Eating out in Provence is a challenge. I leap into panic mode when someone says, “let’s go out for lunch or dinner”. I know most people think eating out in France is a dream, and it can be. Around here it’s difficult to find simple, delicious food that isn’t precious or extremely expensive. Nothing offends me more than paying good money for a bad meal. It’s utterly shameful given the quality of products in the region when a restaurant takes something so lovely and turns it into something inedible. Most of my friends agree. As a result, we tend to eat in and any invitation to dinner chez whomever is a welcome treat.
A few weeks ago I was visiting my good friend Didi in Chambéry, where we did nothing but eat in. We had honey from their beehives, jam from their fruit, a salad with the last of the garden tomatoes, figs from the tree, and a mushroom tart with Trompette de la Mort (black chanterelles) that Didi’s husband foraged for himself. I went home with two kilos of local Savoie walnuts just in season and a bunch of verveine from Didi’s garden for tea. With all this bounty, why on earth would you ever eat out? Poor treatment of the amazing products around here should be illegal. I think I should start a campaign against cruelty to produce. It would be a hit!
With all this said, here are a few tried and true for those dreaded times you require a meal out:
Pizza Phil (Bédoin): This is a very basic bar/pizzeria. Nothing fancy, but the pressions are cold and the pizza delicious. It’s open all summer long and it never fails us. Very popular with the cycling crowd.
Fleur Bleue (Crestet): This is a charming little spot. The food is local and not fancy, but always tasty and well prepared. Everyone is extremely friendly and it’s a favourite with friends in these parts.
Nez! Bar à Vins (Gigondas): This is a little gem. They serve tapas and a delicious selection of wines. Lunchtime they have a plat du jour. Same owners as L'Oustalet but much less fussy and very relaxed.
Chez Serge (Carpentras): This is a classic and has been around for a long time. They specialize in wines and ingredients from the Ventoux and are known for their dishes with truffles. Some things are brilliant, others just OK. But the terrace is fun and it’s a nice spot to stop for lunch after the Friday market.
Le Pont de l’Orme (Malaucène): This is a bit fancy and expensive, so save for a special occasion. The food is very well prepared but a bit fussy. Lovely terrace and spectacular view of the Mont Ventoux.