Restaurants in the Provence are at their best when they are small, casual affairs well suited to the bounty and lifestyle of the Provence, where sunshine, aromatic herbs, fresh produce and the Côtes du Rhône wines are the hallmark. A dining experience should be a "whole" experience, a roll up of atmosphere, service, food and attitude.
Our team members and contributors have reviewed every restaurant on this list. The drawback is that we are a bit short on restaurant recommendations in some areas. But over time we hope to fill the voids.
We appreciate any comments you might have. Readers suggest new restaurants to us from time to time. That's wonderful and highly appreciated. It might take us some time to list them, as a team member will need to review the restaurant in person first.
If you are on a sightseeing schedule in the countryside, the question is always, where do we have lunch. Right? Here is a suggestion: Do as the French do. Buy a baguette or gros pain, some pâté, a nice chèvre, cornichons, olives, tapenade, anchoiade or simply a tomato - have your pick. Spread a blanket under a shady tree, have a glass of chilled rosé, plenty of mineral water (a cooler is a great asset in the summer time) and voilà - the perfect summer lunch! Takes a little bit of planning, but it's worth it. According to TV France2 le Pique-Nique has become "très cool" in France again!
For dinner we have one word of caution, seriously. Be aware that driving under the influence carries a heavy penalty in France and controls are frequent. We mean frequent - your chance of being checked at night is as high as 25% in some areas, depending on what age you are, the younger the more checks. If you don't have a designated driver use a cab, there are many cab services available at reasonable prices. Call in advance, they will pick you up and bring you home.
An absolute must, especially for dinner. Don't get upset when you are turned away without a reservation, even if it seems that tables are available. They might be reserved or no additional meals are served. Many restaurants, especially outside the larger towns, have a limited menu and prepare a fixed number of meals using fresh produce of the day. They are chefs, not microwave technicians!
Restaurants in France are generally open from 12:00 – 2:00 PM for lunch and 7:00 – 9:00 PM for dinner (best time to arrive: 7:30 - 8:00 PM). If you arrive at 9:30 PM for dinner you might be told politely that the kitchen is about to close. As most restaurants are closed on at least 1 day a week it is advisable to phone in advance in any case. Sunday evenings many restaurants are closed, especially in the off season and the shoulder seasons.
The menu prix fixe is often cheaper than à la carte. In many restaurants the choices of dishes of the menu prix fixe is very similar to the à la carte. Avoid the menu touristique with a ten foot pole! If you see it encased in plastic and in several languages adorned with flags leave immediately!
As in most restaurants on this globe this is where it gets expensive. As you are in a wine growing region and can check the retail prices at the winery, you realize that you pay 2 - 4 times the retail price. Don't hesitate to ask for the restaurant's house wine in a pichet, which means jug in French. Good restaurants have good house wines. The more upscale restaurants normally don't offer this option.
Value Added Tax (Taxe sur la Valeur Ajoutée):
Since July 2010 the Value Added Tax (VAT) - in French Taxe sur la Valeur Ajoutée (TVA) has been reduced from 19.6% to 5.5% for meals. Beverages remain at the standard 19.6% TVA.
Generally prices in France are quoted including the TVA. The term TTC means "Toute Taxe Comprise". However restaurants are increasingly quoting net prices. In this case the term HT, which stands for "hors taxe" is used.
Normally the bill should include the service charge - it will show on the menu and the bill as service compris. If this is the case round the amount up by a couple of Euros, if you are extremely satisfied by not more than 5%. Some restaurants don't include the service charge. A tip of 15% is expected (10% if you are not 100% satisfied); don't hesitate to give no tip if you are totally disappointed.
One of the enjoyable traits of the French is that they are very civilized with each other. Rude or loud behavior is a sign of low education. Rather then being offended the reaction of educated people will be: "What a pity, this person did not not have the privilege of a proper education." Expect to shake hands if you meet someone more than once or are introduced for the first time by a friend. French are notorious hand shakers. You get used to it.
To sum it up: politeness is your calling card stating your level of education. So complaints - if necessary at all - are communicated in a civilized manner and low key.