Normally, when you read a headline that promises “spectacular” restaurants, you would expect something with a hefty bill at the end of the meal, because we automatically associate spectacular restaurants with spectacular food at spectacular prices.
This is very much true for famous restaurants such as the Jules Verne, which I have written about before, and which was included in the 14 Best Restaurants With A View. And while I do not necessarily advocate spending a small fortune on food that is decent enough, but charged double because of where you are, it is where you are that (nearly) warranted the inclusion of the restaurant in this list: right in the Eiffel Tower. Which, admittedly, makes it truly special when the tower starts to sparkle on the hour. But this list is different.
Here, I want to mention a few personal favorite and spectacular “eateries.” I use this modern expression simply because not all of these places I am suggesting are restaurants as such, but instead places where the scenery, the setting, the surroundings — or all three — are the main draw. Don’t worry, the food is also good, but my recommendations will not include any 14-course-tasting menus, not that they don’t have their merit, but here it’s about lovely places which are “spectacular” for various reasons, and which also serve a decent meal, be they crepes or fine dining.
I will highlight what makes each place stand out in my mind, and I hope you will agree that when eating in each of these restaurants you will win twice: You’ll get to eat great food, and you’ll get a little something special with the food. And please note that the list is in no particular order, they are all great in their own way.
1. Chateau De La Treyne, Dordogne
Spectacular For Its Setting And The Otters
Château de la Treyne is a winner for so many reasons. Not only is this a château where you can stay the night, a château set by a river with a restaurant terrace that is simply magical all around, and all with superb food, but also there are otters in the river. Some years ago, my husband and I treated ourselves to a meal on the terrace overlooking the tranquil Dordogne River and spotted two frolicking river otters.
I am sorry to have to admit that what we actually ate has completely left my head, but I can picture the otters still today. The food was lovely, no doubt, and the setting oh-so-French, but the otters? Spectacular.
2. La Poterne, Moret-Sur-Loing
Spectacular For Its Views
On a day trip from Paris, I came across the tiny little town of Moret-sur-Loing, so pretty that it could easily star in a Hallmark movie, complete with ancient city gates, the gurgling river Loing, and an old watermill right in the middle of the river. Swans, ducks, and picnickers line the river’s banks, and the little high street has one or two tiny stores and a couple of inviting-looking restaurants.
Alas, arriving without a booking on a Sunday, I could not get into either of the restaurants, so instead, I ended up in the local creperie — and thank goodness that I did. Instead of fancy tablecloths and shiny wine glasses, I got a plain table by a crooked little window, cider served in a Breton-striped cup, and a wonderful savory galette oozing with cheese.
But yummy food aside, the view from that window was of the river, with the creperie in fact sticking out over the banks, swans swimming past, and as picture-perfect as you could imagine.
3. Le Corps De Garde Creperie, St. Malo
Spectacular For Sunsets On The Ancient Ramparts
And while recommending creperies, here is another one. In beautiful Saint-Malo on France’s Brittany coast, right on top of the sturdy old ramparts that surround the ancient city, lies a tiny creperie with chairs and tables spilling out across the path.
This is a lovely spot any time of the day. The crepes are good, the cocktails even better, but come sunset, this place is buzzing. You’ll be well advised to come early for a couple of drinks before sunset or so to mark your place.
The views across the small rocky islands, the seemingly endless beach stretching before you, the lighthouse to the left, and fortified towers to the right are all bathed in the ethereal light and colors of the sunset on the horizon.
4. Château des Iles, Paris
Spectacular For Being On An Island In Paris
When you live in Paris, you tend to get a regular throng of visitors from around the world and are forever trying to show them something new and unusual, and the Château des Iles never fails to wow people.
You arrive by boat, a small ferry that takes you across the Lac Superior, one of the loveliest lakes in Europe people barely know exists. You will spot the Eiffel Tower in the distance, and land on a little island with a lovely restaurant set in lush green surroundings.
It is the boat trip at sunset, the thought of sitting in what can only be described as bucolic surroundings with buzzing Paris steps away, and the many birds squawking around you (from herons to swans and ducks, they are all there) combined with a lovely terrace highly recommended in summer at lunch, or the cozy restaurant in the country hunting lodge style serving good, traditional French food, that makes this a great option for eating out in Paris.
5. La Marine, Île De Ré
Spectacular For The Maritime Setting
The Île de Ré is one of the best-loved islands in France, and it deserves all the admiration it gets. Connected with the mainland by a bridge just off the lovely city of La Rochelle, the Île de Ré is a stunning island full of amazing beaches, a gorgeous lighthouse, shaggy donkeys, endless cycle paths, and superb places to eat freshly sourced Atlantic seafood.
The island’s capital, Saint-Martin-de-Ré, is the cutest town full of individual boutiques, Instagramable houses, and a picture-perfect marina. The marina, full of sailing boats with clinking rigging, is hemmed by restaurants that serve pretty much all the same: fresh mussels, the catch of the day, and favorite French dishes.
Which one you choose is not so important, although personally, I keep going back to La Marine to munch away while enjoying the view from the terrace over the marina, the little island within the marina, and the world walking past. This is French summer living at its best.
6. Restaurant La Grotte, Trans-En-Provence
Spectacular For Being In A Cave
So, we’ve had rivers, ramparts, lakes, and islands; what’s missing is a mountainous cave. To find this, you can work your way through the many restaurants found in the Dordogne, where cave-dwelling long was and still is a thing, but I have already mentioned the Dordogne, so this one is in Provence.
Due east from Aix-en-Provence and just north of Saint-Tropez, little Trans-en-Provence has an amazing natural setting, with the Artuby River tumbling down wild cliffs, hurtling along under the old bridge, and with rocky outcrops everywhere, telling of the region’s mountainous setting.
Restaurant La Grotte, the Cave, is hewn into the rock, which makes for a magical setting. Serving cuisine inspired by France and nearby Italy and Spain, the food is hearty and good. And should you feel a little claustrophobic in the cave surrounded by rock, they also have a fabulous terrace where guests can breathe the fresh air.
7. Café Marly, Paris
Spectacular For The Setting And Views
Lastly, probably the go-to restaurant for me in Paris when I want to blow someone’s mind without blowing the bank is Café Marly under the arches of the Louvre. Looking out over the Louvre Pyramid, this place is utterly chic, full of people worth watching as well as being so photogenic. Just pop upstairs to the toilets and peek out of the window; it’s incredibly Instagramable, and yes, I have posted from right there.
The food is good, nothing fancy, and for lunch, simply have a glass of champagne and an omelet, which is a perfect and affordable combination. The service is a little slow, but that is all the better as it gives you an excuse to linger and watch the queue for the Louvre shuffling along, people standing on the bollards posing for pictures, and iconic Paris spread out in front of you.
Final Word: If a restaurant in France is open for lunch and dinner, it is always more budget-friendly to go for the prix fixe menu, where you can opt for a two- or three-course meal at a fraction of the price of the a la carte selections. And the dishes featured on these daily changing menus always reflect the best the market had to offer that morning, so they are not only cheaper, but often much better than staples such as steak frites.