After picking up our rental car, we left Nice with take-away demi-baguettes of jambon et beurre from P. Bordonnat to eat on the road. Instead of driving directly to our destination of Bonnieux in the Luberon, we were stopping for one night in the village of Lorgues, the Var region of Haute-Provence, to eat at Bruno, the truffle restaurant. Lorgues is only 100 km from Nice, but MG likes to take the back roads, so it takes us twice as long to get anywhere. We spent the night at the charming Villa de Lorgues in the village. Bruno is a five minute drive from the village.
RESTAURANT BRUNO 2350 route des Arcs, Lorgues
Provincal mas specializing in truffles,1 Michelin star
Everything is larger than life at this Provencal mas - the man himself, the gracious welcome, the grounds, the décor, the truffles in every course... we enjoyed ourselves, but it can be a gut-buster if you're not careful.
The maître d' was very personable and enthusiastic about truffles, and he added a lot of humour and enjoyment to our evening. Bruno came around to each table and personally welcomed everyone, as did his wife later on.
Bruno's son is now the chef, and we were welcomed into the kitchen after dinner to meet him.
There are five menus ranging from a 5 course 69 euro, escalating to a deluxe "Les Grands Classique de la Maison 7 course 185 euro menu. Many of the dishes have been on the menu forever, as they are classic truffle pairings. Only the most brave could surrender to the Grands Classique!
We both had the 69 euro menu, as well as one shared 70 euro plate of shaved white truffles from Alba that were just coming in for the second week, which we ate along with the potato course. They were divine.
The meal began with a house aperitif based on rose wine, and an amuse of rabbit and foie gras on croustades, followed by:
Gateau of cepes and foie gras ,sauce Bordelaise a la truffle.
Une Pomme de Terre de la Maison Bruno, crème de truffle
Hommard Bleu roti; bisque; girolles roasted a l'ail et persil
Tarte aux Pommes, Caramel au beurre et Vanilla Bourbon glace
Everything was delicious and generous - the gateau of cepes and foie gras had the best Bordelaise sauce I've ever tasted, and the simple potato was something you have to eat yourself to understand how good it was. The lobster was perfectly cooked. The truffle ice-cream came in a large silver goblet and after a few bites, I was so overwhelmed with truffle taste, I had to go outside to get some fresh air. Couldn't eat the apple tart with caramel and vanilla ice creams, as just too full. MG finished all and was very happy.
Except for us Canadians, all the other tables were Europeans - French, Spanish, German, Italian and British. (And that maître d' spoke every language.) With a bottle of Roubine at 59 euros, and some Chateldon water, 284 euros for a grand truffle feast. Recommended for truffle lovers.
There are many wineries in the Haute-Provence of Var, and on leaving Lorgues, we stopped at CHATEAU MENTONE winery to taste and buy some of their biologique wines, most notably their Cotes de Provence Rose.
Based in the village of Bonnieux (thanks to those who recommended Le Clos du Buis guest house - we loved eating breakfast overlooking the valleys and hills- and appreciated their many homemade fig, almond, and quince cakes each morning; and also sitting in the back garden with a glass of wine in the afternoon), here is where we ate while in the Luberon:
LE FORNIL 5 place Carnot, Bonnieux
Great vibe in this very busy small bistro. Two efficient waiters with engaging style managed the entire dinner service, and we ate well here.
The two course formula is 39.70 euro, three course is 45.80.
We both started with a rabbit terrine garnished with raw shavings of beet, fennel, radish and cabbage. MG had Colvert with turnip confit and cider vinegar, and I had contre-filet of Charolaise beef with blette jus and frites.
All these dishes were well-made, great ingredients and plating.
MG chose the pineapple in basil syrup with madeleines for dessert.
With a bottle of Domaine de la Citadelle Les Artemes, 2009 Luberon at 29.30, and bottled water, 122.60 euro for two. Great value.
L'AROME 2 rue Lucien Blanc Bonnieux
Provencal cuisine, Michelin Bibb rating
This is a very popular restaurant, and receives good reviews, but our dinner was a disappointment. The plates were beautiful to look at, but some of the cooking was just off. I took the 31 euro three course menu which started with my choice of sardine tartlette. The pastry disc was as hard as a dog biscuit and impossible to cut. On top of this were raw cucumber slices wrapped around sardine paste. The cucumber was wet and soggy and made the sardine paste messy. Not good at all. Next course was Rabbit saddle with olives - too much salt ruined it. MG took the carte and had lobster risotto (18e) which was overcooked, followed by rack of lamb, (32e), which he did enjoy. I had a poached pear half stuffed with calissons and chocolate sauce. With a bottle of a 2010 La Citadelle Les Artemis at 34.50, total for two 120 euros. If the cooking was better, this could have been a good value.
LA BARTAVELLE rue de la Cheval Blanc, Goult
Provencal, regional ingredients
Our dinner here was extraordinary! This is the restaurant I have been searching for my whole life - seriously - if I lived nearby I would eat here so often, they would have to dedicate a table just for me. Lovely atmosphere and service. All of our courses were so well-crafted and flavourful. The passion is palpable from the chef to the plate. Chef's wife served us well, and brought us a glass of wine white from Goult to start, which was very good, 5 euros. With our 32 euro, three course menu we drank a Luberon red, Chateau La Verrerie at 32 euros.
The amuse was a perfect veloute of warm cauliflower, delivered by Chef.
Starter - Cassolette de Saint Jacques aux poireaux, bisque de crevettes grises.
Main - Giboye de pigeon et canette au genievre et coing
Dessert - Bordaloue aux Quetsches
With café and bottled water, total 135 euros for two. Fantastic.
DOMAINE de CAPELONGUE route de Loumarin, Bonnieux
Provencal-Luberon cuisine, 2 Michelin stars
This dinner was one of the best of our lives. It was the reservation I worried about, and almost cancelled, because I thought it may be over-rated or just too "precious". I am so glad we didn't, because it was truly the "taste of Provence" as someone said. Each and every dish exploded with flavour, at times we were awed to silence, and sometimes we just wanted to shout with joy. Yes, it was that good.
You can order a la carte, or the Menu aux Quatre Vents for 140 euros each, which is what we chose, six courses, in addition to many other starters and mignardises.
The only awkward time was the first five minutes when we sat down, when we were literally swarmed by servers. We were brought the menus, wine list, three dishes of amuses, all by separate servers, then another plate of a truffle pizza that the server insisted we eat immediately as it was hot from the oven. Things settled down quickly, and we found the sommelier to be quite engaging, even if some of the servers were a tad earnest. Loved the Provencal décor and the linen robes and aprons the servers wore. Very charming, and nothing felt too formal. The best theatrics are when they roll out this immense wooden cart which is used for the cheese service. It sounds like an old donkey cart is being pulled into the room. I'm not going to write all the courses - just know that every one was mind-blowing and intense in the flavours and herbs of the south of France. Ingredients of truffles, anchovies, Andouille, escargots, orange, cepe, and trumpet mushrooms, muge fish, foie de veau, coco beans, and the dessert course was the #1 best desserts ever eaten. One was chocolate sauce with herbs and meringue, pumpkin and almond, and then a pumpkin mousse with coffee sauce.
The staff insisted we meet Edouard Loubet and see the kitchen before we left, and we found him to be very nice, relaxed, and lovely to speak with.
2 menus, 2 glasses of white wine,12 euro ea, 1 bottle of Paradis Terres des Anges Rouge 09, 54 euro, 2 bottles water, total 372 euros. This is a place we would surely return to. LOVED IT.
BONNIEUX - loved this perched village and it's proximity to other nearby villages we explored - Lacoste, Gordes, Senaque, Saignon, Roussillon.
As we missed the Bonnieux Friday market, we took the great advice of a hound and on Sunday morning we went to the market at Coustellet, which was a big farmer's market, bought cheese, bread, olives, cherry tomatoes and pistachio cookies for lunch, and then went on to the big market at L'isle sa Sorgue (more flea market than antiques), and then finally to nearby Fontaine de Vacluse to picnic in the park by the river Sorgue.
To be continued....