Terrace at La Rencontre Sanary sur MerThe beaches and harbour front of Sanary sur Mer offer the best views, but it's in the pretty back streets of the Old Town that you'll find the dining bargains.

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La Rencontre doesn't claim to be a gastronomic restaurant but, when we visited, a number of diners were clearly regulars, a fact explained by the friendly service, the reasonable prices and, when our bill arrived, a card inviting us to join the loyalty programme: every tenth lunch free.

It's certainly one to bear in mind if you're staying in Sanary for several weeks - but also worth a look if you're only in town for the day.

The daily specials, chalked up on the blackboard, consist of two or three starters, mains and desserts, all slight variants on traditional favourites; as usual in French restaurants, there's a good-value lunch-time set menu.

No house wine was offered, but instead a short selection of wines by the glass that, when we visited, was surprisingly weak on local vintages: the whites, for instance, included a Burgundy and a Gaillac but none of the fabulous white wines from next-door Cassis. But that line-up may vary, of course.

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While we waited for our order, Sébastien Miraglio, La Rencontre's co-owner, brought us a free appetiser of very good, home-made tapenade, or black olive dip, which was coarsely ground with a nice crunchy texture and - this is all too rare in Provence  - not swimming in salt.

Starter at La Rencontre Sanary sur MerWe began the meal proper with émincé de poulet, thin strips of chicken breast accompanied by an unusual salad, pictured, including fruit.

Regrettably the pineapple tasted tinned, but the dish more than made up for that with some really delicious sun-dried tomatoes, again home-made, that were soft and chewy without being leathery. In the kitchen: Sébastien's partner, Laëtitia Sanglade.

The two main courses were both fine though a little disappointing compared to the meal so far. Bavette (skirt steak), a tasty cut that must be sliced thin and fried quickly, was too tough, while daurade (sea bream) was on the dry side and came accompanied by a vegetable flan spiked a little too enthusiastically with nutmeg.

We didn't try the desserts but the choice featured classics such as crème catalane, strawberries with chantilly cream and îles flottantes (soft meringue floating in vanilla custard). The coffee was superior.

La Rencontre has tables outside on the cobbled, pedestrianised street for warmer days while, inside, the dining room, lined with racks of wine, is compact and cosy in winter. Don't forget to check out the toilet, cutely concealed behind a wine barrel door.

Visited May 2013

Where: La Rencontre, 32 rue Siat Marcellan, 83110 Sanary sur Mer. Tel: (+33) 4 94 88 32 55 or (+33) 6 10 37 84 57




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