in Angers, fouée is a particular focus – a focaccia-like bread that’s cooked in a scorching wood oven. Here it’s typically eaten with savoury toppings such as mushroom, bacon and crème fraiche, served with a salad of goat’s cheese and unctuous rillauds d’Anjou.
10 Rue Hoche, 49100 Angers
Restaurant Les Caves de la Genevraie, Louresse-Rochemenier
This unique Troglodyte restaurant set within the caves of Genevraie and Ammonite specialises in fouée, which is said to be cooked in a thousand-year-old oven. The set menu also includes great rillauds d’Anjou, plus navy beans, cheese, salad and a house dessert.
13 Rue du Musée, 49700 Louresse-Rochemenier
Les Alizés, Mûrs-Erigné
For something a little different, Les Alizés in Mûrs-Erigné serves a pizza capped with decadent rillauds d’Anjou. For the more traditionally inclined, a green salad is also served with rillauds d’Anjou, mushrooms and tomato.
Centre Commercial Rive Sud, 26 Rue Valentin des Ormeaux, 49610 Mûrs-Erigné
Bouillabaisse in Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur
The region of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur is home to many remarkable dishes, such as ratatouille, salade niçoise and pissaladière, but none personify the region quite like bouillabaisse. Synonymous with the city of Marseille, some believe the dish originated in ancient Greece while others attest its origin to Marsellaise fishermen utilising their leftover produce. At its heart, the bony rockfish rascasse is an essential, while other inclusions may include conger eel, grondin, mussels, crab and lobster, all joined by Provençal herbs, traditionally topped with rouille (a herb-spiked mayonnaise). The dish is also customarily served in two courses. The rich soup comes first, followed by the fish cooked in said broth.
Where to eat it:
Chez Michel, Marseille
There’s no denying Chez Michel is expensive, but it also serves some of the best bouillabaisse in Marseille, if not the world. Served in two courses, the soup is followed by filleted fish with saffron potatoes, traditional rouille and croutons – for which the restaurant is also famous.
6 Rue des Catalans, 13007 Marseille
Situated on a stone point jutting out into the sea, this restaurant boasts gorgeous views of the Mediterranean, naturally showcasing exceptional seafood cooking. Here the bouillabaisse is served as part of a seven-course menu truly celebrating the local speciality.
158 Rue du Vallon des Auffes, 13007 Marseille