Since the Gard area of France is still an agricultural region of small farms, locally grown produce stars on menus that change daily to showcase the best of the season. Highlights include asparagus in spring; cherries, apricots, peaches and plums in summer; wild mushrooms in fall; and truffles and game in winter.
Le Grau-du-Roi is the second-largest fishing port on the French Mediterranean coastline, and Gard’s seafood, especially octopus, squid, tellines (tiny clams dredged from the delta of the Rhône), razor shell clams, sea bream and sea bass, is exceptionally fresh. Gard also produces excellent olive oil, notably that of Oliveraie Jeanjean in Saint-Gilles, just south of Nîmes. The most distinctive cheese is pélardon, a tangy goat’s milk cheese, served fresh, aged or marinated in olive oil with herbs.
Two traditional Gardoise recipes appear regularly on menus: gardiane de taureau is a stew of Camargue bull’s meat braised in wine, and brandade de morue, a specialty of Nîmes, is a dish of whipped salt cod and potatoes with garlic.
Gard is also a major wine region and produces one of the most famous French rosés, Tavel, which comes from a town of the same name on the west bank of the Rhône, north of Avignon. Made principally from Grenache and Cinsault grapes, Tavel was the first rosé to achieve AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée) status when the system was introduced in 1935. The Costières de Nîmes, as the vineyards surrounding the city are known, also produces some outstanding wines, including organic ones from the Domaine Gassier in Caissargues, especially the lush, velvety red Grenache de Bek. Indeed, across the region a younger generation of winemakers are also producing excellent wines, notably at the Domaine de L’Aqueduc near Uzès and Domaine Roc d’Anglade in Langlade.
Within the past few years, Gard’s restaurant scene has quietly developed into one of the best and most reasonably priced in France. This is because many talented chefs are forsaking large cities to open restaurants in a region with fine produce, reasonable rents and an excellent quality of life. Here is a selection of our favorites.
Housed in an old stone house in a pretty little village a few miles from Uzès, young chef Julien Lavandet’s restaurant is deservedly popular for its good-value market-driven chalkboard menu. Expect dishes like burrata with shrimp beignets and tomatoes, and red mullet with satay sauce and black rice. It is possible to eat outside in good weather.
La Table 2 Julien
12 Route d'Uzès, Montaren-et-Saint-Médiers. Tel. (33) 4-66-03-75-38
After cooking his way around the world, chef Axel Grousset-Bachelard opened this intimate bistro on a narrow lane at the edge of Uzès last year to immediate acclaim. The menu changes daily and follows the seasons of local organic produce. If they are available, try the tomato gazpacho with wasabi, and the hake with hollandaise sauce.
1 Rue Masbourguet, Uzès. Tel. (33) 4-66-63-30-59
The chef at this counter-service-only restaurant inside of Les Halles de Nîmes market cooks a different chalkboard menu daily using the best produce from surrounding stalls. It is a local favorite for dishes like steak tartare and brandade de morue. There is a great selection of wines by the glass. Open only for lunch. Reservations recommended.
La Pie qui Couette
Les Halles de Nîmes, Rue Guizot, Nîmes. Tel. (33) 4-66-23-59-04
Just across the street from Nîmes’ Roman coliseum, the terrace of this modern bistro is an excellent choice for lunch or dinner and comes with a remarkable view. The reasonably priced prix fixe menus feature contemporary takes on southern French dishes, including grilled bull steak with carrots and red wine sauce, and cod in tomato bouillon.
2 bis Boulevard des Arènes, Nîmes. Tel. (33) 4-66-67-29-15
A short walk from the Musée de la Romanité, this casually elegant Michelin-starred restaurant offers the inventive cooking of young chef Damien Sanchez, an outstanding wine list, excellent service and outdoor dining in summer. The menu evolves but runs to dishes like mackerel with cauliflower panna cotta, and saddle of rabbit stuffed with Spanish ham.
7 Rue de la République, Nîmes. Tel. (33) 4-66-21-94-30
Chef Michel Kayser has won two Michelin stars for his refined contemporary southern French cooking at this restaurant in the countryside just outside of Nîmes. Expect dishes like zucchini flowers stuffed with truffle mousseline, and roast Aveyron lamb with tomato tartare and potato purée flavored with hay.
2 Rue Xavier-Tronc, Garons. Tel. (33) 4-66-70-08-99
Serge and Maxime Chenet, a father and son team, offer an appealing menu of fresh, light and intelligently creative dishes at their restaurant in an old stone farmhouse. Try the truffled foie gras with a mango-and-balsamic-vinegar condiment, and then the roasted guinea hen fillet with red-cabbage beignets, figs and a sauce poivrade. Vegetarian menus are available.
Entre Vigne et Garrigue
Mas Saint-Bruno, 600 Route de Saint-Bruno, Pujaut. Tel. (33) 4-90-95-20-29
With a patio for summer dining, this friendly restaurant serves very good contemporary French cooking with international inspiration. Begin with a smoked salmon and crunchy vegetable spring roll with a peach-and-coriander dipping sauce, followed by beef fillet with a crust of blue cheese and crushed macadamia nuts, and pistachio mascarpone with fresh raspberries.
16 Rue Sadi Carnot, Aigues-Mortes. Tel. (33) 9-82-31-51-73
Chef Krishna Léger’s charming restaurant with a spacious terrace for outdoor dining has become popular since it opened a year ago. The market menu changes constantly but runs to dishes like ceviche in tiger’s milk marinade with cherries and cucumbers, and fillet of sole with apricots. The monthly bouillabaisse night — call ahead — has become a local favorite.
1 bis Chemin de la Carcarie, Rond point de Servies, Serviers-et-Labaume. Tel. (33) 4-66-20-48-99