Food lovers everywhere eagerly await the annual release of the Michelin Guide to France to find the best new addresses for their next trips to Gaul. This year, only one restaurant won the guide’s coveted three-star distinction, that of the hotel L’Assiette Champenoise in Reims, the eastern city best known as the capital of Champagne. The question is whether those heading to France should add this newly crowned establishment to their itineraries.
Having dined here several times during the past few years, my answer is no. L’Assiette Champenoise is expensive, fussy and rather joyless, and I’ve never found the food to be better than average. As far as I’m concerned, the best restaurant in Reims remains Le Parc, the gastronomic restaurant at the sumptuous hotel Les Crayères.
Le Parc wins by a long shot for its elegant dining room with handsome traditional French décor; cordial, attentive service; a brilliant sommelier who can pour a different Champagne with every course if you choose; and most of all, for the excellent cuisine of chef Philippe Mille, who took over in 2009. Mille previously cooked in Paris with Yannick Alléno at the Hotel Scribe and Le Meurice, and his elegantly minimalist style highlights the natural tastes of the best French produce and provides the perfect foil for the spectacular vintage Champagnes in the cellar.
On my last visit to Le Parc, we chose the “Krug Deep Dinner” menu, a superb, truffle-themed four-course meal with a different vintage Krug Champagne served with each course. We began with a luscious lobster and black truffle starter, continued with roasted sea bass with truffles and veal sweetbreads with truffles, and finally savored a truffle crème brûlée. Given the prices in Paris restaurants of the same caliber, this meal, though not inexpensive at €360 apiece, was actually relatively good value for the money, too.
If you’re just visiting Reims on a day trip from Paris and want a less complicated meal for lunch, the brasserie at Les Crayères, Le Jardin, is also a very good choice. Try the pan-fried duck foie gras in a sauce of cider from the neighboring Ardennes region, the turbot in Champagne sauce, and the tarte Tatin with freshly made ice cream. Reservations are required for both restaurants.