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La Telline, Restaurant and Chambre d'Hote, Villaveuve, the Camargue

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I need to thank Randy B for bringing this magical place to our attention. Jean-Paul grills the catches of the day in the fireplace of this converted house, stuff brought to him by his family of fishermen. It doesn't get simpler, fresher or better. A handful of wire grills and good product. The namesake Tellines are an addictive starter, a bowl containing at least a hundred of these tiny clam-like creatures in a thin aioli, just enough to coat. Another starter is the plate of lentil salad with a large marrow bone. Wow! From there, you can choose a whole sea bass or sole, served for two or more and priced by the 100gr, or a single fish or beef or bull steak. I chose eel: fabulous! Jean-Paul brought us a wonderful little white wine from several km away. Desserts were simple, riz au lait, a couple of tarts and an apple compote.

We were escorted to and from the dining room by a black lab who took his responsibilities very seriously. Our large room (in their home some 50 yards away from the restaurant) provided a very fine king-sized bed and great shower (neither of which is a given in French country stays). Breakfast in the mornings brought the usual things plus a warm house made brioche. Good orange juice and fine home made confitures.

We stayed two nights. Our bill was round 300€ for two nights and our dinner for 2. Jean-Paul and Florence are passionate hosts who take great pride and delight in their jewel-box of a restaurant. They are extraordinarily generous hosts.

The next night, we drove several km to La Chassagnette, a well regarded Michelin one star that is famous for its 100% bio products. We cannot recommend this restaurant for those who are familiar with the extraordinary vegetable treatments coming out of small kitchens in Paris today. I felt the menu was tired and the plates uninspired. Even the pigeon failed to get my attention. This is not a bad restaurant. But it is not one that I consider worth cashing a dinner opportunity. Next time, I will happily return to La Telline for a second sitting.

And again, many, many thanks to Randy.

 
 
 
 
 
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  1. Thanks mangeur, as usual with your recs, this goes into our future file. -- Jake

    1. Mangeur - sounds and looks great

      Website http://www.restaurantlatelline.fr/ is a bit short on details but does not say anything about chambre d'hote - is this seperate?

      It look like we'll be in the area for a rugby match towards the end of the month and want to find somewhere fine to eat and stay.

      2 Replies
      1. re: kerriar

        Kerriar, the chambre d'hote is next door to the restaurant, approachable by separate gate, south of the restaurant. I checked in at the restaurant and was shown how to get into the courtyard of their home and c.d.h. We stayed in the king bedded room which was large and comfortable.

        www.masdelaforge.fr

        To prevent your being as lost as we were, I'll clue you in on the easy access, which is somewhat counterintuitive. On leaving or circumventing Arles, take N570 south, direction Saintes Maries de la Mer. Stay on 570 past the turn off for Albaron. Almost immediately thereafter, turn left onto D37. Stay on 37 until you come to Villeveuve. Turn left into Villeneuve and find La Mas de la Forge and La Telline on the right, well signed at this point.

        You can also approach from the north (D36 + D36B through Gageron) as long as you understand that La Telline, despite its address, is nowhere near Gageron but south in Villenueve.

        1. re: mangeur

          Thanks - that's really great.

          Your guidance is appreciated.

          Spring is slow to arrive in Europe but the Camargue at the end of the month holds promise.

      2. You are very welcome. I'm glad it turned out so well. I'm hoping to be there in late May, after my birding course in the Camargue, like last year.

        1. Very sad to hear La Chassagnette was such a disappointment -- I've eaten lunch there twice (later in the year, in June) and enjoyed well-executed, zingy menus. They were certainly nothing like l'Arpège but some dishes were as good as what I've eaten at Spring or Septime, if a little simpler, and in a beautiful setting. Perhaps the restaurant has lost its touch or is a better value at lunchtime. Did it look like Armand Anal was in the kitchen that day, mangeur?

          1 Reply
          1. re: johannabanana

            I really don't know, Johanna. I think we have just become used to an entirely different style of food and service. LC was totally professional, and maybe that's the operative word. Professional but not passionate. Well prepared but not eye-poppingly creative or delicious.

          2. Mangeur, you did such a thorough job with both words and photos I have almost nothing to add after my stay at Mas de la Forge (name of the hotel) and dinner at La Telline two nights ago.

            Both the hotel and restaurant are still wonderful. I had the added benefit of a visit to my room by, and cuddle with, Mimi the cat.

            One the food side, the fish looked beautiful but were too large for me alone. I had the eel. It is fresh from the very local Vaccarès, a brackish (mixed salt and fresh) water pond. Simply grilled on the open fire and delicious.

            I would have to say breakfast was much more than "usual." Aside from what Mangeur mentioned, there was a warm, hard boiled egg and a yoghurt lightly flavored with tonka. The only other place I can ever remember using tonka with my knowledge is Jacques Genin the chocolatier.

            The owners are delightful. Note that there are only 5 tables, so please call if you have to cancel. Also, no credit cards. Cash or French bank checks.

            This was a bit over my usual budget for food and lodging when traveling alone but I felt it was definitely worth it.

            2 Replies
            1. re: RandyB

              Thanks for the reminder of the exquisite yogurt. It was cardamom kissed when we were there, and perhaps the best yogurt I've ever had. And, of course, housemade.

              Here is your buddy.

               
              1. re: mangeur

                Thanks for that photo! Now here's one of Jean-Paul in his "kitchen."

                 
            2. No pictures of our return visit last month since almost every detail remains the same. We were offered a larger room this visit, but the product and cooking remain as excellent as before. Same menu. We again ordered the tellines to start and a whole dorade to share between us. Same sparkling fresh green salad and Carmargue rice were only accompaniments. A very, very good rice pudding for dessert and a lovely white wine sourced just down the road.

              At breakfast, housemade brioche and what I would nominate as the best yogurt in France. Florence tattled that Jean-Paul adds a kiss of tonka bean. Whatever he does, it is like panna cotta.

              Again, Jean-Paul and Florence treat you as if they had been waiting all year for your visit. So hospitable and so generous. 'Til next year...

              11 Replies
              1. re: mangeur

                Brings back good memories. I had hope to visit this month again, but the annual ornithology course that takes me to the Camargue wasn't being given. Instead, I'll be coming to Paris next week.

                What is particularly interesting is your mention of adding tonka bean to the yoghurt. When last I was in Paris, I bought some tonka beans at G. Detout, the pastry supply shop. I confess I had no idea what to do with them. It just seemed like I should get some.

                I've only seen them used in chocolates, but I don't do my own chocolates. Now you've given me an idea of adding them to joghurt.

                1. re: RandyB

                  We were there for two nights just last week, and it was just as mangeur describes. They are both such lovely people. And yes! We both commented, the yogurt was the best we'd ever tasted. I will try to add some more comments, with pictures within the week. -- Jake

                  1. re: Jake Dear

                    I will try to add a few pictures now.

                    The first is the Chambre d'hote. The second is the walk from there, escorted by the black lab, to the restaurant. Third, the fish presented to us by Jean-Paul before grilling on the open fire place, just a few feet away. It was so good, we ordered the exact same thing the next night. (We were wavering on that -- thinking of having the bull -- but the decision was made for us when, sitting at the breakfast table next morning, a fisherman came through the door with his catch. How could we not have the fresh fish again?) The fourth picture is the dining room, taken after breakfast, which is itself served in another side / entrance room. At night the room is quite dark. Finally, the namesake Telline, which we also had two nights in a row. John-Paul and Florence were so lovely, and on request gave us a tour of their beautifully organized kitchen. We will happily return here. -- Jake

                     
                     
                     
                     
                     
                    1. re: Jake Dear

                      Nice representation.

                      This place is so simple yet magical that I think, Jake, we stop talking about it. We'll just keep it for you and us and not least Randy.

                  2. re: RandyB

                    (Randy, try as accent with lobster or prawns.)

                    1. re: mangeur

                      How? (That's a serious question.) Grind them in a nut grinder and saute in butter or sprinkle uncooked like pepper?

                      1. re: RandyB

                        i have had good results using them as a flavorful garnish, grating a them over a dish of raw scallops etc. Can be grated and added to a cooked dish. Think of a whiff of chocolate. Or steal blatantly from Olivier Roellinger's lobster with cocoa, chili pepper and Xérès sherry vinegar and substitute tonka for the cocoa.

                        1. re: mangeur

                          Good ideas. Thank you.

                          Just to get back on topic, sort of, I wonder if others have found restaurants in France making interesting use of tonka beans.

                          1. re: RandyB

                            Yes, Jean-Marc Notelet at Caïus makes a fantastic braised beef cheek in red wine with whole tonka beans. He probably serves it every once in a while. I have the recipe.

                            1. re: Ptipois

                              Hmmm. Listen for sounds of quiet footsteps stealthily sneaking up to your recipe file....

                              1. re: mangeur

                                It is on my blog actually, and I can't link to it here. But it is easy to search. I got there just typing "tonka".

                2. After a couple of years wanting to try this place, we finally did a couple of weeks ago. Our flight into Nimes that morning meant that we would have time to stop there for lunch before driving further West to our destination in Herault.

                  What a gorgeous place - we didn't meet the labrador, but we had an excellent lunch and I would love to go back - although our finances won't allow that to happen very often.

                  The starter of tellines was great - loads of them. My only initial gripe was that I always find aioli too overwhelming - I have a personal dislike of lots of raw garlic as it makes me feel ill. But after asking for a wedge of lemon it completely transformed the dish for me - I enjoyed every last one of them - really lovely.

                  We both had the fish gratin to follow, which looked very small, but was packed with fish and very filling. It came with wild rice and a bowl of pureed courgette and basil (I think - my memory fails me I ashamed to say).

                  The house wine - both red and white - are great.

                  We couldn't manage pudding, so waddled off happily to our car - 100 Euros lighter, so it was expensive, but we loved it. I would love to stay overnight next time - maybe if we have a morning flight back home from Nimes ...

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Theresa

                    So good to hear you liked it, Theresa. You can't eat more locally than at La Telline. The fish is brought in by a fisherman each day, the rice is from the Camargue, the wine from a couple of km down the road, the breakfast brioche house made, the yogurt is from the kitchen, the eggs from the chickens in the coop out near the gate.