So where is the food everyone raves about? I can say from personal experience the best food in France is in the French home. Invited by families for lunch and dinner we have experienced traditional French cuisine, served in four courses and paired with the finest wines in the region. Our French friends stay home to eat as they can truly cook a better meal for a fraction of the price. High prices and just ok food keeps the French home.
You hear rumors throughout the world of the best food in France. France’s reputation precedes it, and once here I expected great meals in every restaurant. Unfortunately, the fine establishments we hear about are rare. In their place are restaurants catered to the one-stop tourist, with cold dishes and pre-packaged foods warmed by kitchen helpers in the back. I guess with the price to run a business in France many turn to the more profitable option. I just wonder if France will loose part of their tradition while eliminating the Grandmother run family businesses and cutting the corners of their time honoured dishes.
Whenever we go out for a special occasion, I want to put down my apron and have a meal I cannot easily duplicate at home. Since landing in southern France, one and a half years ago, we have tried many restaurants looking for consistently good food and not regret spending our hard earned money.
We have saved you the legwork and made a list of where we eat out.
Top Ten Restaurant Dos
#1 La Galiniere directly in front of the fountain on Rue Gambetta serves a beautiful 4 course meal for 24€. Go for this each time and you will never be disappointed. Make a reservation when possible and take your time. It is part of the Languedoc experience, and might be the best meal on your trip in the Languedoc. The service is always friendly.
#2 The new restaurant Caveau de la Place serves up traditional food on the square and has a great lunch special for around 12€. You will not be disappointed. The salad portions are huge and the coffee on a Sunday morning is worth the seat outside before lunch. We highly recommend them.
#3 The Relais Bleu has a variety of different foods, but mainly French. Owned by a lovely French couple there establishment is visited by many truckers along the main road and serves up more food than you could possibly eat. If you are starving and looking for a feel good meal, and quantity is what you are after, go here. Always fresh and worth your money.
#3 Provence, the Italian restaurant in Capestang has consistently good food and good service with fresh traditional Italian dishes at a reasonable price making this the best value in Capestang. I love their in house Lasagna and think their pizza is best in our village. Take out available.
#5 Le Salette in Bize is the good fine dining value for your dollar. Here you can have a three course meal for under 20€ that is fresh or lunch for 12€ and both are consistently delicious. They have French specialties like fried liver salad, baked escargot in garlic butter, and even fish and chip Fridays for the English clientele. The restaurant itself looks modest from the busy road after Argeliers but do not let the exterior fool you. In our humble opinion, it is superb.
#6 Croisade in Cruzy, suggested to our guests when they stay with us is never a disappointment. For lunch or dinner, many folks drive over to the next village between Capestang and Argeliers for a fabulous French meal right on the canal.
(this is now temporarily closed) #7 Le Chat Qui Peche in Argeliers is consistent and we have gone there for many special occasions. Guy selects the freshest ingredients he can find at the markets, and serves up delicious creations. The view and atmosphere are also worth your money. Call first to see if they are open in low-mid season. This is our pick for entertainment as well when they have live music it is a real treat. They speak both English and French here.
(This is now permanently closed) #8 The Chinese food buffet in the Polygone is another good value for your dollar. Their lunch special during the week and sushi addition on the weekends bring us back repeatedly. All you can eat for 12€, kids eat for 8€, and weekends are a little more, but still worth your money. Our children gorge on the sushi and noodles and then we stop for the day.
#9 Recently discovered Pasta Bar next to the theatre in the Polygone has a special lunch and a movie offer not to miss. We took mom here on one of our shopping sprees and found that under 20€ we were full and satisfied. I love pasta, and if they can make it fresh and yummy, I am always in.
#10 Star Kabab in Beziers at the bottom of the walking strip across from the tourist office is a fresh fast food Middle Eastern lunch, which is also good value. They use in-house prepared veal and for 4€ you can have a giant wrap loaded with veggies and meat.
#1 The Grille has atmosphere. Our last two pizzas from there were undercooked but the view of the busy square in the summer may be worth your money and the crowd during a game is often fun. More a watering hole for locals, in the evenings the owner often gives out free tapas.
#1 Skip the Pirate Adventure in Montpellier if you are looking for good food. What they do have is a fabulous themed park style restaurant that looks like a pirate ship inside, and the kids get free toys and access to inside play area. What you are paying for is a break from your children for about an hour. We tried their best dishes, their Fajitas and their Seafood Platter and both fell way short of expectations. When teenagers cook the food we should expect no more than over cooked fish and nearly charred beef and chicken. I do not understand why the French cannot use real food in the children’s menu. Why are they serving our kids processed chicken and charging 10€ for it? 70€ total bill that actual is worth €20 at a McDonald’s drive through. I am not sure how restaurants come up with their drink prices, but 3.50€ for a coke seems ridiculous. 14€ of our bill was just pop? Next time we get the idea of going to a place like this, we will order an appetizer for ourselves and eat salami’s and cheese at home. Lastly, while I vent, I have to say I asked our lovely waitress to please suggest something from their fish menu for my husband. She said she had never eaten anything from the menu before! Okay I expect this in North America, and often left restaurants because of this. If your waitress has never had a morsel of food from your restaurant than why should I? But in France, the land of the education, proper licensing and experience necessary, I expect to get what I am paying for, and that would be an experienced waitress with enough good sense to at least pretend she knows what she is talking about. Alfonz found her sweet, from the allure of the cute pirate’s outfit she was wearing and not much else. They saw him coming!
#2 The 50’s diner in Polygone, Beziers has inflated prices for frozen beef patties. Another theme restaurant, and if the food was any good, we would go back. The problem is that they cater to the one stop tourist, and know you will never return. Problem with that is word will get out that you are paying for the cheapest quality meat in all of France. My fish burger was a small breaded piece of processed fish, the size of a finger and in a stale bun for 12€. Alfonz had the best out of us four with a Club Sandwich. The kids had dry hamburgers in a cardboard cut out of a car. The lady even got the gender wrong and mixed up on their orders when we were the only people in the entire restaurant.
***Note to the server and cook at the 50’s diner: cooked through does not mean burned on the outside and raw in the middle. Yes, your face when we asked for the kids burgers to be cooked through, was one of true disgust. Does this attitude give you the right to ruin our meal? North Americans ask for cooked beef and pork products because of the parasites that live inside them, which particularly in children can be dangerous. Remember the mad cow disease, where herbivore cattle were fed remains of other cattle to cut back on costs, a common practice in Europe. The neurodegenerative disease spread to humans eating their meat. 4.4 million cows were were put down. You would expect that French standards are superior, yet sadly, France too has fallen short on humanly raising animals for consumption. Where once I would eat beef tartar in any restaurant, now with globalization I simply do not trust where they get their meat from. To stop this disease, the industry practice is to kill the animals before the age of onset, 4-6 years and strict laws banning Ruminant feed, cattle meat and bone meal.
Besides that, the 50’s diner served us 12-14€ frozen patties from who knows where! Tisk tisk… this issue is getting old. However, that is ok. Alfonz makes a mean home cooked BBQ burger, never burned, always juicy and delicious with meat from the local butcher.
#3 Skip the restaurant on the canal in Capestang if you are looking for anything more than a good view and a drink. The food is wickedly overpriced, and they cater to the canal boat tourist alone. Occasionally we come down for a drink for a change of scenery or bring guests for an ice cream. At 7.50€ for three scoops, better bring your cash.
#4 The Japanese Restaurant in the Polygon is a miss. Expensive for a family raised on British Columbian sushi, you not only leave with no money but you are still hungry for it.
#5 Occasionally we eat at a fast-food joint. Although the quality of meat in fast food in France is one step higher than North America, at the local McDonald’s and KFC, you have cheap prices but the fries are often cold. Is there no pride in what they create or is that what you get when teenagers cook your meal?
Our weekly food bill runs around 60€ for a family of four. To go out, will cost at least that per meal easily.
What I miss about living in a big city, as Budapest or Vancouver, is that competition makes for good business. When the owners have to work hard to keep their clientele, they produce something exceptional or they go bust.
There is my complaint France; I will pay for a good meal. However, I am tired of paying for a meal that truly stinks. Lately, when out during mealtime, we hit a local bakery, buy a few baguettes and sit for a coffee. We are always full and it is always fresh. Now there is good value. The locals do the same and we join them on the beach for a picnic lunch.
Done ranting. That’s Hamori!
Always searching for good restaurants with good value and good food throughout our region, we explore the restaurants along the canal for our next post on must try spots while travelling along the canal du midi between Carcassonne and Sete.