What it's like to eat at Mirazur, the world's best restaurant for 2019

Restaurant has breathtaking views and bread poetry

By Chris Dwyer, CNN
Copyright 2019 CNN

Mirazur's pigeon dish is made with a coffee-based sauce and has featured on the French restaurant's ever-changing menu.

(CNN) - It's just landed the number one spot at the World's 50 Best Restaurant Awards, beating out the likes of Denmark's Noma and Bangkok's Gaggan.

But what's it actually like to eat at the much-lauded Mirazur?

Situated in the elegant seaside town of Menton in the French Riviera, the clue is in its name.

Mirazur roughly translates as "look at the blue," suggesting a vantage point over the water.

And it certainly has one, reached by a winding incline of a road.

Whether driving or walking past, you could easily miss it, as the chic white 1930s rotunda building is almost hidden from the road behind palm trees.

Mirazur sits at the foot of some pretty dramatic mountains, surrounded by their own gardens with dozens of types of fruits, vegetables, herbs, citrus trees and more that end up on your table, in some cases just minutes after being dug up or picked from a branch.

There are also chickens providing eggs and hives for honey, while some lucky diners get invited by chef Mauro Colagreco to tour the gardens and taste some of the produce first hand, enjoying the heady aromas including wild rosemary, jasmine and their orange orchard.

An open kitchen sits on the lowest of Mirazur's three floors, alongside a lounge and a reception which proudly shows off their accolades. During my earlier visit in December 2018, that meant two Michelin stars and third place on the 2018 World's 50 Best list.

A third Michelin star was added in January.

This marked the first time in the history of the Michelin Guide in France that a non-French chef -- Colagreco is Argentinian -- had won the culinary holy grail of three stars. They'll also need to change the number by the 50 Best ranking.

World class dining

Up one level sits the star of the show, the dining room.

Even in gloomy December there are breathtaking panoramic views taking in the Mediterranean, the mountains, the town of Menton and the multi-million dollar yachts in its harbor.

One can only imagine the effect on a light-filled summer's day, with the blue of the sky rivaling the blue of the water, reaffirming why Mirazur is so named.

Beautiful circular wooden tables are generously spaced apart and free of linen or tablecloths, with some round squash and a white vase of flowers the only decoration.

Wood is the hero through much of the restaurant's design, in tune with Mirazur's embrace of the natural world.

My fellow diners included French, British, Australian, Italian and Mandarin Chinese accents over lunch, while Colagreco's team are similarly multinational, with 14 nationalities represented in 50 staff across the kitchen and front-of-house service teams.

They're a wonderful personification of that mix of genuine warmth and utter professionalism.

As a solo dinner, they took extra time to talk to me, explaining dishes and at one point bringing over a beautiful hefty tome written by Colagreco, called simply Mirazur, which celebrates the dozens of farmers, fishermen and producers that supply the restaurant.

And the kitchen needs them. According to Colagreco, they don't work with just four seasons, but 365.

This means the menu changes every single day, as a result, Colagreco's regular diners who come three times a week have never had to eat the same dish.

You essentially leave yourself in the hands of the staff, choose how many courses you'd like, reveal any dislikes or dietary requirements and let them do the rest.

There are thankfully, at least for food writers, a handful of dishes which remain more or less constant.

Poetic license

Their "sharing bread" is one of them, a round loaf in six pieces that is served in a wooden bowl.

It comes with a dish of vibrant yellow olive oil infused with lemon juice -- lemon is undeniably Colagreco's signature ingredient -- along with ginger.

It's also accompanied by a poem from Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, written on a translucent piece of paper, that's dedicated to bread.

Red beetroot with caviar cream is also one of Colagreco's signatures.

The enormous vegetable is first presented to diners at the table, then cooked in a salt crust before wafer-thin slices are served in a sauce studded with black pearls of caviar. It's a sensational creation of textural and flavor interplay, decadent without being heavy.

My lunch also included a delicate squid dish that had been blanched and cut very finely, before being served with a refined bagna càuda sauce, in other words with garlic and anchovies.

There was also an exceptional pigeon dish with a sauce made with coffee.

Amid multiple sweet offerings, chocolate from Peru was crafted beautifully with local olive oil and rosemary powder into a smooth dessert, a union between South American and the Mediterranean ingredients that's typical of much of Colagreco's work.

The cheese trolley, an additional charge to most of the menus, is a sight to behold and sorely tempting even after a very substantial lunch.

Unsurprisingly, French and Italian cheeses are the heroes, given Mirazur's location right on the France-Italy border.

Gastronomic brilliance

All this gastronomic innovation and brilliance doesn't come cheap, however.

My lunch with one glass of champagne and two of wine set me back almost 200 euros or $230.

While it's a serious amount of money for a meal, I felt the experience and memories were well worth the investment.

To better understand what drives Mirazur, I spoke to Ricardo Chaneton, the highly-regarded chef at Petrus at Hong Kong's Island Shangri-La hotel who spent almost seven years working under Colagreco.

At the World's 50 Best Restaurant Awards ceremony in Singapore, the first thing Colagreco did was ask Chaneton up on stage to join them, calling him one of the "family."

Chaneton explained the special experience of working at Mirazur.

"Mauro is open-minded, he's friendly, a human being with a big heart. I love him so much," he said.

"He's authentic, straightforward. When he feels something he shows it and we've shared many, many things and experiences."

"Having no menu is what makes it so fun, no meal is ever the same. If you have a recipe, you always risk just going back to what you did last year, last summer.

"But not at Mirazur. You move forward. Mauro likes people who say 'why not?' He would always ask me, he'd never say 'we're doing this' -- because he knows that the more you hear from others, the more you learn."

This sort of open-minded thinking has clearly contributed to Mirazur's success, and reservations are now booking three months ahead.

One final word of warning for those that luck out with a booking.

My five-minute taxi ride to the station after lunch cost an eye-watering 23 euros. So it might be worth taking walking this 30-minute journey on the way back.

The-CNN-Wire ™ & © 2019 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.