The flavours of the French Riviera

Written by on January 28, 2019 in Provence-Alpes

Restaurant terrace with tables and chairs and pots of pink flowers, very bright and sunny

The cuisine of France is renowned for many reasons – across the country menus offer tempting regional dishes. The taste of the south though is very different from that of the north, influences from neighbouring Italy and from Spain and North Africa have left their mark.

The sun drenched French Riviera, lapped by the Mediterranean Sea, is a melting pot of tasty dishes as all those influences come together to create some truly breath-taking flavours.

The gentle climate lends itself to al fresco dining for most of the year and visitors flock to this southernmost part of France to relish bold flavours like garlic, olive oil and herbs.

Here’s a must-try list of fabulous gastronomic delights for you to discover the exquisite flavours for yourself…

Marvellous Markets

A man in a straw hat sells lemons and oranges from a market stall

The markets of the south of France are famous for their vibrant atmosphere, fresh seasonal produce and colourful characters.  Visit the Nice market, the Cours Saleya, and enjoy the endless stands of local Socca, Pissaladiere and Salad Nicoise served in a bun as snack called a pan bagnat. As you enjoy the scent of sea salt olive oil and smoke wafting around you,  you’ll definitely be tempted by the exotic spices, fresh local fish, organic honey and home-made jams, flamboyant flowers and juicy fruits, soothing, deliciously scented lavender and local arts & crafts.

In Cannes, Marché Forville is superb, don’t miss the olive stall, the best selection anywhere!

Fish and Pastis in Marseille

Fishermen sell fish from tubs on a quayside next to the sea

The world’s greatest bouillabaisse is made in southern France. Marseille in particular is famous for the flavoursome fish stew. Almost every restaurant, from Michelin-star venues to tiny cafés will serve their own version. Check out the ‘Panier’ area, the famous old district for great people watching from the pavement and terraces.

Before your meal though, enjoy sipping a Pastis like the locals (who call it Pastaga). This aniseed flavoured and very strong liqueur should be enjoyed with ice. Add a little water if you want to keep a clear head!

Divine Vineyard visits

Vibrant green vines with a hill in the background and a tiny white chapel

There’s masses of choice for vineyard visits all along the French Riviera. Much loved by the locals are the wines from the vineyards of Bellet. Just ten minutes’ drive from Nice airport, the dozen or so vineyards form one of the smallest Appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC) regions in France. The vineyards are located high in the hills, requiring a drive up some very steep and winding roads. But it’s worth it for the warm welcome and a fabulous tasting. The wines here are unique.

To go even more off the beaten track, visit Hyeres-les-Palmiers. The little town outside of Toulon boasts over 8,000 palm trees. From here take a 15 minutes cruise to the island of Porquerolles. You’ll discover beautiful vineyards and savour the wine while you have a game of petanque. Try Domaine Perzinsky for its wonderful views and shady terraced tasting area.

Awesome olives

Olive trees in an orchard under a bright blue sky, mountains in the background

The fruit of the olive tree is part of Mediterranean daily life and it has left its mark on the landscape. Like grapes, olives have a perfect picking moment. Don’t eat them straight off the tree – they taste vile. You’ll be left wondering how it is possible that they can be transformed into something so good! There are more than a dozen olive oil farms and mills open to the public, many of which have been going for centuries. Learn about the history of olive oil, take a cookery class and stock up on luxury oil at Ecomusée de l’Olivier.

The allure of Antibes

A market stall heaving with spices and herbs, great bowls of dried lavender and saffron

Antibes has lured many admirers over the years, from Picasso to Miles Davis. The dazzling blue sea, the warm architecture and the culture are hugely alluring. This is a place of fishermen’s districts and wharves, markets and pine groves, where the living is good. Head out to the surrounding villages like Vallauris for an authentic taste of Mediterranean cuisine in the most gorgeous surrounding. Here, beach restaurants and traditional brasseries are plentiful and you’ll find the prices are much lower than in the main tourist areas.

There isn’t much that beats dining at a restaurant along the sea’s edge. It’s extra special at night when the air has cooled and the sky is filled with stars. There’s something magical about watching the twinkling lights of the boats and the gentle waves lapping the beach. As you dip into a freshly made tapenade, sip your wine and soak up the ambiance – priceless!

Authentic restaurants in Nice – where you’ll relish the true flavour of southern France
The gastronomy of Nice how Nice got it’s unique flavour
Gluten free France – how an award winning restaurant in Lourmarin puts gluten free dishes first
The markets of Provence

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