Top places to eat black
truffles in Provence
Fall arrives quietly in Provence. Chanterelles (or girolles) and then cèpes (porcini) are the first fungi to appear in the markets, and they fill us with anticipation of another fungus—tuber melanosporum—the black truffle, still to come in the winter.
The northern part of the Vaucluse region of Provence sells over 70% of French truffles, also known as « black diamonds. » The « Perigord » truffle is a botanical designation, and the Perigord region itself only produces about 15% of French truffles. In fact many of the so-called « Perigord » truffles originate in Provence. Of course you will often find truffles on many restaurant menus here.
The following restaurants and bistros are among the very best places in France to enjoy this delicacy, and they serve delicious food through-out the year as well. Please note that the black truffle is rare, and production varies season to season. Accordingly the price is high, and fluctuates. Prices stated are an approximation. Truffle season begins in restaurants in early December, and ends in March, though sometimes truffle dishes are available throughout the year. Truffles are best beginning in January.
When calling from outside France, eliminate the (0). When calling from inside France on a French phone, eliminate the « +33 » but include the « 0 ».
Be sure to check the restaurant’s closing days on their website.
La Beaugravière, Mondragon, Northern Vaucluse.
La Beaugravière, with its legendary Rhône wine list and Lucullian truffle menus, is a family run place in Mondragon, a non-descript town on the N7 highway north of Orange. The restaurant is simple and needs updating but the warm welcome, extraordinary Rhône wine list and over-the-top truffle meals more than make up for it. Chef Guy Julien and his wife Tina are charming, and fun. There is a tree-shaded terrace for good weather dining and a large, welcoming fireplace for the fall and winter. The restaurant is very popular with locals, Americans and others in the wine business, and all wine lovers.
In winter the truffle menus attract clients from all over the world. Well-known American food writer and cooking instructor Patricia Wells brings her truffle cooking classes here so that they can experience the best. Wine critic Robert Parker writes that this is his favorite restaurant in the south of France; he ate here several times a year when he was working in the Rhône Valley. I have also run into the U.S. Ambassador to France here; his bulky black-garbed body guards looked so out of place hovering outside the restaurant in this tiny village.
You can have just one dish with truffles, or a four course menu with a starter and main course with truffles, or an entire tasting menu with truffles for only about €180. Truffles are served in very generous portions.
Though the restaurant specializes in Rhône wines and has the best Rhône list in the world, they have a very good selection of white Burgundies since these whites are well beloved by wine connaisseurs, and the Rhône doesn’t have a huge selection of outstanding whites. Service is a bit old-fashioned and very good. A meal here is comfortable and relaxing. The restaurant has a small hotel with 4 simple rooms, in case you are tempted to over consume.
+33 (0)4 90 40 82 54
RN7 north of Orange
Regular Menus at €32, €52 and €120; surcharge for truffles
Truffle menus approximately €120– €180, plus à la carte truffle dishes
Closed Sunday evening & Monday all day
L’Oustalet, Center of village, Gigondas
Purchased and re-decorated in 2010 by the well-known Perrin Family of Château Beaucastel, L’Oustalet is a top place to eat in the northern Vaucluse region. It has a romantic setting in a nicely restored historic house in the village center; in good weather you can enjoy lunch or dinner outside under the plane trees; everyone adores the setting in the village square. Refined cuisine, good selection of local wines, and very good, polished service are the hallmarks of L’Oustalet.
Meals are beautifully served and the tables are lovely. Wine service is excellent and a menu paired with delicious wines is available. As is often the case in Provence, there are often only two selections for each course on menu, but you can order à la carte. The truffle dishes are exquisite but not over-the-top. The restaurant bought the wine cellar of a bankrupt restaurant with a great “cave” in Châteauneuf-du-Pape so the wine selection is stellar.
Food and wines can be pricey. This place gets excellent press, partly because it belongs to the Perrins, though the restaurant is a favorite of many locals.
+33 (0)4 90 65 85 30
Place du Village, 84190 Gigondas
Truffle menu 2017: menus are €78 to €136, plus à la carte; other menus without truffles are €42 and €46.
The family has elegant rooms in the village, please see here. They also have a small wine bar, Nez! Bar à vins! just behind L’Oustalet, which also serves bistro food at lunch. (€19.5 starter, main, dessert.) Evenings feature wine and tapas, occasionally some special truffle treats.
Open Monday-Friday. +33 (0)4 90 28 99 59
Chez Serge, Carpentras, northern Vaucluse.
Chez Serge, well-known for truffle meals, is a very good bistro in the historic part of Carpentras. Serge (Serge Ghoukassian, the owner) offers Provencal and Italian food, and is well known for his savory pizzas and truffles in season. Serge has an excellent wine list; he was given France’s highest wine related honor–the title Sommelier of the Year in 2008 –for his in-depth knowledge of French wines. Chez Serge is known for its friendly and relaxed service and is also a great gathering place for local winemakers. There is a €17/€19 lunch offered every day, and it is always quite delicious.
On Thursday evenings during the winter months Chez Serge offers a “Wine and Truffle” event at €97 (including wine); the evening includes an “apèro” in the courtyard, starting at 7:30 with the featured winemaker/owner who may come from all over the Rhône Valley, followed by an excellent multi-course dinner. I have personally enjoyed many of the wine and truffle evenings, including meeting winemakers from Condrieu, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, and the Northern Rhône.
Check the website for these special dinners throughout the year. You can also get a great truffle omelette or truffle pasta meal at lunch or dinner for about €25; there is a €59 3-course truffle menu available at dinner. Of course Serge has a remarkable selection of wines at very reasonable prices. The food is always a very good value.
90, rue Cottier, behind “LA Poste”–the Post Office—in Carpentras. it can be difficult to find.
Park at the Allée des Platanes, the big parking lot under the plane trees; then look for the Poste
+33 (0)4 90 63 21 24
Open daily, 7 days a week for lunch and dinner.
Locals’ Secret : Truffle Omelette at the Richerenches Truffle Market, Vaucluse, Northern Provence
Richerenches, in northern Provence, hosts the biggest truffle market in France; it is held on Saturday mornings, starting the third Saturday in November until the end of March. On many of these Saturdays school associations in Richerenches hold a « Truffle Omelette » lunch, for the amazing price of only €21 per person. It is held in a very nice, modern village meeting hall, with seating on long, communal tables, and provides a warm and welcoming atmosphere to meet the locals and enjoy the regional specialty. You can combine a visit to the market with lunch afterwards.
Your meal will include an aperitif, 3 egg omelette with a generous 10 grams of truffle, salad, cheese, dessert, and all the Côtes du Rhône wine you can drink. Best to reserve in advance if you don’t want to be dissappointed.
I took well-known author Marjorie Williams, of « Markets of Provence », to the market. She greatly enjoyed her visit here, topped off with the truffle lunch and serenaded by an oompah band. Read about her visit to the market and lunch.
Salles des Fêtes (located on the main street, next to L’Escapade cafe.)
Reservations taken at Tourist Office : +33 (0)4 90 28 05 34
Check the schedule for meals, and reserve early!
O’Rabasse, Richerenches, Vaucluse (Northern Provence)
O’Rabasse (« rabasse » is the Provencal term for « truffle ») is a small, classy bistro located right in the epicenter of the truffle producing region—the ancient Knights Templar village of Richerenches—which has the largest truffle market in France, and probably the largest in the world. The young Belgian owners, installed in the village a few years ago, are full of smiles, passion and talent. This bistro is their dream, and it shows. The food is creative and very well prepared, fresh from the market, some of the best bistro food in the region. Service can be a bit casual at times but it doesn’t take away from the overall experience.
The wine list is local and well priced, with Côtes-du-Rhône wines ranging from €20-€60 per bottle. A lunch menu with no choice is 25 euros (3 courses) or 31 euros (3 courses plus dessert.) Evening meals, with choices, are 31 and 37 euros.
Truffle meals: a two course meal starts at €55 (week-day lunch) and goes up to €65 and €80 for dinner. Check out the menus.
You can eat on the terrace in good weather, or in front of the fireplace during colder months. O’Rabasse is located inside the tiny, walled medieval village. Park outside the medieval village and walk in though the arched stone gate.
The restaurant received a Michelin « Bib Gourmand » in 2015, 2016 and 2017, indicating a great value–excellent food at a good price.
Place de la pompe
+33(0)9 52 97 34 93
Closed Tuesday, Wednesday, and also Mondays in winter.
Written by Sharon Derham