OK, so you’ve decided to go on a self catering holiday. The kitchens of the gites at La Verrerie are both reasonably equipped. After all, I use them myself, and you should hear me whinge if I can’t find something or when I find it its a cheap one that doesn’t work properly.
But you don’t want to sit at home every night do you?
The region features a range of restaurants from good budget grub to a Michelin Listed establishment that you really shouldn’t miss if you like food at all. Especially at the price.
We quite like a nice meal out ourselves so we’re gradually trying to try them all and we’ll be reporting back here on the best and the rest. Only so far we’ve not found one we didn’t like. We generally recon that to get bad food in France, you have to try really hard. And who would? If you want to try, there’s a McDonalds “drive through” in the carpark of Carrefour at Issoire. End of subject, back to the good stuff.
The following entries are in no particular order – we suggest you browse them all before making any decisions. Note that there are a few “take-away” offerings too! And no, the list isn’t complete. How could it be? But – feel free to add your own entries and reviews via the Comments section at the bottom of the page!
One note before you read on, if you’re not used to eating out in France please remember that “menu” means a set price meal, usually with two or three choices for each course. All restaurants offer one or more. Most restaurants will also be happy for you to order from the “carte”! The “menu” price range is a good indication of the target price for a meal even if you don’t take the set offering.
Le P’tit Roseau
This restaurant now tops our “must visit” list. The owners started in a small restaurant just off the Place de la Republique in Issoire, but last year they moved to a new location, in the Hotel de Parc, opposite the station. This more than doubled their capacity but you still need to book, as they are one of the most popular restaurants in the area!
A lunchtime menu, usually just a single choice, they will tell you about it when you book, is €17. Evenings and Sunday lunch, €32.
Tel 0473 89 09 17
Auberge de Margot – Usson
Distance from home – 20 mins drive
Menus €16 to €26 (as at 2011)
Telephone 0473 71 97 92
The Auberge is sited on the western slopes of Usson – which is the village on top of the puy (pointy hill) you have to drive around to get to the Gite from Issoire. It has fabulous views of the Allier valley and local farmland as well, on a clear day, of the entire chaine de puys.
You can dine whilst you watch the sun set on all this glory from the Panoramic dining room or the terrace. It’s also a great place for lunch, especially if you’ve been exploring the village or just worked up an appetite by climbing right to the statue on the hilltop. Friendly staff, family run, several menu choices available. Advisable to book at popular times.
The Auberge feature many local specialities on their menus, especially, of course, the Menu Terroir.
Auberge du Tilleul – St Martin des Plains
Distance from home – 20 mins drive
Tel 0473 71 09 25
Friendly restaurant in a quiet village, take enough time to have a quick look around whilst you’re there. Lunchtime “formules” with prices from as low as €5, full menus. Order in advance if you want their Plat de Fruit de Mer – which is for 2 or more to share, or the grenouille. Can get quite busy so we suggest you book a table or get there early.
(How we found it – this was recommended to a friend of ours by the man who runs the dry cleaner in Carrefour, Issoire – so who knows, maybe he has other recommendations!)
Pizza Matteo – Sauxillanges – TAKE AWAY
Distance from home – 8 mins drive
Pizzas, €6 to €9 for a “Large” – reasonable meal for two or one if v.hungry.
Telephone 0666 16 74 75
WEDNESDAY evenings ONLY – 6pm until the pie bases run out, which is about 8:30 on an average night. The van parks in the square just down the hill from La Poste.
Note – this is a pizza van and only visits on Wednesday evenings. They’re a popular option with the locals so tend to get quite busy. Suggest you phone down your order before leaving the house or, at least, be prepared to wait fifteen or twenty minutes for it to be made. It will, on completion, however, be an excellent pizza and piping hot, though if you like it to still be hot when you eat it we advise firing up the oven before you leave to fetch it, and giving it five minutes to re-heat when you get back. Don’t be put off by the naff disney-inspired pizza names, the pies are good! Perhaps not quite as good as Orbeil’s van (see below), but then that has a wood-fired oven and I’m biased, I like wood-fired pizza! And it’s less than half as far away as Orbeil.
(Restaurant de la Marie – Sauxillanges)
La Table St Martin – Sauxillanges.
Distance from home – 10 mins drive
Menus – €32 and €48
Telephone 0473 96 80 32
The Fontbonnes have retired and sold up! The good news is, the new owners, Denis and Emilie Leclaire, are continuing in very similar trend. They’re bringing their own colour to the menu but it remains an excellent night out. Now “La Table St Martin”.
Restaurant Julien Chaput
Distance from home – 10 mins drive.
Menu from €19 to €49 (as of 2010)
Telephone 0473 96 80 19
Oh yes, Sauxillanges has not one but two top notch restaurants! On the Sugeres road out of Sauxillanges just along from the town hall, Julien Chaput and his team provide an excellent meal – at a range of prices.
Auberge de Civadoux – Civadoux.
Tiny family run restaunrant, with only four or five tables, and a short but excellent menu.
Book ahead at busy times, with only four tables (plus a couple outside in the summer) they fill up quickly. Also note they are very fond of the Slow Food concept. The food is worth waiting for, but you will have to wait, so don’t book in here on an evening when you have places to go later!! Relax, enjoy.
Civadoux is also a trout farm with fishing available, so if you want to catch your own dinner, set a day aside…
Chez Marthe – Condat-les-Montboissier.
An excellent local “cantine”. From the days when visiting farm workers would need a good meal at the end of the day. There’s no menu. You sit down, Marthe brings food. Good food. Lots of it. You won’t leave hungry. Or poor, typically €10 a head. Book ahead – if she doesn’t know someone’s coming she doesn’t buy in food and won’t open.
They don’t have a website of their own but you’ll find lots of reviews on other sites, like this one.
Telephone 04 73 72 13 56
Bar St Thomas – St Genès la Tourette
Nice little bar/restaurant run by English and South African folk. “pub grub” french style, right in the middle of this quiet village. “Menu” price typically €14.
Telephone 04 73 71 28 31
St Genes is about 15 mins drive, go down towards Sauxillanges then take the Civadoux road.
L’Auberge de Chabanettes – Auzelles
Recently taken over by an English couple, Simon and Shirley Jenkinson, a warm welcome and good food – Table d’Hote. Please call and let them know you are coming.
Tel: 04 73 72 86 27
Le Relais de la Fontain – Echandelys.
Le Relais is our “local” for a night out with beer, darts, etc., and where we go to watch important rugby matches during the world cup, during 2007. Very friendly staff, Marianne speaks pretty good english. It’s “pub grub”, but french pub, so no gristle-burgers, but a pretty good lasagne and salad or steak and fries. Can be a gathering place for the “ex-pats” in the area, brits, south africans, dutch, belgians (the Auvergne is popular!)
Update – the Relais has changed hands again in late 2010. By 2011 season we hope the new owners will be well into the swing of things, and we’ll try to remember to get some feedback for this page!!
Further update – Spring 2011 – still havn’t tried the Relais since it changed hands I’m afraid so no more news yet – except – I did see someone coming out with pizza boxes last week so I guess they do take-away pizza…
Telephone 04 73 72 13 09
Escagot D’Or – Place de la Republique – Issore
Not tried it yet – but on the “What Folk Said” page it has been recommended. It’s on the list to try.
Telephone 04 73 89 21 62
Le Relax – Issoire
Very nice restaurant in a quiet looking back street on the Perrier side of Issoire, the food is excellent . As they only have about six tables, it’s worth booking at the “Popular” end of the week. Web info here.
Telephone 04 73 89 50 44
Don Camillo – Boulevard Manlière – Issoire
Excellent pizzaria, great salads, pasta, pizzas and cazones. Be hungry. I believe they also do take-away pizzas.
Now they have a website here which includes menus and other info.
Telephone 04 73 89 36 36
Bar Le Globe – Boulevard Manlière – Issoire
Great place for lunch but very popular with the locals looking for an hour out of the office, so if you arrive at lunchtime peak, you may find service a little slow – but worth the wait. Pizzas and Calzones, steaks, salads, pasta, the daily “plat” is often a local speciality like Truffade. In the last couple of years the “plat de jour” is often a three-course lunch.
We generally plan our shopping trips to Issoire so they start or finish at Le Globe. In the spring of 2013 they have built a new cover over the terrace area so it can be used in cooler weather, but it still opens out in the summer. Be warned the chef is away promptly at 2pm and lunch options are then very limited.
Killian’s Irish Bar – Place de la Halle – Issoire
The “Irish Pub” trend has hit france, and it’s a bit of a mixed bag. These guys have tapas, offer a good steak-frites, and have beer other than a choice of different lagers. The nerest thing you’ll find to a good pint of bitter for many miles. Often live music.
Courtpaille – Issoire.
At the back of the Carrefour by the motorway junction, accessed via the Carrefour carpark or the Ibis hotel. It’s a chain – but one of our favourites. If we’re arriving late after doing the trip in one day, we’ll generally stop of here for a good steak. Meat is cooked on the open grill in the middle of the dining area. You are in France so steaks are not overcooked, and they know how to identify a good piece of meat.
If you have a review of one of these restaurants, or others in the area, please email them to me for inclusion! We’ll add more info on these, and info on other eateries as and when we have tried them!!!
The Vegetarian Abroad
Not having any vegetarians in the family we’ve not really considered how a vegetarian would fare in France. Meat always features heavily on restaurant menus. However, one of our visitors in 2012 had this to say:-
Had a lovely week in your house, beautiful surroundings, very peaceful and relaxing – miles away from the hustle and bustle of London. Enjoyed walks around the hills and up Puy de Dome.
Spent one week eating food off the BBQ as well as attending 3 very different but equally nice restaurants. With Jan being a vegetarian, we were a little concerned about eating out. We went to one restaurant in Usson where the chef was willing to make food without meat. The restaurant in Sauxillanges, La Marie, was exceptional – made Jan a menu from scratch which allowed her to have the same courses as us. The food and service was excellent! Finally we went to the Auberge Moulin de Civadoux. Again, a very nice but “different” place where vegetarian food was no problem. Very impressed with how helpful the restaurants were.
Thankyou for allowing us to stay in your beautiful house, it’s been brillian!
Mike, Jan and Karen (London).