My year in France - Provence (Cafe Veranda, Le Fournil, Le Gourmet, L'Arome, La Bartavelle)
Cafe Veranda, Menerbes 6/10
This is a great little restaurant with friendly waiters, a fun atmosphere and wonderful, simple food. It's nice to sit outside if you can. The lamb main course was one of the best I have ever tasted, as good as lamb gets. We went back here a second time, when the food was less successful, but again we received a very friendly welcome and it was an enjoyable night regardless. The chef emerged from the kitchen to greet his customers both nights.
['spring roll' stuffed with diced shrimp, scallop and fine beans, confit tomato sauce; slow-cooked, de-boned lamb shank with red wine reduction, mashed potato and roast tomato; millefeuille with raspberries and vanilla cream]
[courgette flower stuffed with salmon soufflé, mushroom soup; calf sweetbreads with red wine reduction, mashed potato, roast tomato and asparagus; rum baba with whipped cream and raspberry jelly]
Le Fournil, Bonnieux 5/10
This meal was fine, but a little disappointing as the restaurant comes highly recommended. The setting is beautiful and it’s a lovely way to pass a warm evening, drinking a chilled local rosé and watching the sun set. As for the food, the vegetable starter was a little bland, and the duck main was rather small, a bit chewy and paired with turnips that had no taste. Dessert was very good though, with a honey and lavender madeleine that was exceptional.
[tomato gazpacho; sauteed ceps wrapped in grilled aubergine; duck breast with cherry chutney and confit turnip; honey parfait with cream, raspberry sauce and honey and lavender madeleine] (5/10)
Le Gourmet, Gargas 6/10
This restaurant is situated in a very fine hotel (at which we did not stay), and we spent a lovely moment pre-dinner sipping an aperitif looking out over the beautiful scenery. We dined outside on the terrace, from which this view was still visible, which created a lovely atmosphere as the sun set. For me the food was just fine, with some little glimpses of brilliance (e.g. the mackerel, parmesan biscuit and ratatouille). There were a couple of missteps though (e.g. the cherry sorbet with the white asparagus melted into the warm maltese sauce and the result was a rather unpleasant and confused half-warm, half-cold, half-sweet, half-savoury soup). The price was pretty reasonable for such an expensive hotel.
[garlic waffle; beetroot mousse with cured salmon; white asparagus in maltese sauce with diced cherries and cherry sorbet; langoustine carpaccio marinated in apricot juice with diced apricot and shot of apricot and ceylan tea; parmesan biscuit with mini ratatouille, mi-cuit mackerel and basil; saddle of rabbit stuffed with sage, grilled Mediterranean vegetables (courgette, spring onion, garlic and potato) in red wine jus sauce with fresh rosemary; dessert selection: rum baba with raspberry jelly and vanilla mousse; chocolate moelleux with vanilla ice-cream; mint ice cream with lavender biscuit]
L’Arome, Bonnieux 5/10
This was another satisfactory meal, with good, simple food. My slow cooked pork could have been heavenly, but somehow managed to be a little dry. The crème brulee dessert was wonderful. There are only a small number of tables outside, but there is not really any view to speak of when sitting on the terrace.
[cucumber gazpacho with feta cheese; diced tomato on parmesan biscuit, mozzarella paste, shot of cold tomato soup, basil pesto; slow cooked confit pork in red wine sauce with mashed potato, carrot, figs poached in red wine and cinnamon, roast tomato; crème brulee with shot of honey milkshake]
La Bartavelle, Goult 7/10
For me, this was the meal of the trip. This is exactly the type of food I love: simple, fresh, clean and light. My starter was pretty much a range of cold vegetables on a plate, which sounds unremarkable, but I still think about this dish and how good it was. It takes real confidence and excellent produce to serve up something like this successfully. Similarly, my dessert was just some fresh peach with ice cream, but again the most wonderful sweet peach made this a lovely, refreshing and memorable dessert. The black olives served with my veal main were the best I have ever tasted, although for me the veal was the slightest touch overcooked, and the accompanying aubergine and tomato was a little bland. The only slight bloth on an otherwise excellent meal. Service was good and prices were very reasonable. I would go back here in an instant.
[crème fraiche with chives, smoked haddock and diced mushroom; cold vegetable salad with green and yellow courgettes, artichoke, pear, asparagus, fine beans, tomato, basil pesto and parmesan and tomato puree; veal with confit black olives in reduced cooking jus, roasted aubergine with diced tomato; peach salad marinated in raspberry juice with raspberry ripple ice cream]
Thank you so much for reporting back. And such a spot-on take.
Once upon a time, and about 20 euro ago, Le Fournil was a pleasant village bistro. Then it became chic and upped the dinner menu to 50 euro, mysteriously without any upgrade in quality. 50 euro! What's that about. The heavenly 2-star Rabanel's lunch menu is 55!
And Bartavelle in Goult, after Rabanel is probably my fave restaurant in Provence. Bartavelle's dishes epitomize the best of Provence for me: the lightness, the rightness, the slapdash elegance.
Thank you again.