France: Michelin Blowout
Driving north from Montpellier, the scenery shifts dramatically as the road veers upward through the cool air of the Massif Central, passing lush dairy farms and rolling landscapes. At the end of a long, vertical driveway, jutting out of the top of the hill, a modern glass structure seems to float over the surrounding valleys. Bras (Rte. de L’Aubrac, Laguiole; dinner for two $240; doubles from $355) is set on a high plateau surrounded by nothing but the green hills of the Aubrac. There are many ways to reach this spot, all of them long. All of them tiring. And all of them, as the Michelin Guide is prone to saying, worth the journey.
The Michelin Guide was created in 1900 to introduce France to the French, to direct them along a new web of roads and to les bonne tables in far-flung regions. While today’s Red Guide can feel like a tired old guard promoting fuddy-duddy favorites—outside of Europe, you might hardly glance at it—it still makes perfect sense in the country where it started.
France is a destination that rewards the long-distance traveler, the seeker of regional dishes and talented chefs in remote areas. And if there’s a place worth driving six or 12 or a hundred hours just for dinner, it would be the Michelin three-starred Bras, run by Sébastien Bras and his wife, Véronique. This is a restaurant worth building a whole itinerary around: beautiful food in a beautiful location that is exactly like nowhere else in the world. The cooking is confident, precise, delightful, and surprising. You ask about a sauce of fennel that is outrageously good. How? The secret, Véronique Bras says, is that her father-in-law, Michel, woke up at 4 a.m. to pick the fennel for lunch and will pick more before dinner. —Adam Sachs
Worth the Detour
Two other Michelin pilgrimages, from Paris-based travel company Purple Truffle.
Haute-Savoie Region: Fresh from receiving its third Michelin star, Flocons de Sel (dinner for two $260; doubles from $340) highlights local terroir (wild mushrooms; squab). Stay in the restaurant’s six-room chalet.
Basque Region: At Les Frères Ibarboure Table et Hostellerie (Bidart; dinner for two $210; doubles from $190), a father-and-son team is known as standard setters of Basque cuisine. Try their succulent Kintoa pig.
T+L Tip: Viamichelin.com lists restaurants by location, cuisine, and price range, and provides mapping tools with suggested detours along the way.