Report on Le Castelas, Sivergues- July 2013
A report back from my short trip in Luberon from this thread
I'm not very good at writing a review, but I do hope this will be sufficient for anyone who's wondering what's happened to Le Castelas in Sivergues. WARNING...this is very long :)
Even though I had read many lovely reviews about this place, the whole experience and the atmosphere at this place still exceed my expectation (and I am generally quite sceptical about...well, everything). Mind you it is not the most delicate, mind blowing flavours in the world, but since to me eating a meal is about a whole experience, this place was my idea of heaven.
After failing to book a dinner for Thursday night last week at Le Castelas, I have decided to go there for a friday dinner instead, at a cost of cancelling a dinner with a bride-to-be friend and the prospect of driving back to Sisteron (1.5hr trip) after this dinner.
After visiting Apt (to kill sometime before dinner), we drove for around 20 minutes before reaching Sivergues. This is has to be smallest village I have ever seen in my life!, there are only few buildings dotted around. The way up was steep and windy, but definitely not as scary as I have expected. Having a confident driver boyfriend did help. We reached what seems like the end (or centre) of the village at an old stone house. There were no one and no sign to be seen. Thanks to Parigi and Boredough from my previous post, who has described in good details to take the dirt road (on the right side when facing the house), we ventured on.
After few minutes’ drive up the road we came up to a large clearing on the top with some fencing to our right and a large rustic sign ahead, we were confident we have reached our destination. It was 7pm......very early as I would found out later!
Again, no sign of human insight, we drove into the drive way up toward the large farmhouse and park in a clearing on the right next to the only car we've seen around. Not sure if it is ok to leave the car there so I got out to find somebody to ask.
Series of long tables are set up in front of the farmhouse, nicely laid out as if expecting a big banquette feast! After being stunned by the view for a few seconds, I finally found some life signs in the kitchen, 2 girls and an old man preparing some grilled peppers, none of whom spoke any English. I attempted a few times with my driving gesture before the old man gave up and went to call somebody out. A younger man came out (which I now realise must be Gianni) and after seeing my car he wiggled his finger saying “no..no” and point toward outside the gate. Fair enough, I think he meant park outside, at least now we know!
I wasn’t sure he knew I was there for dinner or just a lost tourist looking for way out. No one else came out to speak to us and there were no other diners (nor animals) to be seen! Anyway we sat on a bench underneath a big tree and enjoyed the splendid view. We only got slightly worried after half an hr. So I walked up toward the tables and claimed, in my opinion, what is the best seat with the best view!
Funny enough as soon as our bottoms touched the seats, a jug of water and a jug of rose appeared on our table...so quickly I hardly noticed the hand that served it!
It was close to 8pm when I heard sound of cars and suddenly everyone just turned up! almost all at the same time and by 8.15pm the farmhouse was buzzing with people of all ages, in singles, in pairs and in massive groups. A group of 4 slightly elderly diners decided to take seats next to us and immediately introduced themselves and questioned who we were. Friendly and chatty I knew this meal is going to be good fun. They were all German (with some who lives in Menerbres). Next to them were some British and a large group of young, pretty French girls.
Still no sign of animals....I took a sneak peek inside what looks like an animal shed, it smells like animal but I couldn’t really see anything.
Finally food came out; a wooden board of cured ham, bowl of olives, tapenade and baskets of bread were set on the table. Truly rustic and wholesome, just the way I like it. As I was busying taking photos of the food and the view, next thing I know my plate was full! The lovely German lady has decided to take a role of a mummy on the table and make sure throughout the whole meal that I have plenty of food on my plate :) Oh and there was also some peppers dish but that didn’t get pass on to me
Lots of chatter and laughter as the sun was setting. The whole atmosphere was so magical and quite surreal to me. I have always loved the idea of everyone eating together, sharing platters and ...stuffing our face of course. Just before the main course came out, I heard children screamed in delight and there it was Gianni with a baby goat in his arm. Lots of photos were taken, and I yet to spot any other animals around. The German lady on my table said last time she was here, after the sun set and it gets dark, other animals came out; horse, fox, goats and cat. I hope it was recent because that night I only saw one baby goat. My forever sceptical partner wondered was it all for show -_-“
Then main course arrived and everyone clapped as 2 guys carried a large roasting tin with roasted pork out of the kitchen. Gianni did the carving while posing for photos at the same time. I thought the pork tasted lovely but was a little tough. But then again this is rustic cooking and we are here for the experience. Potatoes were cooked with thick slap of pork skin and fat, it was so wonderful I really which I could ask for a recipe. Red wines started to flow out and everyone seemed very content.
Next were cheeses which came out in a very large long wooden board it took two guys to carry. Lovely variation of goat cheeses, from young and fresh to mature and quite strong and some honey ofcourse. More wine, more bread, and my plates kept getting filled up by this German lady.
It was getting late, almost 10pm and sadly we had to leave before dessert. We had to reach Sisteron before 11.30pm (the bride-to-be was waiting up for us, it was a night before her wedding). We got up to pay and said bye to everyone......moaning in my heart for the desserts we had missed.
It was dark by the time we leave but the drive down went smoothly, again not as scary as I had expected!
I hope this is not far too long to read :) and helpful to anyone who’s planning to visit soon!
Next day was my birthday and so I had to say this is the best birthday meal I could have asked for....
It's only the least i can do for all the helps I got from ppl from on this forum :) and great fun to write and re-living it a bit now that I am back in depressing London (the weather is anyway)
I must check out this Auberge in Ardeche at some point then. Will shout out when i plan my trip next ;) This is truly my fav kind of dining. I had expected French food scene to be quite a contrast to Italian with the glam and all, but to know that the good old rustic, honest, cooking-mama-way still hold its own in this country so famous for its sophisticated gastronomy, is so delightfully surprising!
Thanks for the thorough report. For the record, the friendly gentleman in the hat (server/carver) is Gianni's nephew Leonardo. He is supposedly going to move back to Sardinia after this year. I'm very disappointed in the lack of animals, although I've just heard from friends who claim they recently "dined with goats" (plural); other neighbors had lunch there without any animals at all. :-(
Oh so I didn't quite spot Gianni after all. His nephew seems to be the only obviously-Italian to me :) I really wish I speak the language. Leonardo did try to speak to us, he asked if we spoke any French? Italian? German? to our disgrace we had to say "no".....we find it a little embarrassing, we must have been the only single-language people around the table! (Well I also speak Thai but that really is not quite as useful isn't it)
Re animals ......may be they really do come out after dark....the baby goat I saw must have his mummy around somewhere......I hope.
We feel very grateful when people report back, whether the experience is positive or not. All the reporting back is what updates the info, otherwise this board is useless.
It was indeed much fun when the goats made their appearance and some jumped on our bench, but they are not a chorus line trained to give us dinner entertainment, so I wouldn't worry too much about their not making an appearance for us. :)
We ate at le Castelas last night and were pleasantly surprised. There were 20-30 goats (of all sizes) hanging around, completely captivating the 2 children in our party. Apparently this was just our (good) luck of the draw, since there is no guarantee that the goats will be visiting at mealtime. There was also entertainment in the form of 3 guitar players (blues, pop) who started playing around dessert time - something we'd never seen before at le Castelas. As for the food, it was the same as before (cured/dried ham, roasted peppers, eggplant caviar, followed by delicious roast pig with lots of crackling, cheese platter) with a dessert that was a fresh fruit platter, a change of pace from the old chocolate concoction...
Gianni was there this time (along with nephew Leonardo) and took charge of milking one of the goats. Maybe he's regained his interest in the place, now that it's been written up in le Figaro Magazine. As a side note, the beginning of the road that starts at the Mairie has now been paved (due to the apparent future construction plans for something along that route). Our excitement (for the bottom of our car) quickly came to an end when the road reverted to rocky dirt, but most of the worst part has been eliminated.