It’s an odd fact that good restaurants turn up in clusters. You’ll go through town after village with nothing much to recommend it, then, suddenly, like London buses, 2 or 3 come along together, and it’s difficult to choose which to hop into.
In the centre of the Var just such a quandary crops up in two market towns, less than 5 km’s apart, on the RN7.
Les Arcs is, at first view, a sprawling dormitory town for Draguignan – but venture a little further into its hidden centre and you discover the charming medieval bourg, crowned by its 11th century watchtower, the Logis de Guetteur. It’s a fabulous place, with dining rooms in the old cellars, and a wonderful terrace overlooking the pool, with terrific views over to the distant Maures mountains.
The imaginative menu starts at 39 euros, tempting you with dishes like creamy risotto with roast prawns in lobster sauce, or cod in a light aïoli with spring vegetables. This is a great place if you’ve just picked up guests from Nice airport, and want somewhere impressive to take a break on the way back.
I said there was a choice in Les Arcs, but the Logis du Guetteur, in my opinion, just wins over the nearby Relais des Moines – which, arguably, has even better food, but is much higher priced and nowhere near as atmospheric.
Vidauban is an attractive town, spoilt by the fact that it has long been a bottleneck-traffic jam for the RN7.
It has 2 really good restaurants, run by warring brothers, Christian and Alain Boeuf. Christian’s La Bastide des Magnans has a pretty dining rooms and an even prettier garden and serves light, Provençal dishes. La Concorde, owned by Alain – who is the better chef – is less to do with environment (it’s very comfortable, but a bit dark) and more to do with great food ideas and execution. I thought I’d have a tough time deciding which to choose until I recently revisited and saw they were slicing the (much needed) ringroad virtually through Christian’s garden. Alain must be secretly rubbing his floury hands – currently the bulldozer noise is terrible, and the drone of traffic will be even worse after it’s finished. It’ll certainly write off poor Christian’s outside terrace business.
So, by default, it’s smug Alain who wins my recommendation outright. Go in autumn when he presents his game menu – try the cabri, or, my favourite, the mallard. His simple formule, which locals flock in for, is €18.50, then, next up, is the Menu Pagnol at €29.50, with the star starter of a marmite des escargots et artichauts with an impressive puff pastry bonnet.
There’s a lot to explore around here and in the Haut Var, so you can easily make this into an enjoyable day out – over the hills and Var away, you could say...Juliet Young