Provence beach restaurants
It’s harder than you might thing to have a good meal with your ‘feet in the water’, here’s the Guru guide to the top 5 Provence beach restaurants
First a little geography, we’re sticking to Provence as the French understand it, not the English and Americans, so it’s the coast from Toulon to the Camargue, which means that St Tropez and Cannes will have to wait for another article.
Secondly in beach restaurants food is not everything. Proximity to the lapping sea, view, and fishermen hauling in
their catch all add to the overall experience. Price and value remain important, too often a glimpse of the Med is an excuse for restaurateurs to double their prices and half the quality of their ingredients.
So here goes the Guru guide to the top 5 beach restaurants in Provence. It’s a personal selection and many heavy weight contenders are excluded, such as Le Petit Nice, in Marseille, for the somewhat arbitrary reason that driving into Marseille is enough of a challenge to put many off their lunch.
First place, Le Madrigal – Carry Le Rouet
Top spot goes to this old fashioned favourite in the small family resort of Carry Le Rouet. First things first, the restaurant is located in an old seaside villa, with, hallelujah, its own parking, it’s also only a twenty minute drive from Marseille airport which means it’s an ideal first or last meal for holidaymakers.
The restaurant is all about its terrace and the view. Framed by shady pines the tables sit on a rocky perch jutting out into the Med. Diners can stare out to the horizon or turn their gaze upon the port of Carry Le Rouet and the returning fishing boots.
The food is excellent with as you would expect a heavy accent on the sea. Delicate sauces, and squid ink tagliatelli feature heavily. Expect to come away replete and light-hearted after having discovered such a special spot.
Joint Second – Hotel du Golf Bandol and La Vague in La Ciotat
Now neither of these restaurants offer anything approaching gastronomy but you can get passable moule or steak frite at a not too extravagant price. They do have to-die-for tables pretty much as close to you can get to the Med. Only the rows of sun-loungers divide the tables from the salty splash of a large wave. And for those who really want to feel the water on their feet as they munch, then service is available on the sunloungers.
The Hotel du Golf in Bandol sits on one of the most picturesque bays on the coast. Almost a full circle of rock has been eroded away leaving a lagoony sandy beach on which children can cavort as you sip on the last of the rose.
La Vague in La Ciotat is less picturesque, but only just with the open sea and rolling waves setting the rhythm for a long lazy lunch. Salads and pizzas are good but better still is the feeling of the sand between your toes.
Fourth – La Table de Nans, between St Cyr and La Ciotat
Recently awarded a Michelin star, La Table de Nans sits on a high pine-clad cliff above the Med. The brave can walk down and swim off the rocks to work up an appetite. The feeling on sitting down is of being cosseted, of being close enough to the sea to enjoy its majesty but not so close that you have to deal with the salt and the sand. The wind blows gently through the trees and the waiters dance their way through various delicious amuse bouche, until the sensational menu courses begin to arrive. Allow three hours or so, take a walk afterwards, even book a room for the night and slip into a slumber with the sound of the waves crashing over the rocks below.
Fifth – L’Equateur St Cyr Sur Mer
The worse type of seaside restaurant tends to be port-side, where the flow of pedestrians dictates that bums on seats rather than repeat custom is what keeps businesses afloat. Prices are low, food unimaginative, poor in quality, and wine expensive.
Not at L’Equateur in St Cyr sur Mer. Imagine the bar in the American TV sitcom Cheers or the coffee bar from Friends, transported to the seaside. Then you get an idea of the atmosphere at L’Equateur. It’s run and owned by Franck. Franck knows everybody and everybody knows Franck. Franck is eternally young, eternally brown and eternally happy, and his obvious love of running his seaside bar spreads to his customers. Service comes with a cheery informality and the food although adhering to the seaside formula of moule frite and salads, is excellent. Portions are big and the quality of the ingredients high, because it matters to Franck that everyone goes home happy.
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