Southern France: 6 Fabulous Farm-To-Table Restaurants
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!
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 like wines, cheeses, sausages, olive oil, and honey 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!
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)
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)
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)
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 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)
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, it's 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)
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
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.
3. Wine anyone?
In Provence, locals traditionally start a meal with a glass of rosé. Dry, delicate and fruity, this popular wine is normally enjoyed as l’apéritif, but also an acceptable companion for many 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 to NOT 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. It's true, 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!
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.
© 2017 Viet Doan