French Fast Food, Michel Bras Style
It’s August, which means like most Parisians I’m en vacances and writing from the sunny Côte Vermeille along the Mediterranean. When I first arrived in France, I felt no need to flee the city in the summer months, however, I soon tired of explaining to literally everyone—from the bus driver to the baker—that no, I wasn’t going en vacances. I now head south in the summer like everyone else to avoid the bemused looks from Parisians who can’t understand how anyone could possibly stay in Paris over the summer.
While heading to the coast this year, we crossed the Viaduc de Millau, the highest bridge in the world at a stunning 1,125 feet high. Should you find yourself in the area, be sure to stop for lunch at the rest stop which lies just at the foot of the bridge. I promise, you’ll be glad you did. You see, this is not your average rest stop, but is overseen by none other than 3-Star Michelin Chef Michel Bras, one of the greatest chefs of his generation.
Bras, along with his brother André and son Sébastien, serve their own version of fast food, using only the best of local ingredients. They invented an interesting device which makes warm, crisp crepe-like cones called capucins to order and then fill them with ingredients like truffle and potatoes, aligot and sausage, foie gras with mushrooms, Laguiole cheese with apricots, Roquefort and pears, smoked trout, and Bernard Greffeuille’s Allaiton lamb, the same lamb used at Michel Bras’ restaurant. They’re delicious and a welcome change from the plastic containers of jambon beurre sandwiches you normally find along the highways of France.
Even the drinks are local with an amazing cherry nectar, local cola, lemonade and sparkling grape juice.
We finished up with an espresso topped with salted butter caramel whipped cream for dessert, but they also have homemade ice creams made from local ingredients. You won’t find vanilla, which isn’t native to the Aveyron, but instead can try hazelnut, salted caramel and honey gingerbread ice cream topped with fresh berries, Bonneval Abbey chocolate, caramel or whipped cream.
Our lunch with 3 capucines, 2 salted butter caramel coffees, chips with Roquefort cheese and 2 drinks was about 30 € ,so more than we would have spent at an ordinary rest stop, but considering the quality, it was worth it.
With the Aire de Millau, Michel Bras has shown that fast food doesn’t have to mean junk and has created a wonderful place to showcase the region’s products which he clearly loves. As the locavore movement picks up speed and chefs become more focused on ingredient-driven food foods, I hope we will see more of such places all over France. For now, just hope you find yourself crossing the Viaduc de Millau in the near future.
Millau Viaduct Service Area
Open 7 days a week