By Peter Carnes
There are, quite literally, thousands of restaurants in Provence!
Over the past couple of decades we’ve tried to sample as many as humanly possible – but we are beginning to realize that we’ve hardly scraped the surface!
Here are some brief notes on just a selection of the restaurants we have eaten in (and enjoyed!) over the last few years.
Most of them are in the Vaucluse and Bouches-du-Rhone regions of Provence (our favorite stamping grounds), with just the occasional foray into the Var and the Alpes Maritimes.
Some (not all) of the restaurants have their own websites. These include photos, sample menus, wine lists, etc. One or two even have virtual tours and online reservation facilities.
Please be advised these are not casual, informal places. While gentlemen may not be expected to wear a jacket and tie (except at the Louis XV in Monaco) you may be looked at somewhat askance if you turn up in jeans and trainers. Aim for a smart casual look and you should be OK. And it’s always a good idea to telephone ahead to reserve a table.
The arrangement is alphabetical by location.
Le Clos de la Violette
Avenue de la Violette
Tel: 04 42 23 30 71
One of the best (and best-loved) restaurants in Provence, Le Clos has one Michelin star and serves exquisite cuisine prepared with skill and panache by the proprietor, Jean-Marc Banzo. Set in a quiet, residential corner of Aix, with an elegant terrace for summer dining, the food, wine and service are beyond reproach.
Rue de la Balance
Tel: 04 90 85 24 83
In his air-conditioned, contemporary restaurant in an arcade of shops not far from the palais des Papes, self-taught local chef Robert Brunel serves up a light, modern cuisine based around fresh local produce. Fish and vegetables predominate. Good value menus for both lunch and dinner.
Rue de Mons
Tel: 04 90 86 16 50
Beautifully sited alongside the palais des Papes, this elegant restaurant has one Michelin star and an enviable local reputation. The a la carte menu and several set-price options offer a wide choice of specialities, including lobster, truffles and the famous “all-tomato” menu in summer. Charming and professional service. Great food. Great local wines. Highly recommended.
Rue de la Republique
Tel: 04 90 86 17 07
A well-loved Avignon institution that has been serving businessmen and local families for over 60 years (although now under new management and with a new chef). It’s rather inconguously sited above a shop on Avignon’s main street, but don’t let that put you off. Prices are extremely reasonable, and the food is delicious and plentiful. A good place for Sunday lunch.
L’Oustau de Baumanière
Tel: 04 90 54 33 07
One of the jewels in the Provençal gastronomic crown, this is a truly world-class restaurant and hotel – with prices to match! It has two Michelin stars and an international clientele, and lunching or dining here, preferably on the beautiful terrace with the dramatic contours of Les Baux looming overhead, is an unforgettable, once-in-a-lifetime (if rather extravagant) experience.
La Cabro d’Or
Tel: 04 90 54 33 21
This charming hotel/restaurant is the younger and (slightly) cheaper sibling of the renowned L’Oustau de Baumaniere (see above), just along the road. The beautiful setting, superb food and attentive service all come highly recommended.
Bastide de Capelongue
Lieu dit Croupatiere
Tel: 04 90 75 89 78
After having made a name and enviable reputation for himself at the Moulin de Lourmarin, handsome super-chef Edouard Loubet has now moved a few kilometres along the road to this sumptuous hotel/restaurant in Bonnieux. Loubet’s cooking is as innovative and inventive as ever – and his two Michelin stars have swiftly followed him! Early reports are ecstatic.
Quai de Barthélemy
Tel: 04 42 01 74 32
There are plenty of fish and seafood restaurants along the colorful, bustling harbor of this delightful little town. This one is a little more sophisticated and up-market than most, with its bright Italianate decor, friendly staff, lovely food and superb local wines, all presided over by the charming, eagle-eyed, unflappable Bruno. You will find most of the classic fish and seafood dishes of Provence here: bouillabaisse, bourride, sea bass, sea bream, red mullet, gambas, etc. Definitely one of our personal favourites. Highly recommended. (Stop press: three superb state-of-the-art rooms with breathtaking views of the harbor and the sea cliffs beyond have just been added. Check out the web site for photos and details.)
Avenue de Verdun
Tel: 04 90 71 32 43
In his sumptuous restaurant in a rather anonymous town, Jean-Jacques Prévot serves up a range of elegant, inventive dishes. The town is famous for its melons, and these feature widely (and imaginatively) on the menu.
Le Bistrot d’Eygalières
Rue de la Republique
Tel: 04 90 90 60 34
A bit of a misnomer, this is hardly a bistro, but a decidedly upmarket restaurant serving superb food. Prices are quite reasonable for the range and quality of the food on offer, and the wine list is a veritable treasure-trove of local wines. (Stop Press: This restaurant has just been awarded its second Michelin star!)
L’ISLE SUR LA SORGUE:
Le Jardin du Quai
91 avenue Julien Guige
84800 L’Isle sur la Sorgue
Tel: 04 90 20 14 98
Young super-chef Daniel Hebet – who made such a name for himself at the luxurious Hotel de la Mirande in Avignon some years ago – has now set up shop in this delightful, antique-laden town. This is a much simpler, more informal place, but with the occasional haute cuisine flourish. Lovely, imaginative, market-fresh dishes with little (if any) choice. Four courses for about 40 euros. Don’t miss it!
(Look out for Part 2 of this article very shortly)
About the Author
This article has been adapted from the author’s web site dedicated to the food, wine, restaurants and recipes of Provence. You can check it out here: http://www.cafe-de-provence.com