Wining, Dining and Sleeping in the Loire


Wild flowers in Puy-de-Dôme

The Auvergne region is made up of four departéments: Allier, Puy-de-Dôme, Haut-Loire and Cantal. Vineyards can be found within the Allier (Saint-Pourçain) and Puy-de-Dôme (Côte d'Auvergne). Recommendations are made for those visiting or passing through the wine regions. 

For anyone wishing to explore the wines of the region, the logical base would be Clermont-Ferrand, although there is a dearth of decent individual hotels. This is essentially a commercial centre rather than a leisure destination, so my recommendation is to head for the hills and take advantage of the hotels within any of the spa resorts on the edge of the Châine-des-Puys. 



Gîte - Les Charmes
Mary Williamson
T: + 33 4 73 94 99 75 

Just a few kilometres south of Vichy, this quiet little village was once a thriving village vigneron. Today, it is more famous for its slightly sparkling mineral water, which can be found listed on all the best tables in France. This chalet-like property looks down over the village with its medieval castle. 

Retail opportunity - Fromagerie - L'Artisanale de Ris
9 La Boire
Ris Gare
T: + 33 4 73 94 13 14
F: + 33 4 73 94 16 93 

Driving south from Vichy and before one reaches Châteldon, one reaches the village of Ris. Just alongside the main road, in an old station building is this splendid fromagerie, specialising in local ewes milk cheeses. 


Restaurant - Le Saint Amable
18 rue Saint Amable
T: + 33 4 73 63 01 47
A very modest restaurant on the main street running through the town, sitting opposite the Basilica. Open from Tuesday to Saturday, they serve traditional dishes, including truffades made from Saint-Nectaire. There is a small selection of regional wines. Inexpensive. (Last dined: 06/09)

Restaurant - Le Flamboyant
21 bis rue de l'Horloge
T/F: + 33 4 73 63 07 97 
Here's an alternative addresses in Riom, although I haven't enjoyed the hospitality myself. Open Tuesday to Sunday. Closed all day Monday and Wednesday for lunch.

This pretty spa resort is a few kilometres west of the town of Riom and about a 30 minute drive into Clermont-Ferrand. It's well sited for visiting the northern vineyards, the châine-des-puys and a relaxing spot for those wishing to take the waters. 

Hotel-Restaurant - Splendid
5-7 rue Angleterre
T: + 33 4 73 86 04 80
F: + 33 4 73 86 15 76
A resort hotel with its own spa centre and water fountains. It's art-deco exterior dates it to the early part of the last century, about the same time as most of its current residents were born. It's not without charm and is situated in a lovely little valley that overlooks the spas and is in easy walking distance for the rest of the town. Whist they do have a restaurant, I haven't dined here; I wasn't taken by what was offered on the menu. If you do plan to stay here, ensure you book a room at the rear. 
(Last stayed: 06/09)

Restaurant - La Papillote
11 Route de Volvic
T: + 33 4 73 67 00 64
F: + 33 4 73 86 20 60
Saint-Hippolyte is a small village just outside Châtel-Guyon and is about a five minute drive from the centre of town (or a 30 minute energetic walk). It's a family run operation and is clearly popular with locals, although the opening times (Thursday to Saturday and Sunday lunch) makes one wonder on the viability of opening at all. The food is a bit fussy, but competent with a good selection of local dishes and a very good local cheeseboard. There is a reasonable wine list offering a limited selection of local wines and a few good names from elsewhere in France. 
(Last dined: 06/09)

Restaurant - La Potée
34 rue Baraduc
T: + 33 4 73 86 06 60
On the main street, this busy little restaurant is full of character and antiquities from the region. They cooking is simple and proudly Auvergate serving local wines by the glass, pichet and bottle. Recommended and inexpensive.
(Last dined: 06/09)

One would expect the home of Michelin to have a couple of starred restaurants, and indeed there are a pair, although I have not dined in either.

Restaurant – Fleur de Sel
Emma et Patrice Eschalier

8 rue Abbé Girard
T: +33 4 73 90 30 59 
Acknowledged in the 2009 Guide Michelin as an 'up and coming restaurant', although Fleur de Sel was established a decade ago. By the 2010 Guide it had been awarded a much deserved One Star. It's run by Sussex born Emma and her chef-husband, Patrice, whose father makes a little wine for family consumption on the slopes above the city. Emma tells me it's not very good. The couple met on the Île-de-Ré in the mid 1990s whilst Emma was doing a stage to improve her business French. The menu here revolves around fish; not bad for a city at the very heart of France. The food here is very good and my recommendation is to allow Patrice to select your dinner for you. This option is offered as a fixed price menu. There is a broad list with a few local wines, although Emma is clearly not a fan of the local rosés. Recommended, if a little expensive if one eats off the carte. Closed Sunday and Monday.
(Last dined: 06/09) 

Restaurant - Goûts et Couleurs
Vincent Dhumes
6 Place du Changil
T: + 33 4 73 19 37 82
Situated in a rough looking part of the centre of town, close to the Palace of Justice. The decor inside is modern and service is offered by a young and friendly team. This is classical French cooking with a modern twist. There is a modest wine list with one or two local growers represented. Well priced and recommended. 
(Last dined: 06/09)

Restaurant - Brasserie Danièle Bath
Place du Marché Saint Pierre
T: + 33 4 73 31 23 22
Situated within the main market building and lauded by Michelin, although both the food and the decor could do with updating. Billed as a traditional restaurant, their food in fact leans more to Catalonia. They offer a range of wines by the glass. Pretty ordinary and doesn't offer particularly good value. (Last dined: 06/09)

Here's a selection of other restaurants in the city, although I haven't dined here myself:

Restaurant - L'Odevie
1 rue Eugène Gilbert
T: + 33 4 73 93 90 00 
Open Monday to Saturday for lunch and dinner. 

Restaurant - Le Boeuf Café
15 rue des Petits Gras
T: + 33 4 73 36 64 15 
Open Tuesday to Saturday for lunch and dinner. 

Restaurant - Le Pile-Poëlle
9 rue Saint-Dominique
T: + 33 4 73 36 08 88
Open Monday to Saturday for lunch and dinner. 

Restaurant - Le Puy de la Lune
3 rue de la Michodière
T: + 33 4 73 37 15 51
Jazz-themed restaurant. Open Tuesday to Sunday for dinner. 

Restaurant - Le Richelieu
44 place de Jaude
T: + 33 4 73 29 24 24 
Open Monday to Sunday from breakfast to dinner. 

Restaurant - Le Saint-Vincent
10 rue Coifferie
T: + 33 4 73 90 63 45
Open Tuesday to Saturday for lunch and dinner. 


Restaurant - La Vigne
Place de la Grande Charreyre
T: + 33 4 73 96 43 46
P: + 33 6 33 56 45 92 
Montpeyroux is an old village vigneron and one of The Most Beautiful Villages in France. It's a pretty medieval fortified hamlet built in the local arkose red granite stone. This pretty little restaurant is at the heart of the village and offers local cuisine served on the terrace during the summer. 

Chambres et tables d’Hôtes – La Vigneronne
Frédéric et Dominique Delherbe
T: + 33 4 73 96 66 71
P: + 33 6 81 45 07 42
Pretty looking operation just inside the village.


Hotel-Restaurant - Le Boudes la Vigne
Place de la Mairie
T: + 33 4 73 96 55 66
F: + 33 4 73 96 55 55
Boudes is at the southern-most extreme of the wine region. It's a pretty village and although I haven't eaten or stayed here, it looks like an attractive place to spend a couple of days. It is situated in the heart of the village and offers menus of regional fare. 


For anyone wishing to explore the wine region of Saint-Pourçain, there is very little beyond the draw of the wine cellars to attract the casual visitor. However, within about thirty minutes drive, one can be in Vichy. This once faded gem of a town is doing its best to shake off its image of a tardy old spa resort and its connections to the État Français, the Nazi collaborating government that resided here between July 1940 and August 1944. It’s comes highly recommended for its wealth of quality hotels and dining experiences.

Hotel - Sofitel Vichy Spa Hotel & Resort - Les Célestins
111 boulevard des Etats-Unis
T: + 33 4 70 30 82 00

Restaurant - Le N3
Sofitel Les Célestins
111 boulevard des Etats-Unis
T: + 33 4 70 30 82 28
The N3 is the new gourmet restaurant opened by chef Pierre-Yves Lorgeoux after Michelin starred Jacques Decoret defected to his own place in the centre of town in 2009.  

Restaurant – Le Bistro des Célestins
Sofitel Les Célestins
111 boulevard des Etats-Unis
T: + 33 4 70 30 82 27
The Bistrot des Célestins is a classic Parisian-style café which offers traditional cuisine. The food is served in generous helpings and the menu is full of old favourites. The wine list is short but does offer wines from the Saint-Pourçain cooperative and from François Ray. Recommended. Not too expensive given its high profile location. (Last dined 02/10)

Hotel-Restaurant - Aletti Palace Hotel
3 place Joseph Aletti
T: + 33 4 70 30 20 20
F: + 33 4 70 98 13 82 
This attractive early 20th Century hotel is situated opposite the casino and served as the headquarters of the War Ministry in Vichy France. It's operated by Best Western, but don't let that put you off. It's a little expensive, but the rooms are clean, modern and air-conditioned. It serves as a good base for exploring the town. The restaurant with its attractive high ceiling serves classic French cuisine, although there is only a splattering of local dishes. 
(Last stayed: 02/10)

Restaurant – Les Caudalies
Emmanuel et Lucie Basset
7-9 rue Besse
T: + 33 4 70 32 13 22
This restaurant-brasserie was opened in 2009 by Manu and Lucie Basset having returned from working for seven years at the renowned Mirabelle restaurant in Hampshire’s New Forest . The service is crisp, formal but friendly; the carte small but well chosen with a good representation of local wines, including a few interesting curiosities thrown in from further afield. The food is classic and serious but not pretentious; well cooked, elegantly presented and certainly worthy of a Michelin star. (Last dined 02/10)  

Restaurant with rooms - Jacques Decoret
15 rue du Parc
T: + 33 4 70 97 65 06
Jacques Decoret, holder of the prestigious title of Meilleur Ouvrier de France (MOF) is also an ex-chef de Partie at Maison Troisgros in Roanne. This one star Michelin recently relocated to a refurbished Napoléon III chalet opposite the Parc des Sources in the centre of the town. Guillaume is their young and enthusiastic sommelier. Closed Tuesday and Wednesday and for three weeks in February and again from mid August to early September. There are five well appointed, if somewhat expensive, rooms. 

Restaurant – L’Hippocampe
3 boulevard de Russie
T/F: + 33 4 70 97 68 37
Set in one of the villas on a leafy boulevard, this is the place to eat fish and seafood in Vichy . Chef-proprietor Rémy Bourgeois is honoured with the privilege of serving huîtres from the Gillardeau family, based on the Atlantic coast between La Rochelle and the Île d’Oléron. The greatest oysters in the world? Probably. Closed Sunday evening, Monday and Tuesday lunch. Their annual closure in November. Prices are reasonable, but can depend on the quality of fish (or size and quantity of oysters) you choose. Recommended. (Last dined 02/10)

Restaurant – Michelangelo.S
44 rue Eugène-Gilbert
T/F: + 33 4 70 32 85 15
I don’t normally set out to eat Italian food when I am in France , but this place came with several recommendations, so we were curious to try it out. Michelangelo serves an excellent plate of innovative anti-pasti, although the pasta dishes could be better. The list is exclusively Italian with all the wines being available for retail sale, which must be an interesting concept for its essentially French clientele. Open Thursday, Friday and Saturday evening and every lunchtime, except Wednesday. Inexpensive and recommended. (Last dined 02/10)

Restaurant - Le Petit Bouchon
1 & 3 rue de Banville
T: + 33 4 70 31 21 04
Modest, but very busy bistro specialising in the cuisine of the Lyonnaise all served in ample portions. This is good, honest, simple food bought to the table by friendly, chatty waiters. There are plenty of wines by the glass, although you'll struggle to find anything local. Good value and recommended. (Last dined: 06/09)

Restaurant - Le Bungalow
1 quai Allier
T: + 33 4 70 98 51 93 
This wooden chalet is sitated on the banks of the Allier and forms part of a larger operation that has an function room and a more modest brasserie attached either side. The décor is very 21st century, as is the trendy background music. The menu is limited, formal and expensive. I haven’t dined at Le Bungalow, but if the standard of the cuisine is similar to that of the brasserie next door (the food comes out of the same kitchen) then it is best avoided. 
(Last dined at the brasserie 02/10)


Restaurant – La Ferme de Jeanne
Alain Gouterand
T : + 33 4 70 42 99 98
This busy lunch time restaurant is highly recommended. It serves a menu du jour that is both simple and wholesome. The friendly patron makes time to come from the kitchen and chat to diners. The wine list is limited although it is possible to drink the local wines of Domaine Gallas. Open for lunch and dinner. Inexpensive and recommended. (Last dined 02/10)


Restaurant – La Ferme Saint-Sébastien
Valérie Saignie et Philippe Charvet
Chemin de Bourion
T: + 33 4 70 56 88 83
F: + 33 4 70 56 86 66  
Valérie Saignie was born in Cantal and attended hotel school in La Chaise-Dieu in the Haute-Loire before working her apprenticeship in some of France ’s most lauded kitchens, including Michel Bras in Laguiole in the late 1980s. After a year in England to brush up her language skills, she returned to France for a spell working at another starred establishment in Burgundy . Valérie and her gentle and enthusiastic husband, Philippe, arrived in Charroux in 1994 to establish Le Ferme Saint-Sébastien, an ancient farm just outside the original fortifications of the medieval cité.

Valérie’s skills are in her patisserie, but the quality of the food shines through the meal. The menu is quite short and can appear a little intimidating as it is written in heart-felt but colloquial French. The advice is just sit back and let it all happen. It’s a very warm and relaxed place with a strong stylised paysan décor. Philippe works the floor and clearly has a passion for wine which comes through in the eclectic selection on offer. There is good local representation and a strong Loire presence overall.

Open Wednesday to Sunday and Tuesday too in July and August. There is a salon de thé alongside the main restaurant. Very highly recommended and offers very good value.
(Last dined 02/10)

Chambres d’Hôtes – La Grange du Belvédère
9 rue du Nord
T/F : + 33 4 70 56 80 02
She’s a solicitor he’s an architect From York. Colleen and David Sharpe visited France for the first time in 1975 and dreamed of living there. They have been installed in Charroux since 2004. Their first project was repairing an old colombage in the village before turning their attention to this ancient maison Bourbonnais which has since been converted into a four roomed guest house with a 4 Star rating. It comes highly recommended by Philippe Charvet for guests dining at Le Ferme Saint-Sébastien which is just a five minute walk away. 

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