Écusson is the oldest and most central part of Montpellier. The Haussmannian Rue Foch, the curved backbone of the area leading to the bustling Place de la Comédie, is intersected by countless winding roads. The maze-like network of tiny streets might leave you in a spin but this guide to Écusson’s best restaurants will put you on the straight and narrow when it comes to finding a bite to eat.
Housed in a stunning 14th century listed building, La Diligence has been serving traditional French cuisine for 40 years. The gothic-inspired decor of chandeliers, the stone walls and velvet-upholstered chairs make you feel as though you’ve stepped back in time, and the original vaulted ceilings only add to the effect. There are four menus to choose from – opt for the ‘discovery’ menu for a little of everything, including the Mediterranean mackerel fillet with artichoke barigoule, cockles and Montpellier butter. For the ultimate fine dining experience splash out on the ‘degustation’ menu – each meal comes with a specially selected regional wine.
Restaurant exterior | Courtesy of Le Petit Bistrot
Le Petit Bistrot
Nestled in the heart of the old town, this cozy brasserie is popular with tourists and locals alike. The manager- who is also the chef will go out of his way to ensure that you have an enjoyable dining experience that won’t break the bank. In addition, the small but expertly crafted menu consisting of locally sourced, seasonal produce makes it easy to see why Le Petit Bistrot has attracted something of a cult following since its opening in 2008. As the name suggests, Le Petit Bistro isn’t huge, so arrive early or book in advance to avoid disappointment.
This fun and quirky restaurant is just a stone’s throw from the picturesque Esplanade Charles de Gaulle. The only one of its kind in Montpellier, Playfood has been nicknamed the ‘verrines’ restaurant, a verrine being a small glass containing a unique and imaginative ‘dish’. This gimmicky concept allows you to mix and match hot and cold, and sweet and savory dishes. Pick the verrines you want out of a selection of 20 (or ask the staff for inspiration) and enjoy, knowing all the while that, here, you’ll not be scolded for playing with your food.
Contrary to what its name might suggest, Le Petit Jardin, nestled in a corner of Écusson near the Saint Pierre cathedral, is surprisingly large. It has three dining rooms, a terrace and extra seating dotted around the Florentine garden. The main restaurant offers a menu which emphasizes fresh seasonal produce from local suppliers while the smaller bistro next door – ‘The Bar’ – has smaller dishes inspired by world cuisine. The fresh and tasty food on offer is undoubtedly good, but it is the restaurant’s beautiful scenery and picturesque surroundings which really make it worth the visit.
This inexpensive and cheerful food joint is improving the humble burger’s reputation among the food-savvy French, one delicious burger at a time. Matt’burger might be a far cry from gourmet cuisine, but, thanks to its locally-sourced meat, its wide selection of toppings and freshly baked bread buns from the boulangerie next door, its inclusion here is well deserved. Choose from the five burgers on the menu or build your own from the list of over 20 extra toppings. Aside from additional garnishes, the succulent beef, ground on site, makes Matt’Burger a world away from your average McDo.
Like so many of Montpellier’s best dining establishments, this gourmet restaurant is nestled away in the heart of Écusson’s labyrinthine network of winding streets. The mouth-watering menu, expertly created by chef and wine connoisseur Thierry Germain, is centered on quality products from Montpellier and its surrounding areas, from Camargue beef and Provence lamb to wild fish fresh from the Mediterranean. To accompany the dishes, a large variety of wines from Languedoc vineyards (plus a few favorites from further afield) have been carefully chosen to complement the succulent flavors.
On the far side of the imposing Préfecture de l’Herault lies this charming restaurant, offering a little taste of South America right in the center of Écusson. The two owner’s passion for Argentinian cuisine is palpable and the eponymous empanadas (a traditional Argentinian dish made of a semi-circle pouch of pastry stuffed with an assortment of fillings) attract a faithful following of regulars. The menu – consisting of eight empanadas and a few salads – isn’t huge but here quality definitely takes precedent over quantity, and at only €3.50 a pop you can – and should – sample a few.
Dine in style in this charming family-run restaurant in the center of Écusson. With its relaxing and intimate atmosphere, L’idée Saveurs is the perfect destination for a romantic tête-à-tête or a laidback evening with friends. The innovative menu includes unorthodox blends of flavors and spices, and unusual combinations of produce from the land and from the sea, but always to great effect. A word of warning – L’idée Saveurs is habitually (and unsurprisingly) voted the best restaurant in Montpellier and is often fully booked weeks in advance, so be sure to reserve a table early to sample this Montpellier institution.
French and Thai cuisine come together in the cross-cultural culinary experience offered in Les Petits Siamois. Ancient Thai cooking techniques deliciously come to life in a stylish location whose enchanting decor and aromatic plants filling the small space will transport you, albeit temporarily, to ancient Siam. The ever-changing menu, revised seasonally, allows you to discover the exotic flavors of Thai cuisine. Don’t panic if you’re not a lover of all things spicy – the chefs will alter your meal depending on how hot (or not) you want your food. And if you like what you see here, try their sister restaurants in Lyon.
No list of the best restaurants in a given French town would be complete without a healthy dose of cheese, and La Fine Mouche delivers just that. An unusual combination of cheese shop, bar and restaurant, this unique establishment provides a selection of platters comprising quality artisan cheeses. Accompaniments of vegetables, fresh and dried fruits, and charcuterie, as well as a large selection of regional wines, locally brewed beers and freshly made fruit juices complete the meal. If there’s anything that particularly takes your fancy just step next door to the fromagerie where you can purchase the cheeses that you’ve tried.