This certainly was the storyline of my weekend in the blooming green and lovely area in the North-East of France. I did a lot of research before going, asking friends, looking on Instagram, blogs etc. But there wasn’t much in terms of blog travel guides that recommended some nicer and smaller restaurants, besides those ranking top 10 on trip advisor and mostly looking touristic.
So I continued my research and decided to book two nights at a very charming Chambres d’Hotes in Vertus, by car, 20 minutes South from Epernay and 40 minutes from Reims. From Vertus all the nice villages that are well known for their small-to medium sized, but great, Champagne producers, are well-reachable by car or if you want, by bike. I tried to avoid all the big houses, such as Moet & Chandon, Taitinger etc. because first of all, I am not a huge fan of them and second, they’re quite touristy and so is the visiting and tasting process. The smaller houses take more time, tell you their story and don’t make you feel as if you’re 1 of 10.000 visiting that day. Also, the Champagne at smaller houses is often more affordable and at least as good, or even better.
From Brussels, a drive to Champagne takes 3 hours and if you don’t take the highway you’ll experience some very pretty views on the way to your destination.
Where to Stay:
Demeure Saint Martin: Recently renovated and opened this old complex that once was part of the church just next to it is a true hidden gem. A spacious house with big rooms, clean and nice bathrooms and a cute living room to relax (and sober out). The hosts are more than lovely and welcoming and will make your stay a true pleasure. There’s a nice garden to hang out and if you get bored by relaxing the city is cute to explore by foot, too. The breakfast here is fantastic, with a choice of excellent cheeses, ham and comfitures, fresh and crispy bread, good coffee and homemade cakes. They also produce their own Champagne so don’t miss out on a tasting!
Where to Drink:
Don’t worry, there is enough Champagne for everyone. In all villages, there is so many Champagne producers that you’ll don’t know where to start. I’ll give you a small selection of those where we did tastings or which we tried, but if you look around a bit in Vertus, Avize, and Cramant you’ll find a lot of nice places. It’s possible that you’ll have to reserve in advance, so check before popping in for a glass of the bubbly drink.
- Pernet & Pernet
- Guy Larmandier
- Launois & Fils
- Jacques Selosse
- Earl Waris Larmandier
Where to Eat:
Le Vendangeoir: A French restaurant located in the centre of the small village of Vertus, serving traditional French cuisine with a twist, some Spanish elements and a willingness to experiment. Their menu changes every month, using mostly regional and seasonal ingredients. The interior is nice, maybe could be a bit more homey, but the friendliness of the waitress made up for this. Don’t miss to try their own Champagne: Pernet & Pernet. Reserve in advance and enjoy your meal! Price: around 40E for a bottle of Champagne, 9E for a glass of wine of Champagne, 39E for a 3-course menu on weekends, 26E on weekdays.
Les Avises: A hotel and restaurant, this place belongs to the domaine of Jacques Selosse, a Champagne house known in the area and also known for its Champagne bottles, if you don’t order one at the restaurant, being almost impossible to get a hold of. The restaurant is lead by chef … who changes the menu daily, based on his mood, feeling and of course the produce available. We had a lovely rillette from tuna and salmon with delicious Mozzarella and sweet tomatoes, black angus beef and a fabulous dessert made from zabaione, poached apricots and toasted and sugared brioche. Their Champagne and wine selection is incredible (and highly priced). Price: A glass of Champagne: 12E, A bottle: From 60 to I don’t even remember, lunch menu with 3 courses: 39E.
Au bon manger: I found this little gem through my favourite food guide „Le Fooding“, which I usually always trust when it comes to good food and atmosphere. Run by the lovely couple Eric and Aline, Au bon Manger is an epicerie in the heart of Reims. You can go in, buy ham, cheese, cured salmon and a bottle of great Champagne or natural wine, or you stay for a bit and enjoy their food in a nice, cosy and a bit rustic atmosphere. Their cheese and ham selection is wide and I tried some delicious to me unknown cheeses paired with a glass of natural Champagne there. Make sure to try their mousse au chocolat, without any sugar added, made from pure Vietnamese chocolate. A sin!! Price: around 18E for a charcuterie or cheese platter, 12E for a glass of Champagne, wine and Champagne prices varying.
- Le Bocal
- Le Jardin
- Chez Max