Personally, the first thing I look for when visiting a new place is where the locals eat to see what new foods I can try. I’ve made this list not only as a guide for visitors to Clermont-Ferrand, but also to the residents to discover a new or alternative hangout spot.
Section 1: Coffee
Since coming to France, I’ve become a basic coffee bish, going for cappuccinos or hot chocolates rather than just tea as I would in the UK. I know I’m no coffee-connoisseur, but even I can tell the difference between good and bad speedy beans.
Australian Coffee House
If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know that I go here a lot. It’s one of the few places in Clermont-Ferrand that does good coffee. I’ll admit that I’m no coffee expert, but even I know that some places don’t do it properly. This is not one of those places. They have a cosy, welcoming atmosphere, and are very popular around lunchtime and early evening, especially on a Saturday. They also do vegetarian food, and not many places in Clermont do.
Bar Des Beaux Arts
This is a popular place for the locals as well, and it’s no surprise why. With relatively cheap but good-tasting coffee and friendly staff, you can see why it’s a great hangout spot. It mostly has outdoor seating, but they have heaters for cold weather.
You’ll find this popular spot right on the high street, less than a minute’s walk from the Lagarlaye tram stop. I’d describe it as a mix of Starbucks and Caffè Nero, as they have the same kind of range as Starbucks but a Nero-esque vibe with the bottomless armchairs and sofas.
This place is a recent addition to the town, only having opened in the past couple of months. They have a lovely, cosy vibe with plenty of indoor seating. With plants adorning every wall and a lovely view of the cathedral spire out of the window, this is my kind of hangout spot. Not only do they have great coffee, but they also do a wide selection of teas and flavoured coffee. Would highly recommend.
Section 2: Bars
I went for drinks that much last semester that my French teacher and my parents thought I was an alcoholic. Now, I can enjoy a night out alcohol-free, but for those who like a drink (or five), here’s my top bars to visit in the town.
This is a popular bar among students, probably because of the extensive beer selection. They even have their own brand of beer, which you can buy in the local supermarkets. As well as the drinks, it’s a great place to hang out after a long day at uni or work, and it won’t break the bank. The food is really good, too!
Located right in the town square, you’d be hard pressed to find a more convenient place to go for drinks. Why it’s Australian I don’t know, but they have good cocktails and lots of seating, indoor and out. I haven’t seen anyone with food when I go, but I’m sure it’s nice. If not, there’s always a McDonald’s down the road.
The Viking Pub Counter
It’s not run by Viking time-travellers, but it does kind of feel like an old hut inside. Wood panelling is on every surface with an array of flags on the ceiling. It’s certainly very warm and cosy, and they have a very wide selection of music playing. One night it might be K-pop, another could be indie rock. They have a delicious fruity cocktail called The Dragon, but it tastes like anything but.
It kind of feels like the sort of bar only celebrities would be allowed into, with the black walls and expensive-looking lighting. It all feels very posh and clean, but the prices aren’t too extortionate. They have an interesting set of mojitos, with different fruits. Trust me when I say, don’t get the carrot one. Just don’t.
Clermont-Ferrand’s gay bar, the only one unfortunately. However, this is the place to go for a fabulous night with tasty cocktails and even tastier bartenders if you catch my drift. Thursdays bring karaoke so get your heels on and belt out some ABBA or Lady Gaga. In the words of the iconic Mrs Kasha Davis, there’s always time for a cocktail!
Section 3: Food
Now, food is an interesting part of Clermont-Ferrand. For reasons unknown to me, there are a lot of Asian restaurants and enough sushi places to feed half of Japan. Well, I might be exaggerating a little bit, but it is unusual. If you’re looking for traditional French cuisine, you won’t find it here.
I believe there are a few other Pitaya restaurants around France, but it’s a great place to eat nonetheless. It serves up Thai food, from Pad Thai to their own Sie Yai, and have some nice veggie dishes. If you’re not a chopsticks kind of person, they do have forks, but I’d recommend learning to use the traditional implements.
With an extensive menu and varying dishes, this is a good place to try something new. It is kind of out of the way, but it’s definitely worth it. And it’s not all raw salmon, they do have fish-free options. The desserts look nice, too.
Sooji Japanese and Korean Groceries
It might not be a restaurant outright, but it still has good food. They have freshly prepared meals that you can heat up to eat there or take home. Not only this, but you can buy packaged food like ramen and sweets, as well as rice baskets, chopsticks and hand fans.
Garden Ice Café
The service might sometimes be slow, but the food is still good. The same can’t be said about the coffee, but it’s not in that category! It’s not too expensive despite it’s central location, and non-French speakers are catered for. When you’re in a group, there’s a great atmosphere, but alone it’s not so much.
This is another popular lunchtime spot. Located inside the Jaude shopping centre, you shouldn’t get too lost looking for it. Once you taste the food, you understand why so many people go there. There are both sweet and savoury options, and it’s pretty cheap. If there’s no seating left, you can always take away and eat outside in the main square, or on one of the many seats inside the shopping centre.
Section 4: Made in Auvergne
The Auvergne region is known for a few food products, some of which have been protected by their AOC (Appellation d’Origine – Designation of Origin) status. Here’s a few:
Cantal is actually one of the oldest cheeses in France, first made under the Gaulish rule. It’s a hard, artisan cheese with a strong, nutty flavour. There are three kinds: Jeune, Entre-Deux and Vieux, each aged for varying lengths of time and developing their own flavour and rind texture. It’s best paired with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot wines, and works with nuts, grapes and apple, and you can put it in a salad, soup, fondue or gratin. This brings us onto another traditional food.
Truffade is definitely my kind of dish! It’s a mixture of thinly-sliced potatoes and cantal cheese. It’s left to cook until it becomes a lovely, gooey, cheesy paste with parsley sprinkled on top. It’s usually a side-dish, served with meat and salad or seasonal veg.
Saint-Nectaire is another local cheese. It’s a semisoft cheese with a washed rind, and is both farm-fresh and industrially manufactured. You can tell the difference by the stamp; fermier wheels have an oval stamp and industrial ones have a square stamp. Saint-Nectaire is also AOC protected. It has a mushroom and nutty taste with a creamy texture that melts in the mouth. You can pair this cheese with a glass or three of Bordeaux, Shiraz, Côtes D’Auvergne or Beaujolais wine.
Now, I hope you’ve found somewhere that takes your fancy! Thank you for reading this part of This Is Clermont-Ferrand, get ready for the final part coming soon! À bientot!