The best restaurant in France isn’t in a grand hotel in Paris, or a decades-old estate near Bordeaux, or in the nation’s gastronomic capital, Lyon. It’s far away from all those places, in more ways than one. Set on a cliff, sandwiched between Italy and Monaco, lavished with sunshine, and calmed by cool breezes is the tiny town of Menton, home to a distinct microclimate and an establishment that regales it.
Mirazur launched in 2005 with chef and co-owner Mauro Colagreco intent on giving this border town an identity of its own. In 2017, Mirazur ranked first in France and fourth on the planet in voting for the World’s 50 Best Restaurants. The food is brilliant, full of creativity, passion, and those flavors that Colagreco wants to spotlight, a blending of French and Italian tastes that is sublime and inventive.
Early on, diners will realize they are in for an experience from a restaurant with few peers. Thanks to the shiitake macaron, one of a series of starters, I was quickly prepared to be entertained as well as satiated. Colagreco’s “macaron” is prepared with two shiitake mushroom caps each dehydrated and contorted to form one half of a mini sandwich resembling the famous French pastry. Between the caps is a thin, round slice of green apple and, atop it, a small circular portion of black pudding. It’s what contemporary fine dining is supposed to be about: Optics, sensory appeal, ambition, newness, and yet still a feeling of familiarity in the flavors.
The meal continues with tomato gazpacho, an oyster in pear sauce, a series of earthy canapes, and a bread course that comes with a poem from Pablo Neruda printed on a transparent sheet of paper. Somehow, at Mirazur, a six-course lunch turned into a 20-course tour de force of dining — with a setting that will leave an indelible mark, making this meal one of the best of your life.
The food used in Mirazur’s kitchen is grown from the land or sourced from the Mediterranean Sea, which the restaurant’s wide bank of windows overlooks. The waterway is where the oysters are sourced, as well as lobsters, sea bass, prawns, and other delicacies.
With its location on the border of France and Italy, it’s no surprise Mirazur’s wine list is also outstanding. The wine pairings feature an array of light whites that complement the subtlety of Colagreco’s cuisine.
Like any of the world’s top tables, getting a reservation isn’t easy but because Mirazur isn’t in a metropolis, you may be able to find a lunch seating, if not a dinner one, within short notice. I was fortunate to have secured a table the day before my visit. Such serendipity seemed fitting for a restaurant whose cuisine is whimsical and light-hearted. A destination restaurant in one of the most exquisite places in the world, the Cote d’Azur, Mirazur lives up to its glorious setting and the reputation it has established through dedication to excellence, and sustaining it.
More About Visiting Mirazur
Location: 30 Avenue Aristide Briand, Menton, France (see map below)
Getting There: You can drive or take the train to Menton from locations in the South of France. Menton is a small town and taxis are not usually waiting at the train station, so you should book a ride in advance. Or you can walk. The restaurant is about a 15-minute jaunt — going mostly uphill on Avenue Aristide Briand — from the Menton train station.
Menu Price Range: The six-course “Inspiration” menu starts at 110 euro (about $130 USD) per person. The “Carte Blanche” menu includes more courses and costs 160 euro ($190) while the “Signature” menu (210 euro; $250) features 11 of the restaurant’s classic dishes. Optional wine pairings range from 60-90 euro ($70-$108 USD), depending on your menu selection.