Guy Savoy. Needs little introduction, but suffice to say that in early 2019, the food is just as fantastic as ever. The wine list is outstanding and not overpriced, and perhaps most surprising of all, the service is charming and relaxed. Feb 2019.
Carré des Feuillants. Somehow this didn’t quite convince as much as Guy Savoy. The food was executed very well but lacked a bit of soul. The wine list is fantastic, especially for Burgundy, and especially for older white Burgundy. Ask for your vintage of Cognac or Armaganac to finish - they will find it for you. Feb 2019.
La Tour d’Argent. A strange experience all round. Service was…poor, unfortunately, although the sommeliers are excellent. The food was functional but did not hit the heights. The famous duck comes pink but the accompaniments are too sweet for a really successful dish. The wine list though - what an experience! Verticals of every great wine you can imagine, with very little uptick in prices the older you get. Prices are more than fair. Every wine lover must come here on pilgrimage at least once in their life, and ask for a tour of the cellars after dinner. Feb 2019.
Le Bon Georges. Not famous, but a very satisfying, classic bistro with a good wine list. An excellent choice for lunch. Choose their steak, sourced from one of France’s best suppliers. Feb 2019.
Bordeaux and around
La Table de Catusseau. Pomerol. There are few stand-out dining options in the heart of the Right Bank vineyards, but this is a charming, bustling, high quality bistro experience. The food is traditional and well executed and the wine list is acceptable. Be sure to make a reservation - this fills up rapidly with winemakers and their families. April 2019.
Au Bistrot. Bordeaux. The part of town may not Bordeaux’s nicest, but it’s worth making the trip to this excellent, wine-focused restaurant. Simple surroundings, charming, delicious, inexpensive food coupled to a good wine list featuring many up and coming French winemakers (rather than classics). You will have to discuss with the waiters though - the good wines are not, apparently, recorded in any written form! April 2019.
Chez Hortense. Lège-Cap-Ferret. Cap-Ferret is where the Bordelais vacation; a sweet fishing town on the narrow strip of sand between the Bassin d’Arcachon and the Atlantic. And this is where they dine. If you don’t like local food, or fish, this is not your spot. If you do, and it’s a warm day, you will have a glorious experience soaking up the sun, the relaxed, seaside atmosphere and of course, the simple, delicious fresh fish dishes. April 2019.
Le Lion d’Or. Arcins (Margaux). The Left Bank is a wasteland when it comes to restaurants, and this is one of only two or three good options. The food is delicious and classic Bordeaux, with an emphasis on local products such as lamprey, asparagus and various river fish. The wine list is WOEFUL and seems designed to encourage patrons to bring their own, which everyone does (the nearest decent wine store is La Cave d’Ulysses in Margaux). April 2019.
Au Fil du Zinc. Chablis’ only really good restaurant is just that: really good. The Japanese team in the kitchen produce delicate, fresh examples of French classics. Fabien oversees a modest sized but excellent wine list. There’s a one bottle limit on the reserve list (where the very inexpensive Raveneau and Dauvissat lives) but the rest of the list has plenty of excellent options from Chablis. Feb 2019.
Le Pot d’Etain. In Isle sur Serein, about 30 minutes south of Chablis is a particularly brilliant hidden gem. This country inn/hotel serves Burgundy country food but with an ambitious edge. But the real joy is the exquisite wine list, with an unbelievable Burgundy list at remarkably good prices. Your journey into the middle of nowhere will be richly rewarded. The village is also pleasant for a stroll after lunch. Feb 2019.
Cote d’Or and around
Auprès du Clocher. In Pommard, this is a lovely choice for the most classic of classic Burgundian food. That means the dishes are rich and full, but beautifully done. The wine list has numerous rare gems, including older vintages and impossible to find producers. Beware that not everything that is listed is available - check with the waiters before getting your hopes up too high. Feb 2019.
Chez Guy. In Gevrey-Chambertin, more quite rich Burgundian classics prepared well. The wine list is good, especially for Gevrey-Chambertin, but there are also several good Roumier options. Good spot for lunch, no reservations required - just arrive before 12.30pm if you are a larger group to ensure a table. Feb 2019.
Aux Terrasses. In Tournus, 45 minutes drive south of Beaune, in the Maconnais region. A quiet part of town opposite a supermarket is an unlikely place to find a one star Michelin restaurant, but that’s where Aux Terrasses is located. The food is typically Michelin - light, inventive, playful but very successful. The wine list feels a little picked over now and mostly only younger vintages remain. Make sure you get the right type of glassware for your wine - they can sometimes err here. Feb 2019.
La Ferme de la Ruchotte. In Bligny-sur-Oche, outside Beaune. An experience every visitor to Burgundy should have once. An organic farm managed by Fred, who also cooks the food and presents it in a dining room that feels more like a living room. Everything in the kitchen comes from the farm, and there’s only one set of options for lunch. But outstanding, compelling options these are - gorgeous and satisfying food. The wine list is limited; there’s a little Roulot and Dujac, but you are going here for the whole experience rather than the wine. Don’t miss seeing the pigs and other animals close up on your way out. Feb 2019.
Le Montrachet. The restaurant in the hotel of the same name is a very good, reliable option for a hotel restaurant and a must if you are staying there (often Le Montrachet is the only option in the region in the winter months for lodging). They specialize in chicken, which is excellent; and for some inexplicable reason, the fantastic Chablis list is tucked away behind red Burgundy in the wine list. Do not miss it, for this is where some of the best options lie. But the list as a whole is very solid with good options including older vintages in red. Feb 2019.
Les Avisés. Avize. The restaurant of the hotel of the same name owned by Domaine Jacques Selosse, and on the same site as the winery in the heart of the Cote des Blancs. A fantastic place to dine. A bright, modern, well decorated dining room with excellent food and an outstanding wine list, led by the champagne options. And yes, you can buy Selosse for excellent prices on the list (the rose was 197e when we visited) but do not even think of asking to buy any to take away with you!! Feb 2019.
Le Millénaire. Reims. Well priced prix fixe options abound at this Reims classic, but I got the impression the restaurant was living off its name a little. Slightly stuffy, overly formal decor and service. Good but not great food. Decent but not exceptional wine list. Needs updating. Feb 2019.
Le Wine Bar by Le Vintage. Reims. Cozy spot in the centre of town with an outstanding wine list by the bottle, and also many good choices by the glass. Friendly service. Unfortunately seats at the bar are not comfortable and the lighting is too bright at night. But worth it all for that wine list - a thing of beauty, especially the champagne choices, where every good grower is represented. Feb 2019.
The Glue Pot. Reims. One of the more bizarre places you find yourself in as a wine lover. This is effectively a British pub from the 1970s, serving bar food with an interior whose every surface is bright scarlet. 1980s movies play silently on TVs. The food is woeful - stick to the burgers as a safe option - but all is worth it for the champagne list. Hard/impossible to find choices such as Jerome Prevost, Georges Laval and Roses de Jeanne are all here, and at giveaway prices. Feb 2019.
Doko Koko. Reims. An outstanding dinner choice in the town center. Exquisitely prepared Japanese dishes (but not sushi) in minimal surroundings, with another wonderful wine list. Every moment of this meal was pure joy. Prix fixe menu is very cheap. Highly recommended. Feb 2019.
Café du Palais. Reims. Country food in lavish bistro surroundings. Hearty plates of cold cuts and local cheeses, followed by pastas of various kinds. A fun, timeless French lunch experience (not sure if they are open for dinner). Some good wine options. Feb 2019.
Brasserie at Les Crayères. Reims. If you’re not feeling up to the 10 course tasting menu at the main restaurant at this luxury hotel (Reims’ best lodging option), the brasserie offers prix fixe dinners for around 50e. Situated in the garden of the chateau, a nice lunch option although probably not worth going out of your way to. Feb 2019.
Sacré Bistro. Epernay. Simple bistro food for low prices in a casual setting, but elevated by an outstanding champagne list with knowledgeable wine service. Epernay has limited dining options - for lunch, this is one of the best. Feb 2019.
Cicciotto Trattoria dal 1942. A taxi ride outside town, but well worth it for a beautiful quay-side location and outstanding fish. Wine is uncomplicated and inexpensive. June 2019.
La Cantina del Triunfo. In an undemonstrative location one block back from the waterfront, this is a hidden gem - an excellent wine list with some older gems on the back pages, and the food is prepared with care and humanity - the chef came out to ask me whether everything was ok! June 2019.
Do’Mori is a brilliant cicchetti bar near the Rialto Bridge for lunch/a snack (closes at 7.30pm). It’s next door to the heavily trafficked All’Arco but if you can’t get in there, this is a great option with generous service and an excellent list of wines by the glass. June 2019.
Osteria di Santa Marina - ambitious, well executed food in a charming piazza. Wine list is mostly younger vintages but fairly priced. Downside is that it is popular with (mostly American) tourists. Don’t come here if you don’t want to know what is going on in New York!
Selene run by sommelier Georgia Tsara is the best place to drink wine on the island, and the most ambitious restaurant. The restaurant is Michelin-style food with a wonderful terrace and view. However, for me, the most enjoyable option is the relaxed wine bar downstairs where the food is delicious and the wine choices excellent. June 2019.
Roka in Oia is homely and with excellent food in a town that usually offers tourist-fare. A lovely spot. June 2019.
To Psaraki in Vlichada occupies a gorgeous spot above the small harbour. Food is excellent taverna fare, with deliciously fresh fish. This is a perfect lunch spot. The beaches around here are some of the quietest on the island. June 2019.
I have not visited any of these wine bars, but discovered a comprehensive list that I intend to check out on my next visit. All these are within the Athens city limits: Heteroclito (Greek wines); Vintage (800 wines by the glass!), Oinoscent, By the Glass, L’Audrion (French wines); Warehouse CO2 (sparkling wines); Kiki de Grece; Monk; Fabrica de Vino; Materia Prima; Bobo; Drupes and Drips (Italian wines); Warehouse; Tanini Agapi Mou; Walla Walla. Slightly outside downtown: Faidon’s and Paleo.
New York City
Vini e Fritti, on East 30th Street, inside the Ledbury Hotel. Some still wines are served, but the focus is on the outstanding champagne list. Almost all grower champagne, for remarkably fair prices (and tip is included). Light food available in the form of Roman style fritti - fried fish and vegetables. If you’re still hungry, wander along the corridor to sister restaurant Marta for some of New York’s best pizza. Note: reservations almost always required at Marta, but not at Vini e Fritti, although it does get a busy with the after work crowd. Quieter later in the evening. Jan 2019.
del Posto. This temple to classic Italian dining shows no signs of letting its standards slip. Be prepared for a long meal - your options are either a five course tasting menu ($164 at time of writing) which includes some choices made by each diner; or the eight course tasting menu chosen by the chef ($195). Either way, the food is an Italian dream: crunchy, al dente pasta, rich tomato reductions, excellent meat. For the quality, the prices are very fair. The excellent all Italian wine list (with the exception of the champagne) is full of the best producers and vintages for remarkably fair prices. Do not sleep on the grower champagne selection, which is excellent and underpriced. March 2019.
The Bar Room at The Modern. You dine à la carte in the Bar Room (whereas The Modern itself is a set menu). The food is really outstanding. Precise, clean flavours which blend so beautifully. The lunch menu is an extremely fair $70 (tiping inclusive). The wine list is one of the best in the city, particularly for Burgundy and Australian wines. March 2019.
The Fordwich Arms. Canterbury, Kent. Barely a year old and having already earned its first Michelin star, you should RUN NOT WALK to this pub/fine dining restaurant. Set menus are available at 65 and 85GBP and the food is wonderfully innovative, with beautiful and unexpected combinations eliciting fantastic results. The wine list is not extensive but you will find something appropriate (albeit from a recent vintage). A wonderful spot that more than rivals other local favourite, The Sportsman. Feb 2019.
The Sportsman. Near Whitstable, Kent. Now famous, it’s still possible to get tables within a month or two’s notice for weeknights (longer for weekends). A homely, relaxed pub environment belies the outstanding quality of the food, particularly the fresh fish and lamb. Wine list is compact and unpretentious and has few bottles over 60 GBP. Ask about corkage when making the reservation. June 2019.
The Tides in Holetown. On the beautiful, serene west coast of the island, go here not for the wine list (forgettable) or even the food, which is good if not unduly memorable, but for the location: spectacularly sited right above the beach. It’s wonderful with a cool breeze at night, or with the views of the turquoise waters by day. Jan 2019.