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French Riviera Cuisine

Michelin-Star Cuisine
French Riviera Cuisine
Wild herbs, sun-ripened produce, fresh-pressed olive oil, honey straight from the comb, and just-caught fish are earmarks of the cuisine of the Riviera. Whether your meal comes from a Michelin-starred kitchen or a simple beachside shack, you'll be able to taste the vivid local flavor.
By Sylvia Sabes, AFAR Local Expert
Photo courtesy of La Vague d’Or
  • 1 / 10
    Michelin-Star Cuisine
    Michelin-Star Cuisine
    La Vague d’Or in St. Tropez is one of those rare places in the world where you can enjoy with three-star dining among the stars, and beneath the stars. Chef Arnaud Donckele's preparations, with exotic ingredients enriching the bounty of his native Riviera, read like a personal diary from his days traveling in Italy and Asia; think artichokes meet Thai basil. Find additional Michelin stars along the coast at Hostellerie Jérôme in La Turbie, Marcel Ravin’s Blue Bay in Monaco, and Paloma in Mougins, or at the sublimely spectacular Chevre d'Or in Èze. Locals celebrate special occasions surrounded by the luscious grounds of Le San Felice in Le Castellet.
    Photo courtesy of La Vague d’Or
  • 2 / 10
    The Earth’s Bounty
    The Earth’s Bounty
    Orange blossoms are distilled into fleur d’oranger essence, and citrus fruits like clementines and lemons are boiled into tangy, sweet marmalade at the Maison Auer in Nice and Maison Herbin in Menton. Beekeeper Lucien Lamoine’s buzzing workers spin chestnut blossoms into a mysteriously complex, mahogany honey sold at farmers' markets along with his honey-laden dark nougat, gingerbreads, and chestnut spreads. Century-old olive groves canvas the southern Alps, their tiny fruits cold-pressed into virgin olive oils that are sold directly at mills in the countryside or poured liberally on dishes at specialty restaurant Oliviera in Nice. You can even learn to cook with the local flowers at La Cuisine des Fleurs cooking school in Antibes. Bistrot Gourmand Clovis thinks about food in such a hyperlocal way that much of the produce used in the dishes comes from the kitchen garden.
    Photo by age fotostock
  • 3 / 10
    Market Day
    Market Day
    Every port, town, and village on the Riviera hosts a farmers' market at least once a week. A list of each town's market days can be found at its Office de Tourisme. Just-picked produce spills over the tables at Provençal markets in Nice, Le Luc, Antibes, and Tourrettes sur Loup. The flower markets in Nice and Grasse attract swarms of photographers and buyers alike, and Peymeinade satisfies environmentally friendly shoppers with its weekly green market. Nice boasts the most active fish market, but St. Tropez's is more photogenic: Roman mosaics decorate the walls around stalls loaded with the catch of the day. (Picasso’s favorite haunt, Le Gorille, is right across the street.)
    Photo by Amanda Hall/age fotostock
  • 4 / 10
    Seductive Bouillabaisse
    Seductive Bouillabaisse
    Bouillabaisse is the tantalizing fish stew that the goddess Venus served her husband Vulcan in Roman mythology. Legend has it that Greek sailors moored in Marseille first invented the dish in 600 B.C.E. Modern fishermen added rockfish they were unable to sell at market, cooking up the stew known today. Saffron and orange zest are the not-so-secret ingredients that make this recipe unique to the Riviera. Restaurant de la Gravette has been ladling the stuff out to locals in Antibes for more than 50 years. Restaurant de Bacon in Antibes elevates this traditionally humble dish with a decadent touch of lobster.
    Photo by Paul Poplis/age fotostock
  • 5 / 10
    Dining with a View
    Dining with a View
    Dramatic mountains and azure sea views make an ideal accompaniment to a meal. The large windows at La Chèvre d'Or are the perfect frame for the breathtaking scenery (or head to the sister restaurant, Les Remparts, and enjoy the cuisine from the terrace). At Le Bougainvillier in St. Raphaël, the meals are as stunning as the sea view, with a menu created around seasonal produce. The tables at La Vigie—known for organic cuisine—are lit by the sun playing off the waves outside. The bluest-blue vistas seen from the windows at Mirazur can elicit gasps, and the playful cuisine can draw delighted sighs.
    Photo courtesy of Le Bougainvillier
  • 6 / 10
    Where the Locals Eat
    Where the Locals Eat
    Dodging all the ritz and glitz, locals will go out of their way for a quiet dinner at the simple, unpretentious La Souco in Le Castellet. Aux Bons Enfants in Cannes works so hard at keeping it local that they refuse to put in a telephone or take reservations, discouraging anyone but the truly devout who are willing to wait. Sorry, OpenTable-dependent diners, La Merenda, too, has decided that cuisine is more important than telephones and credit card machines. In Old Nice, locals sneak into Le Démodé. No one refuses a side trip to Bruno Oger’s Bistrot des Anges in Le Cannet. Vegetarians are rarely better served than at the unexpectedly chic La Ponche behind the port in St. Tropez, with a fantastic view and memorable cuisine. Authentic Provençal dishes are kept in museum vaults—the food is part of the local fabric. Find the genuine articles: Seek out the pan bagnat at Chez Josysocca at Chez Pipo, and bouillabaisse at Restaurant de la Gravette.
    Photo by Camille Moirenc/age fotostock
  • 7 / 10
    Sweet Treats
    Sweet Treats
    Tucked away in Old Antibes is the patisserie of master pastry chef Christian Cottard, who makes cakes and pastries as light and beautiful on the plate as they are on the palate. In Menton, fougasse bread is scented with orange-flower blossoms, while pine nuts add earthy richness to croissants in Cotignac and fried chickpea dough is sprinkled with powdered sugar before being handed out as chichi frégi in Toulon. The Tarte Tropézienne is a St. Tropez icon, and the exquisite pine nut cookies at the patisserie-boulangerie named for the treat has inspired a devout following.
    Photo by Robert Fishman/age fotostock
  • 8 / 10
    Cooking Classes
    Cooking Classes
    The rich bounty of local produce makes it hard to resist spending time in the kitchen. The extraordinarily creative chef Yves Terrillon teaches cooks about edible flowers at his cooking school, La Cuisine des Fleurs. Michelin-starred chef Alain Llorca offers hands-on cooking classes in the kitchen of his gourmet restaurant at La Colle sur Loup (and you can sit out the class and still eat a more reasonably priced version of his fine work at sister restaurant Café Llorca in Vallauris). The friendly, young, and bilingual Corinne and Benoît at the Frogs' House orchestrate a two-day culinary experience that includes a market tour, winery visit, and cooking class. Still hungry? Guests can also add a goat-cheese tasting while exploring the Gorges du Loup. The sommelier at La Bastide St. Antoine in Grasse offers a wine-cellar tour and is happy to arrange private tastings.
    Photo courtesy of La Cuisine des Fleurs
  • 9 / 10
    Dining Beachside
    Dining Beachside
    Private clubs line the beaches and provide chairs and parasols for a daily fee, with smart cocktails and chic tables for anyone willing to pay. Since Brigitte Bardot filmed And God Created Woman in Ramatuelle, Le Club 55, on Pampelonne Beach, has become a legend, known as a favorite of the Beckhams and Jamie Foxx. Hi Beach is where trendy Niçois head for foam mattresses and a healthy lunch on the famed pebble beach. The beachside restaurant at the Cap d'Antibes Beach Hotel serves a farm-and-fishing-fleet-to-table cuisine. When you're done with your meal, just retire to the private beach below for an afternoon in the sun.



    Photo courtesy of Lionel Bouffier/Hi Beach
  • 10 / 10
    To Your Health
    To Your Health
    The largest private wine cellar in Europe rests discreetly below the Hôtel de Paris in Monaco. Legendary wines are kept here for posterity, or for a tasting at one of the restaurants upstairs. Vineyards in the surrounding hills produce spectacular red, white, and rosé wines. Monks at the Lérins Abbey have a hard time keeping their rosés in stock; Parisians order from Île de Porquerolles by the case; and the wines of Bandol have an international reputation. Cocktails flow through the night at local clubs but the regional drink is pastis, an anise-flavored liqueur diluted with water and served from early morning until well past sunset. Mix it with almond-based orgeat syrup for a Mauresque, or with mint syrup for a vibrant green Perrouquet.
    Photo courtesy of Monte-Carlo S.B.M.