Burgundy has always been a special place for me. It was the very first wine region I got to visit in France, when Dr G and I spent a magical week driving along the Route de Grands Crus (the wine route) from Dijon to Beaune and Macon, stopping at some of its famous villages, tasting the local wine and cuisine without a care in the world.
Looking back, that trip was in fact the catalyst for me to take up the study of wine in a more serious fashion. I still remember the Burgundy villages and wines I got to experience on that first trip more than 15 years ago – when it comes to wine, there is nothing better than learning in situ!
I was excited to return to Burgundy this month and spend three heavenly days discovering some of the best restaurants, wine bars and sights of its capital - Dijon.
Located at the start of the Route de Grands Crus, where some of the best and most renowned wines of France are to be found, Dijon is also a super charming city. With a rich and exciting history, gorgeous architecture and top-notch eateries, it is not surprising that the city is one of the most interesting (and affordable) places to visit in France right now.
I got to do so much in Dijon in those 3 days, and will be writing about my experiences in the next few weeks – stay tuned to learn all about Dijon, its culture and historical sights, as well as the best places for wine tasting in the Côtes de Nuits. But firstly, I am sharing with you my top restaurant recommendations in the Burgundian capital.
Where to Eat in Dijon
Burgundy is renowned worldwide for a number of dishes - Escargots à la Bourgogne, Jambon Persillé, Boeuf Bourguignon, and Coq au Vin to name just a few. The cuisine is hearty and flavoursome, yet with a sophistication that has resulted in the award of Michelin stars to no fewer than 29 restaurants in Burgundy.
The region is blessed with some excellent produce – beef from the Charolais, prized chickens from Bourg-en-Bresse, Brillat-Savarin and Epoisse cheeses, Crème de Cassis and of course the eponymous mustard. Unlike other mustards, Dijon mustard powder is mixed with ‘verjus’ – the juice of newly pressed grapes – or slightly fermented white wine and is used extensively in cooking ‘Dijonnaise’ dishes.
My first taste of one of these nourishing regional dishes, the classic ‘Ouef Meurette’ at Bistronomique in Dijon was a revelation – crusty chunks of fried bread, topped with poached eggs, and a rich Meurette sauce made from red wine, shallots and bacon.
Meurette is the sauce made for beef Bourguignon and it is said that Oeuf Meurette was created to use the delicious sauce from the previous night’s dinner.
One of my favourite meals, at a restaurant I highly recommend in Dijon, was at DZ’Envies. This is run by Chef David Zuddas, who is renowned for returning his Michelin star as he wanted to retain the freedom to experiment in cooking. Menus change every two weeks, and are offered in sets of 3, 4 or 5 courses priced from €31 to €37.
I had the 5-course set menu, which started with a delectable platter of foie gras with pumpkin and pomelo, followed by a super-light potato cream with tiny cubes of smoked fish which was delicate yet packed with flavour.
The highlight of the dinner however was the third course of snails with shredded sorrel, cubes of radish, toasted almond and snail mousse. For me, this was like a French chawan-mushi (Japanese savoury egg custard) with earthy flavours from the snails and myriad textures – a wonderful dish.
The main course was Bourg-en-Bresse chicken and cauliflower, with prawn and lobster sauce – the quality of the chicken was outstanding and I loved the creative surf and turf elements in this dish.
The cooking at DZ’Envies was innovative, using top regional ingredients and really packed in the flavours. But above all, it was excellent value for money and I highly recommend it.
|Chef David Zuddas|
I first tried Bernard Loiseau's trademark cooking in 2011 in Beaune at Loiseau des Vignes - it was a great meal I have remembered ever since (reviewed here).
So when I heard that they had a restaurant in Dijon, there was no doubt in my mind where I should come for lunch - Loiseau des Ducs opened only a couple of years ago in Dijon, and was awarded a Michelin star within 6 months of opening.
The story of the group is colourful - its founder, chef Bernard Loiseau, took his own life in 2003 as it was rumoured he had lost his 3rd Michelin star. His wife, Dominique Loiseau, took over the business which today includes the still 3-Michelin starred restaurant at the Relais & Chateaux hotel and spa Bernard Loiseau in Saulieu, plus 5 other restaurants and wine bars in Beaune, Dijon and Paris. She has transformed the business and grown it considerably, turning it into one of the most successful restaurant groups in France today.
I loved their interpretation of 'Ouef Meurette', with an egg yolk poached in olive oil at 64C so it was very soft, a mousse of egg whites, lardons, reduced red wine sauce, croutons, and mushrooms. A very refined and beautifully presented Ouef Meurette (see the original above from Bistronomique).
The main course was a super soft and succulent fillet of turkey in a truffle reduction, with pan-fried foie gras escalope and truffled mashed potatoes.
Dessert was an original recipe from Bernard Loiseau, and a signature dish at all his restaurants – a fine and delicate French apple tart with a green apple and vanilla sorbet and caramel
My 4-course Bernard Loiseau Les Classiques menu at €62 (with matching wines) was nothing short of extraordinary and great value too. If you are planning a visit to Dijon Burgundy I highly recommend a meal at Loiseau des Ducs.
Another fantastic meal well worth a mention was at the intriguingly named Dr Wine restaurant and bar. Here small eats are partnered with some of the 400 labels on the wine list, 25 of which are available by the glass.
I briefly met the Japanese Chef Shoichi Ito, from Nagasaki, who before joining Dr Wine worked at Loiseau des Ducs. Chef Ito is now cooking Burgundian cuisine paired with wines of the region.
Dr Wine is a casual bar - restaurant with high tables and stools and a busy vibe. For my visit, I started with a Cremant de Bourgogne, Domaine Huber-Verdereau (€6 per glass or €36 per bottle) from Meursault. This was 100% Pinot noir, an elegant biscuity wine with fine bubbles, served with a complimentary plate of sliced charcuterie.
Next up was a Bourgogne Aligote 2015, Domaine Bizikot (€5/€20) – the Aligote grape is a native Burgundian grape though less well known than the other regional white grape, Chardonnay. Aligote makes for younger wines that are fresh and uncomplicated, and ready to drink within a year of bottling like a Vinho Verde. A good Aligote like the one I tried at Dr Wine is easy drinking, crisp and with a light citrus note. I had it paired with fantastic fried French bread topped with melted Epoisse cheese, and fine slices of jambon (€5.50).
And now onto the reds, the 2011 Bourgogne G.O. P'tit Bonheur, from Domaine Prunier (€4/€16), was a Gamay, one of the Beaujolais grapes. This was a light organic wine, and with soft tannins, and one I could enjoy all night long – dangerously addictive! It was paired with a delectable grilled breast of duck, sweet potato purée and cassis sauce (€8).
The beef Bourguignon (€7.50) came with an accompaniment of fettucini pasta served en cocotte. It was deliciously rich and well seasoned, and a perfect match for the elegant 2014 Maranges 1er Cru La Fuissiere, Domaine Bachelet-Monot (€9/36), made from Pinot Noir. So good was the wine, that I couldn’t help ordering a couple of local cheeses to finish it off – a generous slice of fine Epoisse and of Auvergne.
The food at Dr Wine was excellent – beautifully seasoned, well priced and portions were just the right size to be shared so that more options can be ordered from the menu. The wine selection was excellent too making Dr Wine a great place to visit in Dijon.
As you plan your trip to Dijon, bookmark this page and make sure to make a reservation at any of these restaurants for a taste of the best Bourgogne cuisine and wines in town.
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Bistronomique - Le Grand Café
Loiseau des Ducs