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Eating out in Provence

Some tips and tricks

Provence is a wonderful place to dine out. Whether it's a Michelin starred restaurant overlooking the sea or the terrace of a village cafe the views and atmosphere are often sensational. But like anywhere in the world you can end up disappointed. Here are some tips and tricks to make sure that you leave a restaurant with a smile on your face.

The best time of day for eating out in Provence is lunchtime. Restaurants struggle more to fill their tables and offer competitively priced menus. If you want to enjoy the menu of the day make sure you arrive at midday precisely. Chefs only prepare a limited number of the plat du jour, and those arriving late are often lured in by a promising black board full of specials only to be disappointed. The hardest time to get a table is in the evening at the weekend.

It's important as a tourist to know where you are eating and why. The food in the centre of popular tourist towns and villages is often substandard. High rents and pressure to keep prices down to compete with neighbouring restaurants means that the quality of ingredients can suffer. This can be unimportant if you are just expecting a quick bite to eat in a pretty spot. However if you want more from a meal it pays to do a little research.

And this page is a good place to start. Here at the Guru we try and recommend the best restaurants in Provence. Nobody pays for our reviews. We're not here to please potential advertisers we want to ensure that you get a good meal.

           

At a glance

Top restaurants in Provence

Aix en Provence restaurants:

Top café restaurant: Les Deux Garcons, Cours Mirabeau, Top lunch menu: Le Millefeuille, Top restaurant with a view: Restaurant St Esteve, Le Tholonet, Aix en Provence

Luberon restaurants:

Top café restaurant: Cafe de La Fontaine, Lourmarin, Top lunch menu: The Lazy Sanglier, Casseneuve, Top restaurant with a view: Upper terrace table for two, La Trinquette, Gordes

Les Alpilles restaurants:

Top ambiance restaurant:Bistrot le Paradou Top lunch menu: Maison Druout Saint Remy de Provence

Top beach restaurants in Provence:

Gastronomic: La Table de Nans, La Ciotat, Beach club: Hotel du Golf, Bandol, Hideway: Le Mange Tout, Calanque de Mejean
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Eating out in Provence 2

Tips and tricks

You may also want to look out for a little symbol showing a frying pan with the roof of a house as a lid. Any restaurant showing this symbol has signed a charter agreeing only to serve dishes created from fresh ingredients assembled in its kitchen. In restaurants like these you will be safe from frozen food which is purchased in bulk and then simply re-heated and served to customers.

Wine in restaurants is typically marked up 3.5 times the price you will pay at the gates of a vineyard. Occasionally wine waiters will try and push a particular wine. This maybe because of the quality of the wine, it may also be that the vigneron has offered them a special price on some bottles that are near the end of their shelf life. Ask questions, pay attention, and know the type of wine that you would like to drink.

The bill in any French restaurant includes service. Only therefore tip an extra amount if the waiter has been exceptional.

Look out for restaurants offering accommodation. French drink driving rules are very strict and more and more restaurants have small apartments to rent to diners who want to enjoy wine with their meal.

A popular way to get to Provence is to take the eurostar to Paris from London and then the TGV south. Le Trein Bleu, one of the most famous Parisian brasseries is based in the Gare du Lyon and of you cannot stomach the train buffet, it offers high quality pack lunches.

And finally if you are looking for breakfast do not be afraid to buy what you want in the local boulangerie, and then order a coffee to go with it in a local cafe. This is perfectly acceptable, you do not have to order the cafe breakfast which tends to be overpriced and inferior.

           
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Provencal specialities

To look out for or avoid!

Provencal cuisine

Aioli

Typically served on a Friday this is Cod served with a selection of boiled vegetables: potatoes, carrots etc...accompanied by a garlic mayonnaise.

Pied Paquets

Only for the brave. The feet of sheep stuffed with offal and stewed. Quite delicious some people say, but here at the Guru we are not sure.

Daube

The name given to a slow cooked stew. The meat is often marinated overnight in red wine before long slow cooking. Dark black tapenade spiked with anchovies is often added to the sauce to give extra flavour.

Bouillabaisse

Famously invented by the fishermen of Marseille who used the cheapest rock fish that nobody else wanted as the base for this now world famous fish stew. More and more restaurants are offering imitations of Bouillabaisse on their daily menus but for the real thing be prepared to order 24 hours in advance.

           

How we score restaurants

Food

We are looking for top quality ingredients and inventive seasonal menus

Wine

A list featuring the best local wines at competitive prices. Particular emphasis on wines available by the glass.

Atmosphere

We concentrate on the clientele and the location both of which combine to form truly memorable experiences

Service

Welcoming attentive staff who go that extra mile.

Value

An overall feeling combining all of the above categories, to give a feel for whether the experience of dining in a restaurant offers value for money.

All the latest restaurant news from Provence via our Facebook page

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Cheese and dessert

The English and the French disagree on the correct time to eat cheese during a meal. Traditionally the English serve cheese at the very end of the meal after the dessert, giving an opportunity to crack open the port and keep drinking. The French believe that cheese should be taken after the main course, before the dessert. The remains of any wine from the main course can be used as an accompaniment. Dessert is then served, often with coffee at the same time. To this end many Provence restaurants now offer cafe gourmand. These are espresso coffees served with a selection of mouth size cakes. Perfect if you're not feeling so hungry but still have a sweet tooth