High in the hills above the tourist towns of the Cote d’Azur sits the village of Gorbio. It’s as picturesque as any of the tourist spots, but there’s something different about Gorbio, and there’s a restaurant here that just sums it up.
Peeping out from the majesty of the French Alps, just a quick drive from the coast of the Riviera, is a little town you’ve probably never heard of. But for its 300 or so residents, Gorbio is as full of real life as the town of Menton 8km southeast or Nice 18km to the southwest.
And hidden down its narrow, cobbled streets is a restaurant that epitomises this beautiful little typically au Francais town. In fact, if it were anywhere else but the South of France, you’d think this place was twee and clichéd.
However, this is the setting for one of those great travel food experiences that will stay with me forever.
Where to eat in the South of France – Restaurant le Beau Séjour, Gorbio
Like every French village, there’s the bar as you come up the hill where everybody stops in any time of the day for a coffee or a glass of Provencal rosé.
But across the square, past the 300-year-old tree, which has its own annual festival by the way, you’ll find the real reason to visit Gorbio.
Hidden behind the wall clad in beautiful jasmine you’ll find Restaurant le Beau Séjour. It’s not completely secret (it has been awarded a Michelin Plate) and this restaurant has been run by the same family for four generations. And in fact it’s entering its fifth generation at the moment.
As soon as I walked under the trailing arch of little white star-shaped flowers, the beauty inside this enchanting restaurant had me under its spell.
Coming from Australia, we have an abstract idea of what French style is. I can think of several restaurants in Australia that would love to replicate the feel that’s in this humble restaurant.
Part Paris flea market, part chateau with sweeping views across the village, Restaurant Beau Séjour gave me one of the best dining experiences I’ve had, and I am dreaming about going back.
Why was I in Gorbio?
I found out about this local secret through the incredible Jilly Bennett. She is a photographer who’s been living in this part of France for many years now and I had the honour of meeting her at Carla Coulson’s workshop last year.
When Jilly offered to show me around her village, I was on the next plane to go and see her. Thankfully there are plenty of flights from London to Nice, and there’s a shuttle service from the airport to Menton and a local bus to Gorbio… or you can hire a car of course!
What to eat at Restaurant le Beau Séjour
You can choose from the a la carte menu, but Jilly and I chose from the set menu. I loved it, plus it was incredible value.
With our prosecco, we tried a tapenade with radishes, and a petit pois and basil soup. This was just an amuse bouche but could have been its own course.
You must order the ‘farindole’ as it’s the best way to experience the true local dishes of the region. This entrée is a tasting plate full of local specialties, including aubergine fritters and edible flowers.
For the main, I ordered pavé de boeuf, which was sublime.
The dessert du jour was a classic crème brulee with vanilla and a coconut tiramisu.
And it would just be wrong to not sample their homemade limoncello, made from Menton lemons, which are the pride of the area.
When to go to Restaurant le Beau Séjour
The best time to visit Restaurant le Beau Séjour is at lunch for their special three course menu.
The menu prix fixe in France is a tradition, but book early here because you can only have this special lunch between 12 and 2. You want to make time to relax and enjoy the surroundings; it’s an absolute feast with the eyes inside.
The walls are decorated with vintage photographs of the family and from the local village. Carefully selected antiques adorn the fireplace, the shelves and any surface you can find.
I couldn’t stop looking around and I only came back to my table in time to try their signature cocktails. I highly recommend their violet-scented prosecco, of course all made locally and in house.
If you’re lucky you might even see Buchette the basset hound and Galinette the shih tzu that are hiding around. And if Quentin isn’t away in Japan playing in his band, he’s playing the perfect host here in Gorbio.
These photos are just a snapshot of what I experienced here but I really can’t tell you strongly enough to book a flight and head to Gorbio. This small village in the clouds above Menton is a place where I’ve left a piece of my heart.
15 Place del la Republique
Lunch menu 29 euros, please note, they do not accept credit cards
If you enjoyed this story from our time in the South of France, you should really check out our other articles of this beautiful region:
Have you been to the South of France? Do you have any secret food spots you’re willing to share? Tell us in the comments! Oh, and make sure you check out Jilly’s beautiful site here too.