At Essential Sailing, we love the history, culture and cuisine of the places we visit almost as much as the sailing to get there. Our Captain’s Blog brings you a taste of what to expect from our luxury crewed sailing holidays around the French and Italian Riviera. In this blog we enjoy fine Provençal cuisine at three selected restaurants on the French Riviera.
Sit back and be inspired.
A workmen’s café in central France was overwhelmed with requests for table reservations after it was accidentally awarded a Michelin star.
Bouche à Oreille, in the small town of Bourges, is a cheap and cheerful eatery with red and white polka dot plastic tablecloths. Its punters mostly wear high-visibility vests and are a far cry from the highfalutin gastronomes of an identically named restaurant 100 miles away in Boutervilliers, for which the café was mistaken in the Michelin Guide.
The blunder was laughed off, but cuisine is a serious business in France, which lays claim to some of the world’s best eateries. Michelin stars abound, but some of the most rewarding dining experiences happen in some of the country’s smaller, lesser-known restaurants.
Restaurants like these three on the French Riviera, as chosen by Telegraph Travel’s expert Anthony Peregrine, that serve fine Provençal cuisine.
Voyageur Nissart, Nice – It would be daft to go to Nice and ignore the local food. It would also be daft, though easy, to overlook this modest spot. Not far from the station, the Nissart is away from most visitor circuits in a lively zone of many nations. There’s nothing remarkable about the outside or, indeed, the inside of this restaurant – except the happiest possible welcome from a youthful team who seem genuinely pleased to see you. Also to serve you local Provençal cuisine classics such as lamb with thyme, chicken in lemon or red mullet. Young owner Max, incidentally, speaks better English than most English people. This is a stand-out spot for anyone on a budget – and everyone else to.
- Address: 19 Rue Alsace Lorraine
- Contact: 0033 (0) 4 9382 1960; www.voyageurnissart.com
- Prices: menus from €15.90
- Open: Tue-Sun, 12 noon-2.30pm; 7pm-10.30pm. Closed Monday all day, and Saturday lunch
Bistrot Gourmand, Cannes – Here’s a classic Provençal cuisine bistro – simple, bustling, friendly and rather brighter than most. It’s clear that the owners care about the place and care, more especially, about what’s on the menu, which is dominated by Provençal classics, albeit with a modern twist. Fillet of turbot in a lemon sauce with veg from the nearby Forville market looks and tastes terrific. As do cod in fig leaves or lamb chops in a mustard sauce. I can’t guarantee you’ll get these dishes when you go, for the menu changes several times a week. But, if you like a bit of bounce to your meals (this is no place for an intimate dinner à deux), I’m pretty sure you’ll be happy. For a fifth, or less, of the price you’d be paying in more refined, Michelin-starred surroundings.
- Address: 10 Rue Dr P Gazagnaire
- Contact: 0033 (0) 4 9368 7202; www.bistrotgourmandcannes.fr
- Prices: at lunchtime, two-course menu from €17, three courses from €22. Three course dinner €32
- Open: 12 noon-2pm; 7pm-10pm. Closed Sun evening and Mon
Le Sporting, St Tropez – It’s difficult, in St Tropez, to find an eatery which fits into any sort of budget category. This one does, just about. It’s a standard café-brasserie – no frills, tight-packed with locals in for a beer and kids running about. There are many like it in every French town. They are characterised by the scrape of metal chair legs on tiled floors, and the sense that community life flows through. And they are nearer the popular heart of French catering than any Michelin-starred spot. In St Tropez once, and having been ripped off in the pasta stakes the previous evening, I dined here on the dish of the day. It was lamb chops with many trimmings. I also had a couple of glasses of house red. I couldn’t have been happier.
- Address: 42 Place des Lices
- Contact: 0033 (0) 4 9497 0065
- Prices: dish of the day from around €15
- Open: Daily, 8am-2am
Richard Reeves is the founder of Essential Sailing and if you have been inspired to relax on a luxury sailing holiday, why not make this idyllic world your reality.