Restaurants in Colmar

Half-timbered buildings line the river in Colmar © Dreamstime

Half-timbered buildings line the river in Colmar © Dreamstime - Credit: Archant

From Michelin-star restaurants to Alsatian winstubs, there ar plenty of places to eat out in Colmar

Outside La Table du Brocanteur

Outside La Table du Brocanteur - Credit: Archant

1. La Table du Brocanteur

Even before you’ve seen the food served up at La Table du Brocanteur there’s a clear visual indicator that it’s going to be good – the resident black cat ambling about the outdoor terrace is laughably fat.

JY'S overlooking the River Lauch

JY'S overlooking the River Lauch - Credit: Archant

The presence of several cats just adds to the idiosyncratic nature of this restaurant. Tucked down a residential back street away from the tourist throng of La Petite Venise and Grand Rue, coming here feels like popping round your grandmother’s place for dinner (if your granny was a gourmet chef, that is). That’s partly due to the decor, a wonderfully eccentric mix of flea market knickknacks, car boot collectables and antiques gathered from various brocantes over the years – hence the name. Inside, the toby jugs, pierrot ceramics, old pocket watches and framed sketches create a warm, cosy feel, while outside the terrace is fringed with watering cans, milk pails and gardening implements. If you see something you like, you might even be able to buy it, as many items are for sale.

As passionate about the food as she is about the eclectic decor (and her cats), welcoming host Isabelle Fourquet created the restaurant eight years ago with her husband, chef Marc Guenat. Together, they present a menu that features both classic French cuisine and imaginative dishes infused with Asian flavours inspired by the pair’s many foreign travels – another passion. Everything is homemade with an emphasis on fresh, seasonal ingredients, Isabelle tells me. Following a delicious asparagus velouté amuse bouche, I stayed traditional with a creamy cassolette d’escargots and toast soldiers (EUR10), followed by a beautifully pink magret de canard in a honey and rosemary sauce (EUR23), teamed with a robust Alsatian Pinot Noir, chosen on Isabelle’s knowledgeable advice. Portions are generous – with any leftovers obviously going straight to le chat. The restaurant is open from Wednesday evening to Sunday lunch, and it’s well worth booking ahead, because despite its residential location it’s eternally popular. La Table du Brocanteur, 23 Rue d’Alspach, 68000 Colmar. Tel: (Fr) 3 89 23 45 57

Inside Maison Rouge

Inside Maison Rouge - Credit: Archant

2. JY’S

With a restaurant on every picture-perfect corner, riverside district La Petite Venise can overwhelm visitors with choice, but JY’S certainly stands out, in more ways than one. Occupying a prime spot in a frescoed 17th century half-timbered building next to the river Lauch, it’s arguably the town’s finest restaurant. Holding one Michelin star – and according to locals, not far off a second – it’s run by eponymous chef Jean-Yves Schillinger. A Colmar man, he learned his craft under such illustrious names as Joël Robuchon, Gérard Boyer, Jean-Paul Bonin at the famous Hôtel de Crillon in Paris and his own father, Jean Schillinger, who ran the family’s two Michelin-star restaurant in Colmar for 30 years before he was tragically killed in an arson attack on the restaurant in 1995.

The inviting terrace outside Maison Rouge

The inviting terrace outside Maison Rouge - Credit: Archant

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After seven years working in New York, Jean-Yves Schillinger returned home in 2003 to open JY’S, a contemporary restaurant aiming to be rather different from the typical Alsatian winstubs in his home town. “My inspirations don’t come from Alsace,” he tells me. “On the contrary, because my time in New York made me change my style and vision of cuisine. The basis and technique are certainly French, but in terms of palate, I try to find less conventional flavours.” This fusion style has resulted in dishes that include shellfish dim sum (€37.90), seabass with a hibiscus sauce and blood orange jelly (€38.60), and pigeon breast with fried duck liver, figs, sweet potato and cèpes (€39.90). In keeping with his own upbringing, JY’S is a family business. Schillinger is very much hands on in the restaurant’s open kitchen, while his wife Kathia keeps things running front of house. Elegant and contemporary, the main dining room is a welcoming, relaxed space, while the wonderful outdoor terrace right by the river comes into its own in summer.

Despite the Michelin star, it’s accessible, with menus starting at €41 for a three-course lunch, Tuesday-Friday, which changes weekly. It’s closed on Sunday and Monday. JY’S, 17 Rue de la Poissonnerie, 68000 Colmar. Tel: (Fr) 3 89 21 53 60, www.jean-yves-schillinger.com

The Jupiler café terrace on Place de la Cathédrale

The Jupiler café terrace on Place de la Cathédrale - Credit: Archant

3. Maison Rouge

Essential to any stay in Alsace is a visit to a winstub (sometimes spelled wistub). Literally meaning ‘a room for wine’, it’s a traditional, pub-style restaurant harking back to a time when winegrowers from Alsace’s vineyards would come to such places to sell their wine to the public. Lively and sociable, customers sit elbow to elbow while scoffing hearty, regional dishes.

Maison Rouge, one of Colmar’s myriad winstubs, has certainly got this atmosphere down pat. With its dark wooden floors, obligatory red and white check table cloths and winemaking ephemera decorating the walls, it makes for a cosy haven on a winter’s day, when you’ll likely be drawn in by the sizzle of the large ham roasting on a spit in the entrance. Served with fries or sauté potatoes, this salted ham may be the restaurant’s signature dish but it’s just one temptation on a menu packed with traditional Alsatian recipes. I started with tarte à l’oignon (€8.20), a typical local entrée, before moving on to a generously sized choucroute garnie (different cuts of meat and sausages served with sauerkraut; €18.50), while other options included bibalakas (a fromage blanc dip with onions and herbs served with ham and sauté potatoes; €16.20) and veal Cordon Bleu stuffed with local Munster cheese (€19.20). Several dishes come with spätzle, often described as a type of pasta but better resembling knobbly gnocchi; either way it’s a tasty but filling accompaniment to the kind of hearty meat dishes cooked in this region all the way down to German-speaking Switzerland. There’s also a menu of tarte flambée, for those seeking a lighter lunch. Sadly, I wasn’t capable of rounding my meal off with a Kougelhopf glacé, but it looked tempting.

The restaurant is closed on Sundays and Mondays. There’s a well-priced two-course lunch menu available Tuesday-Friday for €10.85. Maison Rouge, 9 Rue des Ecoles, 68000 Colmar. Tel : (Fr) 3 89 23 53 22, www.maison-rouge.net

WHERE TO GO FOR AN APERO

Jupiler Café, 24 Place de la Cathédrale, 68000 Colmar, Tel: (Fr) 3 89 24 46 11

With its large terrace, this café-bar is ideal for people-watching over an Alsatian beer. Look out for storks nesting on top of the gothic Saint Martin’s Church (considered Colmar’s cathedral) opposite the café.

COFFEE BREAK

Au Croissant Doré, 28 Rue des Marchands, 68000 Colmar Tel: (Fr) 3 89 23 70 81

Step back in time at this lovely Art Nouveau-style café in the heart of the Old Town. It’s next to the museum dedicated to Bartholdi, the Colmar sculptor who designed New York’s Statue of Liberty.

EATING IN

Fresh produce, Marché Couvert, 13 Rue des Écoles, 68000 Colmar

Reopened in 2010 after an ignominious period as a car park, this 19th century covered market is the place to go for fresh fruit and vegetables, bread, cheese, foie gras, fish, meat and pain d’épices. The permanent market is open from Tuesday to Saturday, joined every Thursday by a weekly market in the surrounding streets.

Foie Gras, La Ferme Schmitt, Marché Couvert, 13 Rue des Écoles, 68000 Colmar. Tel: (Fr) 3 88 50 26 67, www.lafermeschmitt.com

Foie Gras was invented in the Alsatian capital, Strasbourg, so this is the region to sample the proper stuff. Local family business La Ferme Schmitt sells its goose and duck foie gras in Colmar’s covered market along with other terrines, patés and specialities including a deliciously rich rillettes des canard.