The French Riviera isn't just attractive for its wide, sandy beaches, azure waters, warm Mediterranean architecture, and glamorous nightlife. It's also a powerhouse in the culinary world, home to some of France's most creative tables and chefs. The region boasts some 30 Michelin-starred restaurants, making it a true drawcard for anyone interested in experiencing fine French cuisine. But even if your budget doesn't allow for a meal at one of these much-fussed-about establishments, you'll still be able to find an excellent lunch or dinner that doesn't break the bank.
These are some of the best restaurants in the French Riviera, with a focus on traditional French and Mediterranean-style cuisine.
Snagging the title of world's best restaurant in 2019, Mirazur is a culinary heavyweight that recently earned three Michelin stars. Located in Menton, near the Italian border, it's helmed by chef Mauro Colagreco, who brings the traditions of Argentina and Italy to the table—creatively melding them with Mediterranean products and flavors.
The restaurant harvests fresh vegetables, fruit, and aromatic herbs from its own gardens, and aims for zero waste, something ecologically minded travelers may appreciate. The seasonal menus are frequently refreshed and are noted for their artistic presentation and intense, pure flavors. Try the nature-inspired Lunar Menu, which includes creations such as a rose fashioned from San Remo prawns. The pigeon with coffee sauce and rosemary-chocolate dessert are also big hits.
One of the best places for a special meal in Monaco is in Monte Carlo, at Blue Bay. Helmed by award-winning chef Marcel Ravin, the one-Michelin-starred restaurant is prized for its creative, inspired dishes that meld French, Mediterranean, and Martiniqan culinary traditions. Ultra-fresh seafood and locally sourced products from Monaco are a focus here.
Enjoy a 6-or 8-course menu as you soak in panoramic bay views. Vegetarians can opt for the garden vegetables menu, which features some dishes suitable for vegans (miso eggplant with dried fruits; sweet potato hummus). Marcel's "Agoulou" tasting menu is a must if you want to experience his fusion cooking at its most impressive, showing gourmet influences from Martinique and the Caribbean.
This relaxed bistro and wine bar in Nice offers zero ostentation (which comes in abundance in the Riviera). What it does boast is a superb collection of dishes that creatively reinvent classic French and Mediterannean dishes—and a cozy, almost rustic interior perfect for a laid-back dinner. Seasonal vegetables from local suppliers feature alongside choice cuts of meat and fresh seafood catches of the day, and the restaurant's list of naturally produced wines is carefully curated.
Try the Charolais beef with radishes or seafood carpaccio with legumes to start, followed by black pork from Grasse accompanied by a glass of red from the Cotes du Rhone region. Vegetarians can choose from among fresh vegetable dishes, from asparagus to cold gazpacho soup.
La Palme d'Or
Named after the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival, La Palme d'Or holds two Michelin stars and is headed by chef Christian Sinicropi. It's located on the mythical boardwalk known as La Croisette, within the Hotel Martinez, making it an ideal spot for a memorable lunch or dinner while people-watching and enjoying waterside perspectives.
The artistic menus, known as mouvements (movements) are centered around salty and sweet themes, each built around a centerpiece dish or ingredient (lamb, pigeon, oysters, lobster, etc.) Produce and meats from trusted local suppliers form the heart of the concept, and this restaurant is especially noted for its creative—and beautiful—use of vegetables.
Situated in the idyllic resort of Juan-les-Pins (part of Antibes), this Michelin-starred beachfront restaurant at the Hôtel Belles Rives is as exciting for its creative cooking as it is postcard-perfect. Chef Aurélien Véquaud is behind dishes and menus full of Mediterranean traditions and flavors, from freshly caught crab with fresh ravioli and caviar to spring asparagus with alpine yogurt and bergamot. Sit out on the terrace for dramatic sea views and fresh air.
The "Menu Mer" is a seafood menu ideal for tasting several superb fish and shellfish specialties. If dramatic desserts are your speed, try the restaurant's "pearl in blown sugar shell,” a signature, award-winning creation from pastry chef Steve Moracchini.
This pleasant, traditional restaurant in St-Tropez is situated in the old fisherman's district, in a warm and laid-back setting. Prized by both locals and visitors for its ultra-fresh seafood and market produce, La Ponche is well known for classic Provencal dishes like rockfish soup and truffled baked eggs. Vegetarians and vegans will find plenty to sate their appetites here, too, with dishes such as Provence-style stuffed vegetables. The dessert and wine menus are substantial and excellent as well. If weather permits, sit out on the terrace for stunning views over the harbor.
Situated on Nice's iconic Promenade des Anglais within the equally famous Hotel Negresco, Le Chantecler is a Michelin-starred restaurant headed by chef Virginie Basselot. The menu fuses Mediterranean and Provencal culinary traditions with touches from Basselot's Normandy.
The seafood is remarkably fresh; try the seabass tartare with oysters, lemon cream, and caviar, or the cod filet with seasonal vegetables and lemon butter. The vegetables are locally sourced and beautifully prepared, with presentations that never fall short of impressive. For a special occasion or treat, try the chef's signature tasting menu, featuring nine courses and including dessert, cheese, hors d'oeuvres, several entrees, and main courses. And while it's not exactly budget-friendly, the five-course Sunday lunch menu offers excellent value for the money and includes seasonal "surprise" dishes. Reserve well ahead for this in-demand restaurant.
La Table du Chateau
This beloved gastronomic restaurant in Cannes is more accessible and budget-friendly than La Palme d'Or, and offers an excellent way to experience creative Mediterranean cooking in the red-carpet beach town. Offering a la carte and fixed-price menus (again, book at lunchtime for the best value), La Table du Chateau's strength lies in its creative twists on classic French dishes. Veal stuffed with fresh prawns, langoustine with candied citrus and caviar, and souffle with Grand Marnier are some of the highlights.
Ask for a table near the windows or out on the patio to take in sweeping perspectives of the Bay of Cannes and the Lerins islands.
Just 15 minutes from central Cannes with lush forests, the town of Mougins is home to one of the region's finest Provencal-style restaurants: Le Mas Candille, with an idyllic green patio for al-fresco dining with hillside views as well as an exclusive chef's table.
The seasonal menus have strong roots in Provencal and Mediterranean traditions, with a focus on fresh market vegetables and sustainably sourced fish, herbs, and spices. Chef Xavier Burelle has created bimonthly Market Menus that highlight particular ingredients (think artichokes, red berries, or espelette chilis). Served in three courses, the reasonably priced market menu offers excellent value and is a good way for those on tighter budgets to experience a Michelin-starred restaurant on the Riviera.
Vegan Gorilla, a newer restaurant in Nice, has won over the Michelin guide for its thoughtfully presented, and reasonably priced, 100 percent plant-based and gluten-free creations. The seasonal menu changes frequently, and every week you can choose among several starters, main courses, and tempting desserts. In addition to vegan classics such as butternut-apple soup and scrambled tofu, you'll also find colorful vegetable bowls and mock-meat dishes such as cauliflower "wings" with barbecue sauce.
If you're craving North African flavors, this laid-back and creative table in Toulon is certainly one of the best spots on the Riviera for Moroccan-style cuisine. Headed by chef and owner Latifa Gresse, who hails from Agadir, L'Arganier offers an appealing and budget-friendly menu of beautifully presented traditional Moroccan dishes. Highlights include vegetable and/or meat tajines, couscous, beef ketfa (kebab) and zaalouk (eggplant dip).
Try the house tajine with lamb, prunes, dried apricots, candied onions and almonds, and the orange-blossom creme brulée for dessert. The menu also includes several vegetarian options, including couscous and various tajines.
Le Figuier de Saint Esprit
Situated in a rustic, Provencal-style country house, this traditional yet innovative restaurant is one of the best places in old Antibes for a gourmet dinner. Chef Christian Morriset brings his passionate approach to Provencal ingredients and locally-sourced products to the table, with dishes that somehow manage to dazzle without being pretentious. Thoughtfully presented, artful creations such as roasted blue lobster; cannelloni with squid, squid ink, and basil; and clay-roasted saddle of lamb are among the dishes worth tasting at this one-Michelin-starred restaurant. If it's warm enough, sit out on the pleasant Mediterranean terrace, next to the emblematic fig tree.