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It’s your old pal Kit (Christof) Fennessy here. I've been writing this blog with your help for ten years, and there's over a hundred and fifty recipes, restaurant reviews of Australia and around the world, and general gourmet articles in these pages for you to fritter away your idle hours on.

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Now, what's on the bill of fare today?

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Grenoble Gourmet

Bonjour, et maintenant vous discover me en France.  Where I’m supposed to be able to speak the lingo.

Mais non.

This article covers the geography, history, and a little bit of sociology of the city of Grenoble before launching into a guide to several restaurants including tips from our man on the ground in town – Andrew.  I’ve made a map of my recommendations for eating and drinking which you can find here if you just want a handy reference while in town:

Now what can we expect to find in good old Grenoble Town?

(* please also refer to the bottom of the article and comments section to see additional insights, weblinks etc. from "Our Man in Grenoble", Andrew, after he had read this...)


Grenoble is at a confluence of two rivers, which means the valleys go in a kind of Y – in one direction Italy, in the other direction Switzerland, and in the third the centre of France and Lyon.*

Grenoble was described to me by a local as a “university town”, admittedly one with a nuclear reactor, and is located in a valley surrounded by hills (which, annoyingly, traps car pollution when cold air settles over the town, like an egg cup).  It’s famous, however, for a few things more than their no-car-driving days.


First, the Bastille, the fortress on the cliff overlooking the town across the river.   Long a defence, now a tourism lookout from which you can see Mont Blanc in the distance, and survey the entire city.  There are some iconic “téléférique” cable cars that look like Christmas baubles that will take you up there, and the ride is well worth the price.


Next, the locals take some pride in being the town where Napoleon made his “comeback” (you remember that?  Like the Elvis comeback…).  Having been deposed and imprisoned on an island in a mansion by the English at Saint Helena, Napoleon basically just took a boat, sailed back to Europe where some troops were waiting for him, and then marched back across France, gathering momentum.  When he got to Grenoble, he said to the local soldiers:

“If any of you soldiers want to kill your Emperor, here I am”

…and won their support.  He later remarked:

“I arrived in Grenoble an adventurer, I left a prince.”


Grenoble also has a claim to fame as a spot where the French revolution started (“a few places claim that”), as well as being integral in the resistance against the Nazis, blowing up caches, having the Germans flattening a town in the hills and shooting a bunch of people against a wall which is now a monument, and having President Charles de Gaulle award the city a medal as great resisters…


They’re also famous for hosting the 1968 winter olympics (pronounced, in French, “urlympics”); with lots of ski jumps and runs up in the hills nearby, and of course they invented the first Olympic mascot Schuss – the designer being the lady who designed the Magic Roundabout, with Dugald the dog, and Zebbedy the springy man.


That green digestive “Chartreuse” is the local drink of pride, even though it used to be from a rival area in the mountains behind the Bastille.  It was invented by alchemist monks, with over a hundred ingredients in it or so, and I can heartily endorse it as a post-prandial digestive.


We came across a protest march on our first day of arrival; so very French, at the spring time of year, and the protesters were against the closure of their post offices in town, with the backing of the Solidaire socialists.

Three days later there was a LGBTQI parade through the streets of the old town while we were popping out to buy a baguette (from an award winning bakery, only 1€ and five cents); trucks with transvestites on them dancing, disco music blaring, uni students marching along waving rainbow flags and putting their hands up, or sitting down in interesections, one old lady pedestrian with orange/peach coloured hair, a maroon skirt and beige blouse with pearls, of the old school, looking appalled and shocked; another old lady with white hair buying a rainbow flag and then waving it as she went about her way.


The Hotel Angleterre, the first built in Grenoble no doubt to satisfy the floods of English tourists during the eighteen hundreds.  It was used as the headquarters for German officers during WWII, but today is all a bit Faulty Towers.
My review?
ACDC may have once stayed there, but it needs some money spent on it badly…
If I were to review it in a sentence, I’d say “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all… conveniently located.”

But we’re here for the food, mon cher, and since Grenoble is (surprisingly to me) only an hour and a half from Lyon, it’s food credentials are prodigious.



2 Place Vaucanson, 38000 Grenoble, France
On some research, I can highly recommend lunch at a fantastic little brasserie called Midi in an old bar called L’Absinthe.  A couple run the bistrot turning out omelets, pasta, salads, etc, and it’s all very authentic.  I had the salad de jour, with two wines and a Ricard with my coffee.


We were blessed on our trip in meeting up with rock and rollin’, muclear scientist and ex-pat Australian “Andrew”, who has lived locally for twenty years. He married a French lady, and they have two kids, he sings (“screams”) in a blues rock band and was very knowledgeable about Grenoble.  Here are his recommendations:

 L'As de Pique (The Ace of Spades)

14 Rue du Lieutenant Chanaron, 38000 Grenoble, France
First he took us to a guitar shop nearby, then a bar where he’s been drinking for years, even though the owners have all changed.  Cool, man.

Restaurant Le Cinq (5)

5 Place de Lavalette, 38000 Grenoble, France
A restaurant at “the Museum/Art Gallery” which was quite high food which we ate outside surrounded by modern sculpture.  I had scallops on risotto, we drank a couple of bottles of wine, I had the coffee with sample desserts, and he got us all to have a green Chartreuse at the end.  The bill was pricey; but still only about $65AUD a head, so pretty reasonable considering Melbourne prices and the amount we put away.

Andrew also showed us the old school eating squares, leading us to dine at the excellent:

Café de la Table Ronde

7 Place Saint-André, 38000 Grenoble, France
We went out for dinner at Le Table Round, one of the older cafes in town near the Palais de Justice, which has snail carvings on the wall to demonstrate the slow progress of justice through the courts.  The girls all had variations on their ravioli, while I had the steak tartare (pronounced “ta-ta”, not “tar-tair”) with pommes frites et un salad.  Traditional, not overpriced, the dinner menu doesn’t start until about eight, so you might want to have drinks beforehand…

There are also some stunning looking restaurants overlooking the gardens, as well as the Michelin starred:

 Auberge Napoleon Restaurant

7 Rue Montorge, 38000 Grenoble, France
I wish I could have gone here, although they do not advertise their prices which is telling.  This is located in the house Napoleon originally requisitioned as his headquarters in his march back to power (as mentioned above), and is now a restaurant bearing his name.  Tres chic, and probably the topped ranked gourmet restaurants in the city.

The Market

On Sunday there’s a market underneath the train line bridge, so if you want to buy any food for a picnic, that is THE place to go because all of the normal shops are shut.

Grenoble seems as dead as a doornail on Sundays, with all of the shops closed, so we approached the train bridge on the main drag with some trepidation as there were nil signs of life.
But the market was buzzing.

The market extends down underneath the train line from where the train bridge crosses le Cours Jean Jourès and back towards the main train station – a bit, I suppose, like Camden markets in the tunnels in London.

They had everything; fruit and vegetables, cherries, apricots, and (8 different types of) strawberries at 4€ a kilo and all in season, white asparagus, lettuces, etc.

There were bakers, and saucisson makers, whole chicken roasters cooking Bresse chickens (that yellow chicken, which I see is produced nearby), fishmongers, fromageries, as well as people selling mattresses, rugs, and those faddish kids toy “spinners”.

A pain au chocolate for breakfast, strawberries, ancienne saucisson, wine, cheese and baguettes for lunch– with all the restaurants and shops practically closed.  Best tip of the trip.

Avoid Like the Plague…

As a final note, may I get you to exercise some caution: there is an “entry” square to the old town, with a carousel in the centre, and a number of tourist traps.  They are not recommended.  Au Bureau, a Belgian/German style beer café, and it’s sister across the road are – in short – terrible but popular because of their accessibility.

So there you have it; quite the foodie paradise if you know where to look.  Next week?  We’re off to Lake Annecy; a place Australian cyclist Robbie McEwan once said of:
"If I didn't already live in the best place in the world (the Gold Coast), I'd move there."

*  This was a correction (I originally had Germany as the third direction), as supplied by our man in the Grenoble, Andrew.  See more insights from him in the comments section below!!


Our Man in Grenoble said...

- Regarding the Bastille - the current fort was never actually used as a defensive structure. It was built as one, but by the time it was finished the development of accurate artillery made it obsolete. You can find (a lot!) more at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bastille_(Grenoble)
- For the téléphérique, the local joke is that you get taken up the hill by the balls.
- As de Pique have a facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/asdepiquegrenoble/
- The name of the guitar shop is Ferré Musique (http://www.ferremusique.com/) and they are ace! I took my Maton in there to have a strap support installed - they knew the guitar make and were suitably impressed! They also did an excellent job. I must take my Rickenbacker there for further 'cool' points.
- The Café de la Table Ronde is actually the oldest café in Grenoble and has a claim to being the second oldest café in France, established in 1739. Quite a bit of history in there!
- Concerning "the dinner menu doesn’t start until about eight", this is actually true of almost all the restaurants here (besides McDonalds). You might like to add this as a generic tip.
- The market you went to is called the Estacarde (https://www.grenoble-tourisme.com/fr/catalogue/activite/marche-de-lestacade-34608/). You might also add that my favourite Asian food shop is right beside this market and is also open on a Sunday (http://www.viet-hung.fr/). I've seen stuff in there that has blown my mind, including century eggs (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Century_egg). Didn't dare eating them, though. It was like the old Asian market in Footscray (recently burned down, I was sad to hear) on acid.
- The square that you recommend avoiding is called Place Grenette.