Eating and drinking in Montpellier is a real pleasure for the discerning gastronome. The climate on the Mediterranean coast means that dining al fresco is possible for at least eight months of the year, and there are few French cities that offer such a scenic setting for a meal in the open air. Squares lined with ancient architecture, boulevards festooned with plane trees, and a backdrop of balustraded buildings are a few of the sights you can expect as part of your dining experience in Montpellier.
There are so many wonderful places to eat you'll be spoiled for choice. Whether you opt for a brasserie on the banks of the river Lez, a traditional eatery within the historic old town, or a chic, modern restaurant in the Antigone district, you'll discover the quality of the food, and the expertise that's goes into creating it, is exceptional.
While you're getting your bearings around town, the Place de la Comédie is a sensible starting place to peruse what's on offer. Try an aperitif at the Greyhound Pub. It mightn't sound particularly French, but it has a huge choice of beers and offers a great vantage point to see which eateries are most popular.
Grande Café Riche is an old-world brasserie, offering value for money and a menu promoting all the solid French staples. The coffee is excellent and the place is packed when the nearby cinema Gaumont finishes in the evening. Bear in mind, because it's so popular, service can be slow. Don't neglect the side streets off the square where you may find better value for money. The compact and bijoux La Girafe is a popular haunt with locals.
Elsewhere, on boulevard Louis Blanc, Play Food is a bit different from your typical Montpellier restaurant. The food here is served in small portions in shot glasses known as verrines - a good way to try many dishes at one sitting. Don't be surprised if the chef, John-Daniel, comes over for a chat. The desserts are famous too. Some customers come from other restaurants just to have afters here.
Divine Et Sens is an eclectic restaurant offering great value via its set menus. The oysters are a speciality. You'll find it at Impasse Periér off rue Foch. La Diligence at place Pétrarque, between Place de la Comédie and Place de la Préfecture, is another city institution that's well worth your time. The focus here is on nouvelle cuisine, consumed within the elegant confines of a listed 14th-century building.
For Michelin-star dining, it's hard to fault Le Jardin des Sens with its vast dining room and prices to match. The hotel here comes highly recommended.
It doesn't get more traditional than Les Bains de Montpellier. With a menu concentrating on fish and seafood, like so many eateries in Montpellier, it's another wonderful place for outside dining with its delightfully intimate courtyard.
What to eat
Montpellier dishes make the most of local ingredients such as olives, chestnuts and ceps. Goat's cheese is popular, and fougasse bread will often be brought to your table. Of course, Montpellier's proximity to the Med means that seafood makes it onto many Montpellier menus. For the freshest, visit Chez la Tchèpe in nearby Bouziques. If phoning in advance, be sure to reserve a table outside. Like so many places in Montpellier, the view is just as tantalising as the food.