Loire Valley Restaurants
1 Rue du Château
Tel: 33 2 47 26 88 77
This ancient half-timbered inn, where Balzac often used to come for drinks, is now a dynamic gastronomic destination. The cooking is judiciously contemporary. You can start with a modish appetizer like the caramelized warm foie gras flan and progress on to petit-gris snails and chicken oyster in a Parmentier with emerald-green chive sauce, or scrambled eggs with crayfish served in the eggshell. The less adventurous can stick to classic main dishes such as duck or pigeon. Only the service leaves a bit to be desired: The grandiose unveiling of silver cloches and stiff proclamations between courses feels overly formal against the backdrop of such inventive cuisine.
Open Tuesdays 7:30 to 9:30 pm, Wednesdays through Saturdays 12:30 to 2 pm and 7:30 to 9:30 pm, Sundays 12:30 to 2 pm. Closed for two weeks in January, and one week each in June, September, and November.
27 Rue du Foix
Tel: 33 2 54 74 67 48
Adventurous chef Christophe Cosme has brought the gastronomic bistro trend from its Paris roots to the countryside. This former bar and grocery, located a block from the river below the Château de Blois, may look like a simple corner bistro, but the food shows it's anything but. Cosme trained with Bernard Loiseau, among others, and he combines daring ideas and impeccable technique, focusing on Loire fish in unusual marriages, such as sandre (pike perch) with leeks on flaky pastry, chestnut-stuffed perch with lentils, or fish-offal combinations, like freshwater eel and calf's brawn or steamed perch with offal carpaccio. Desserts are stunning creations full of acrobatic spun-sugar twists.
Open Mondays 7:30 to 10 pm, Tuesdays through Saturdays 12:15 to 2 pm and 7:30 to 10 pm, September through July.
8 Place Jean Jaurès
Tel: 33 2 47 05 50 92
This big, beautiful Belle Époque restaurant dates to 1896 and has an original stained-glass domed ceiling and an outdoor terrace. It's widely acknowledged to be the best brasserie in town, and has long been popular with writers and poets (it hosts numerous literary festivals and academic talks about local history and architecture). The service is flawless, and the food is simple but good—mostly grilled meats, fish, and seafood, and classics like duck breast confit, foie gras, and oysters St. Jacques, as well as pizza and salads.
Tel: 33 2 47 93 03 47
The menu at this lovely 15th-century château offers such refined masterpieces as turbot cooked in veal sauce, served with asparagus; lobster infused with citrus; and seared John Dory with purple shiso and baby carrots. Desserts are elegant and simple: You might be offered local Loire Valley strawberries accompanied by homemade licorice. The dining room is elegant: Its beamed ceilings and modern art mix with antlers and other reminders that this is a Renaissance castle. In warm weather, the tables move out into the garden, nestled between the two wings of the castle.
Open daily 12:15 to 1:30 pm and 7 to 9 pm, April through October; Wednesdays through Sundays 12:15 to 1:30 pm and Tuesdays through Saturdays 7 to 9 pm in early November, December, and March. Closed latter half of November and mid-January through February.
Route de Chançay
Tel: 33 2 47 52 11 01
The dining halls in this 16th-century château are done in shades of chocolate and beige, with hardwood floors and old gilded mirrors above marble fireplaces. The wines, from Vouvray, work their way into the regional cuisineserving as the cooking medium, for example, for the duck foie gras. You might also find ravioli filled with smoked eel and celery mousse, chunks of monkfish roasted on skewers with Dublin Bay prawns, and for dessert, a poached pear served with lemon cake. All of it is elegantly presented, in a manner befitting a château.
Open Tuesdays through Thursdays 7:30 to 9:30 pm, Fridays through Mondays 12:30 to 2 pm and 7:30 to 9:30 pm, early March through mid-January.
Tel: 33 2 47 55 50 11
An ornate chandelier and grand stone fireplace preside over the dining room of this luxury château, but the food being served is anything but old-fashioned. Expect first-rate produce and nods to other culinary traditions as well as low-calorie options and simple meats grilled a la plancha. The menu changes often but has included standouts such as a cocktail glass of green-pea froth and crab with grains of quinoa, and pike perch beautifully offset by rhubarb (stewed and in compote form) and vanilla sauce. Desserts offer variations around a theme, such as apricots, strawberries, or chocolate presented three ways. The service strikes just the right balance between enthusiasm, good humor, and discretion, with a knowledgeable young sommelier to guide you through the wine list. Don't miss the superb cheese trolley, either, selected by Rodolphe Le Meunier, a world-champion cheesemaster.
Open Mondays through Sundays 12:30 to 2 pm and 7:30 to 9:30 pm.
Route de Herbault
Tel: 33 2 54 20 72 57
The elegant restaurant of this château-hotel lost a Michelin star a few years ago, but the second star chef Rémy Giraud regained in 2008 is proof positive that things are back on track. Giraud's self-proclaimed classico-modern style results in subtly innovative dishes such as scallops with pears, a potato and eel salad, beef poached in white Montlouis wine, and, of course, the excellent local game in winter. There are three dining rooms: one, classic, under beamed ceilings and two more lined with modern art and outfitted with elaborate place settings.
Open Wednesdays through Sundays 12:30 to 2 pm and 7:30 to 9 pm, March through November; open Mondays and Tuesdays only on public holidays.
57 Rue Groison
Tel: 33 2 47 41 41 11
The top restaurant in Tours is one of the best in France—with the prices to prove it. It is set in the glorious rooms and gardens of the Château Belmont, an 18th-century Bourgeois home about five minutes by car from the center of town, and its kitchen proudly bears two Michelin stars. The extremely sophisticated, health-conscious food is prepared with a minimum of butter and cream but a maximum of rare herbs and fresh, half-forgotten traditional vegetables (many of which are grown in the restaurant's own garden) and exotic fruits—not to mention plenty of truffles. The menu changes weekly, but seafood figures prominently: lobster gazpacho, red tuna tartare, oysters poached in Muscadet on a watercress purée, fish poached in coconut milk with Granny Smith apples and white onions. Rabbit (stuffed with those rare flowers and herbs) and pigeon with sweet potatoes and a black fig compote are also popular.
Domaine de la Giraudière
Tel: 33 2 47 50 08 60
If you've overdosed on the heavy brocades and soaring marble of the châteaux dining rooms, reserve a table on this working farm, which dates back to the 17th century. The rustic restaurantthink exposed stone and beams in a converted barnsits on the edge of the village of Villandry. It is popular with visitors as much for the chatty welcome (in English, even) from Béatrice de Montferrier and her daughter Alexandra as for the generously presented dishes, many of which feature the farm's home-produced kid and goat's cheeses. Try the goat terrine, veal, and roast suckling pig, and finish with an inventive dessert like a nougat glacé made with goat's cheese. While you're there, you can meet the very handsome farm animals, along with the assorted chickens, ducks, and geese that wander around the farmyard.
Open daily noon to 2:30 pm and 7:30 to 9 pm, mid-March through mid-November.
36 Quai Charles Guinot
Tel: 33 2 47 30 45 45
With its refined cooking and stunning river views, this long-standing gourmet destination below the Château-Royal d'Amboise is a favorite both with tourists and with locals out for a special occasion. Now in the capable hands of chefs Pascal Bouvier and Guillaume Dallay, the menu showcases regional produce in light, modern renditionsthink exciting combinations such as foie gras sandwiched with apple and smoked eel, chanterelle mushrooms with artichokes and duck magret, or rack of Aveyron lamb with lemon confit. Except on Sundays, the restaurant closes at lunchtime, when simpler, more cosmopolitan dishes are served in its courtyard bistro offshoot, Le 36.
Open Mondays through Saturdays 7:15 to 9:30 pm, Sundays 12:15 to 1:30 pm and 7:15 to 9:30 pm.
3 Place de la République
Tel: 33 2 47 45 40 08
With tables in a big, beamed dining room or outside in the shady courtyard, this old coach inn is just the sort of restaurant you hope to find in provincial France. The menu spells good solid tradition but also knows when to bring in fresh ideas. The regional tasting menu is a good value, but to really see the young chef's strengths, you should order à la carte. Out will come inventive fare like a colorful panoply of heirloom tomatoes grown exclusively for the hotel, langoustines with beet vinaigrette, and a powerful civet of lobster stewed in Chinon wine. Dessert options are just as tempting, with spicy-sweet combos such as a strawberry mille-feuille with Szechuan pepper sorbet. The restaurant is particularly renowned for its extensive wine list. Ask le patron's advicehe knows most of the producers personally, and for guests of his hotel, he can also organize tours of the local vineyards.
Open daily noon to 2:30 pm and 7 to 9 pm.
86 Quai de la Loire
Tel: 33 2 47 52 88 88
This elegant château is partially carved into a cliff face, and its outdoor terrace is perfectly situated for leisurely meals overlooking the lazy Loire. Chef Didier Edon is from Brittany, and Breton seafood takes center stage on the menu. Try the John Dory with artichokes and girolles, or the pigeon with citron confit and smoked bacon. For a splurge, order the three courses of lobster, prepared with a tomato reduction and celery foam, in a salad with herbs and citrus, and roasted with andouillettes and potatoes. For dessert, order the Grand Marnier soufflé or homemade apple pie with almond ice cream.
Open Tuesdays 7:30 to 9 pm, Wednesdays through Saturdays 12:15 to 1:15 pm and 7:30 to 9 pm, and Sundays 12:15 to 1:15 pm, late March through late January.
19 Rue Lavoisier
Tel: 33 2 47 47 19 89
Halfway between the cathedral and the river, Les Tuffeaux, with its wooden beams and stone walls, makes an attractive 17th-century backdrop to Gildas Marsollier's delicious French cuisine. His approach is classic, with some adventurous touches, like baby goat with cabbage and basil. Though the menu changes constantly, the kitchen's creations might include sole fillet cooked with olive oil, asparagus, and fresh herbs; oysters in a pungent Roquefort-and-egg sauce, and fillets of roast pigeon served with chunks of pink grapefruit.