Five days/nights in Aix en Provence
Hi, We are renting an apartment for 5 days and nights (Sat thru Thur morn) in Aix en Provence during the first week of May. We'll be traveling to Avignon, Chateanuef de Pape, Luberon area, and Cassis. Would you be able to recommend any good restaurants in or near Aix and around in the above areas? We'll also have a kitchen and I'd love to be able to cook a meal. Are there any other markets in Aix other than the one on Thursday? Thank you all so much.
We stayed ina villa in the Luberon area for a week last October. We cooked a lot (mostly ate lunches out, then did diners in so we weren't driving around the mountains drunk!), and what was great is that each day of the week different villages host a market. So we got to explore different towns every day as we grocery-shopped. Look for a schedule, but on Sundays the Isle-sur-la-Sorgue market is the huge and lots of fun. We also enjoyed the one at Bonnieux.
One of the best meals we had on the entire trip (besides the Michelin-starred extravaganza at Restaurant Edouard Loubet in Bonnieux...) was a lunch at La Fourchette in Avignon. Beautiful Daube Provençal, and a grilled whole fish served with neon-green olive oil, plus grinders for nutmeg and Szechuan peppercorns, all of which made for a glorious combo on the flaky fish.
Sounds like you have a good strategy, staying centrally in Aix but planning to get out and expolore each day & enjoying lunch at a restaurant and making dinner in your kitchen. We followed this same strategy with a group of 3 couples staying at a villa near Les Beaux and it was perfect.
You must go to Villa Maddie in Cassis. This restaurant opened last summer and has by far the best table and the best view in Cassis. The chef and sommelier are both from top Paris restaurants and have created something very special. This was one of the highlights from a 15 day eating and drinking tour of France last September, which also included several 2/3 star Michelin meals. After lunch take a tour of the adjacent Clos de Madelleine, the best vineyard in the area. Also worth visiting a few of the excellent vineyards in nearby Bandol, to taste and purchase some of the best reds to be found in France.
In Lourmarin I strongly recommend Auberge La Feniere for an excellent lunch at chef Rene Sammut's farm just outside of town. This time of the year you will be dining on the beautiful outside patio overlooking the gardens and nearby hills. You will be wowed with the cuisine from one of the best female chefs in all of France.
On Wednesday, take a drive into St. Remy for the morning market and then drive a few miles down the road to the small town of Paradou for lunch at Le Bistrot de Paradou. The St. Remy market is a great place to purchase the ingredients for that nights dinner-ask the restaurant to put your perishables in their cooler during lunch. The fixed menu changes every day and you will never be disapointed. It is a small, unpretentious restaurant that has many devotees, including Peter Mayle and Patricia Wells, but it remains the same as it has always been. A remarkable bargain, considering that all wine, apperitifs, and coffee is included in the fixed price, you will only be disappointed if you don't make a reservation and get turned away. This is a perfect slice of Provence.
On the drive to Chateaunuef de Pape, a very good lunch can be found at the Michelin starred Auberge de Cassagne in Le Pontet, just off the autoroute north east of Avignon. One of the largest of the winemakers in Chateaunuef de Pape is Chateau Mont-Redon who have a nice tasting area and very warm welcome. It is a good idea to call ahead. Best of all they have available to purchase many older vintages, so you can understand what all the fuss is about in a 10-20 year old Chateaunuef de Pape. We purchased a magnum of 1978 and 1972 and enjoyed them the next night with grilled Sisteron lamb-an unforgettable meal.
Enjoy your time in Provence!
We also really enjoyed La Fourcette in Avignon, which was our base for exploring Provence, for its traditional provencal fare done perfectly. Book ahead for a seat by the window.
Numero 75 (Le 75, rue Guillaume Puy), recommended by our hosts at the maison d'hotes Lumani, was also a favourite. Innovative dishes using the freshest ingedients in a beautiful old buliding near an old water wheel.