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Southern France: 6 Fabulous Farm-To-Table Restaurants

Updated on July 24, 2017
Nothing tastes more Provence than this tomato goat cheese salad.
Nothing tastes more Provence than this tomato goat cheese salad. | Source

The idyllic countryside of southern France – from the lush valleys of Provence to the sunny Mediterranean coastline – is dotted with many quaint villages surrounded by picturesque farms, fruit orchards, and vineyards.

Visiting these villages, you may stumble upon a restaurant and get a chance to sample some of the finest French country-style cuisine.

You will be amazed that most of the food is prepared with fresh ingredients that come from a local farm, butcher’s shop, bakery, or fromagerie in the village.

It’s the ultimate farm-to-table dining experience, whether you’re a fan of it or not!

Peaceful southern France countryside.
Peaceful southern France countryside. | Source
Sidewalk tables for dining "en plein air" at a restaurant.
Sidewalk tables for dining "en plein air" at a restaurant. | Source

Fresh and authentic cuisine

French chefs are passionate about using fresh vegetables, herbs, and meats in their cooking, and nowhere is this obsession more evident than in southern France.

In these small villages, restaurant chefs often grow their own lettuces or tomatoes and get other fresh supplies directly from the local farmer's markets.

They also partner with many local and/or regional producers to bring in the most authentic and best artisanal goods (wines, cheeses, sausages, olive oil, honey, etc.) for their restaurants.

This article features 6 farm-to-table restaurants located across southern France, some are not so well-known (tucked away in obscure little towns you’ve never heard of) but all are très magnifique!

Bon Appétit!


L’Arôme (Bonnieux)

The impressive dishes that make L'Arome one of the best restaurants in Provence.
The impressive dishes that make L'Arome one of the best restaurants in Provence. | Source

Located in one of the most beautiful villages of Provence, L’Arôme is a fine dining restaurant. From the rustic setting (in a 14th century stone cellar) to the stylish, contemporary décor, this restaurant oozes charm and romance. Chef Jean-Michel Pagès is committed to serve only high quality, locally sourced products (including foie gras, truffles, goat cheeses) in his dishes. Ingredients are carefully selected. The menu changes regularly to reflect what is in season. Try the signature Menu Gourmand or Menu autour de l’Asperge (5-course dinner creatively crafted from fresh asparagus). Each dish is a stunning work of art – pleasing to the eye and the palate! Great wine selections, including an enchanting rosé from Domaine de Marie winery in neighboring Ménerbes village. Impeccable service, with warm welcoming waitstaff.

L’Arôme, 2 Rue Lucien Blanc, 84480 Bonnieux, France


Le Chapon Fin (Nîmes)

Maison Carree in Nimes, a town known as the French Rome.
Maison Carree in Nimes, a town known as the French Rome. | Source
Pan seared tuna in saffron sauce, with Mediterranean rice and sauteed baby vegetables at Le Chapon Fin.
Pan seared tuna in saffron sauce, with Mediterranean rice and sauteed baby vegetables at Le Chapon Fin. | Source

The town of Nîmes has several ancient monuments dating back to the Roman Empire. Le Chapon Fin is located between the majestic Arènes de Nîmes amphitheater and the iconic Roman temple Maison Carrée. Ask for a table upstairs on the garden terrace, under the grape vines trellis, for the breathtaking view of the town! It specializes in traditional French Mediterranean cuisine, with plenty of tantalizing fish and seafood choices on the menu. But also try meat dishes like the côte de taureau grillée (grilled beef steak) with thyme and rosemary in classic Provençal sauce. Chef Christophe Ciantar creates such sophisticated yet wholesome food, using only fresh and seasonal ingredients. The price is fair: Formule du jour (4-course gourmet feast) for 31.50€ per person (wine not included). Superb table service provided by the chef’s elegant wife Sandra.

Le Chapon Fin, 3 Rue Château Fadaise, 30900 Nîmes, France


L’Hôtel Restaurant Le Louvre (Sault)

Heirloom tomatoes salad at Le Louvre - heaven on a plate!
Heirloom tomatoes salad at Le Louvre - heaven on a plate! | Source
Le Louvre's version of duck confit with root vegetables and spelt grains.
Le Louvre's version of duck confit with root vegetables and spelt grains. | Source
Poached peach dessert looks seriously good and tastes seriously delish!
Poached peach dessert looks seriously good and tastes seriously delish! | Source

Located inside a historic hotel, this restaurant is filled with lovely antique furniture and a palpable nostalgic atmosphere. Giant fireplace, vintage chandeliers, and a dusty old piano add to the charm. Their home-cooked style dishes are so delicious and so fresh – you can practically taste the Provence sun on the heirloom tomatoes in the salad! Basil olive oil (a staple of the southern France region) is used deliberately, adding a unique earthy flavor to many dishes. Do not miss the desserts, like the poached peach in red wine and honey infused with lavender. Every dish is artfully presented. First-rate service with cordial, professional staff. Sault is home to the fun, fragrant and festive Lavender Festival which is held every year in August.

L’Hôtel Restaurant Le Louvre, Place du Marché., 84390 Sault, France


Au Bistro (Coustellet)

Stuffed tomatoes at Au Bistro - a dish you won't forget!
Stuffed tomatoes at Au Bistro - a dish you won't forget! | Source
Soft, crunchy, sweet, tangy - fig and prune crumble is a dessert of contrasts.
Soft, crunchy, sweet, tangy - fig and prune crumble is a dessert of contrasts. | Source

A must stop after shopping at the famous Coustellet farmer’s market! Tucked away on a quiet street, this tiny eatery is more popular with locals than tourists, which is a very good sign! Sit back at an outdoor table under the umbrellas and enjoy the cheery local scene with a glass of wine or beer. Au Bistro is famed for its repertoire of hearty, simple, old-fashioned French country cuisine. Try the tasty tomate farcis (tomato stuffed with ground beef and quinoa) or the savory tarte au fromage de chèvre (goat cheese pie). The fig and prune crumble dessert is exquisite! Served piping hot, directly from the oven to your table! Sweet figs and tart prunes (come straight from the farmer’s market, can’t get any fresher than that!) works amazingly well together in this dessert, creating such delightful flavor, color and texture. Kind, friendly service, and exceptionally affordable!

Au Bistro, Lotissement Quai des Entreprises, 84660 Maubec, France


Le Trivalou (Carcassonne)

The medieval fortress of Carcassonne is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The medieval fortress of Carcassonne is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. | Source
Roasted chicken breast with mashed potato and garlic parsley sauce at Le Trivalou.
Roasted chicken breast with mashed potato and garlic parsley sauce at Le Trivalou. | Source

This relatively new, unpretentious restaurant is truly a hidden gem! Chef Requi Cyril - a nice, humble young man - has immense talent! His specialties include the seared dorade gris filet served with rice cooked in bouillabaisse broth and the regional classic cassoulet stew of pork rind, duck confit, sausage, and white beans. Must try the chèvre chaud panés (fried goat cheese patties), served with mixed greens, tomatoes, slices of fresh apple and apricot – simply divine! Vegetarians need not to worry, chef Cyril offers an equally sumptuous menu végétarien using the best produce available. For dessert, go for the delectable crème catalane – similar to crème brûlée but infused with exotic cinnamon and anise spices. Gorgeous food presentation, attentive service, and reasonable pricing: 3-course dinner for only 22€ per person (wine not included). Get a table out on the cobblestone sidewalk for the spectacular view of the great medieval castle on the hill.

Le Trivalou, 69 Rue Trivalle, 11000 Carcassonne, France


Le Vip (Perpignan)

Left: Le Vip's smoked duck salad with goat cheese pockets. Right: White fish with lemon sauce, puree pumpkin, and Provencal style vegetables.
Left: Le Vip's smoked duck salad with goat cheese pockets. Right: White fish with lemon sauce, puree pumpkin, and Provencal style vegetables. | Source

Consider yourself lucky if you stumble upon this utterly chic restaurant while wandering around the sleepy old town of Perpignan. Situated in a narrow alley, with tables spilled out onto the street, and packed with a fashionable crowd, it’s very French! Being close to the Mediterranean coast and the border with Spain, this restaurant offers a decidedly cuisine méditerranéenne, with dishes like tomato and fresh goat cheese salad or succulent white fish in creamy lemon sauce or roasted turkey leg with pommes frîtes and sautéed vegetables. Each dish is skillfully prepared and perfectly seasoned. Excellent wine list, including some wonderful choices from the Spanish wine region of Catalonia. Classy, très sympathique service staff.

Le VIP, 4 Rue Grande des Fabriqués, 66000 Perpignan, France


show route and directions
A markerL’Arôme -
get directions

B markerLe Chapon Fin -
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C markerL’Hôtel Restaurant Le Louvre -
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D markerAu Bistro -
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E markerLe Trivalou -
get directions

Another charming eatery off the beaten path in southern France.
Another charming eatery off the beaten path in southern France. | Source

6 Tips for Dining in Southern France

Compared to Paris, dining in southern France is a relaxing, casual affair. However, you may still encounter a few little challenges. In small towns, servers don’t necessarily speak English and the menu is often written entirely in French. What’s the difference between entrée and plat du jour? How much tip should you leave at the table? Here are some helpful suggestions to make your farm-to-table gastronomic experience even more memorable.

1. Where to eat

Eat locally! Check out the reviews of local restaurants from your travel guidebook or the internet (e.g. Trip Advisor, Yelp). Find the nearest restaurants using various apps on your cell phone. And don’t forget your hotel concierge or Airbnb host! Ask them where the locals like to dine. Or just go with the flow, be adventurous and pick any interesting restaurant you see when visiting a village. Hint: browse the menu posted outside by the restaurant’s entrance for specialties and pricing.

2. What to order

Most restaurants offer 2 menu choices: formule a la carte (you order anything you wish) and formule du jour (chef’s special pre-set menu of 3 or 4-course meal which includes starter, main dish, dessert, and usually comes with coffee or tea). The pre-set menu is often the best deal (price wise) because it showcases the restaurant’s signature dishes and freshest ingredients of the day (fresh catch fish, in season vegetables, etc.). In France, entrée is a small dish (salad or soup) served before the main course. Plat is a main course dish.

Foie gras with black truffle is a classic entree served before the main course at many restaurants in southern France.
Foie gras with black truffle is a classic entree served before the main course at many restaurants in southern France. | Source
A perfect starter with your meal!
A perfect starter with your meal! | Source

3. Wine anyone?

In Provence, locals start a meal with a glass of rosé. It’s a tradition! Dry, delicate, fruity – this popular wine is usually enjoyed as l’apéritif. But it’s also an acceptable companion for any summer dishes. Most servers will recommend wines from a local winery and you may order a whole bottle, a half bottle or just by the glass with your dinner.

4. Tipping etiquette

It’s ok not to leave a tip because it’s often already included in the food price. Look for the fine print “service compris” (service included) on the menu. But if you’re very pleased with the service, you should tip a waiter or waitress an extra 1€ to 3€ or up to 5% of the bill. They would appreciate that.

5. Dress up

Whether you eat at a casual café or a fancy restaurant, always try to look nice. Image is everything in French culture! Locals dress up when they go out for dinner. In southern France, during the warm summer months, linen dresses, pants, blouses, and shirts are the ideal dinner attire. It gets cooler in the evening, so pack a few extra items like a scarf, cardigan, or light sweater. Tie a sweater around your shoulders and voilà, you magically look très chic!

6. “Merci beaucoup!”

Learn a few basic French words or phrases for food so that you can use them at the restaurants. Poulet (chicken), poisson (fish), fromage (cheese), C’est absolument délicieux (It’s absolutely delicious). Remember, the French are serious about food and love good comments about their food. If you really enjoyed your dinner, tell the waiter to give compliments to the chef. It shouldn’t be a surprise, especially at a small town restaurant, if the chef comes out to your table to thank you personally!

Unsurpassed vistas of farmland and vineyard in Provence.
Unsurpassed vistas of farmland and vineyard in Provence. | Source

About this Hub

The author savored his farm-to-table dining adventure in southern France. He wishes he could eat food like this every day!

All photos were taken by the author with an Olympus Stylus TG-630 iHS digital camera and iPhone 6.

All Rights Reserved

Copyright © 2017 Viet Doan (punacoast)

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    • punacoast profile image
      Author

      Viet Doan 3 weeks ago from Big Island, Hawaii

      I tried to re-create the tomato goat cheese salad at home but it did not taste the same (sigh!). Provence's vine ripened tomatoes, olives, and farm fresh goat cheese make a big difference!

      My rule of thumb when travelling: always choose a restaurant that has mostly locals eating and having a good time! Many of my best and unforgettable meals were from places like that.

      So glad you enjoy the article and photos. Aloha!

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 3 weeks ago from Brazil

      Ok, now I'm not only jealous, I'm also hungry!

      Excellent article about some wonderful places and food. I suspect with the pride they take in preparation and sourcing their ingredients you can't go wrong.

      Could you not replicate these menus when you return home?

      Something I love is that the quantity of food is small, quality over quantity. This is the opposite of the US or the UK.

      Wonderful food and images.