Restaurants & Bars 6

Hiely-Lucullus, Avignon, France

Limster | Dec 18, 200104:41 PM

This was the first letdown by my otherwise trusty Michelin Guide - I don't think it deserves the one star. An older guidebook raved about it but also mentioned the chef's retirement. Looks like that has taken a toll in ther intervening years.

The meal starts with competent bite-sized pastries flavored with cheese and a moderate sprinkle of fennel.

Then a great saffron-loaded cream sauce that forms pool for a tender fish and several mussels to play in. Great simple cooking, with the luxuriant but not overly rich sauce in the starring role.

But alas, the main course falls like a bird shot in its breast. A roasted young wild patridge is served with its delicious chopped liver on toasted piece of bread, its juices seductively invading the slice, but the partridge itself is dry. (I know it was wild, because I find two pellets in the meat, courtesy of Monsieur Hunter.) The savory pan-juices try admirably to save the bird, and it almost worked, but the bird needed a spring of that moisture, and only a shallow pool was available. A sad disappointment.

Dessert was good and varied but not spectacular or exceptionally memorable. I get a competent pastry assortment - couldn't remember all of them. Among the ones I rememebr, a prune in strawberry sauce, a tart filled with sweet chestnut mousse and a napoleon - nothing you couldn't find in many excellent pastry shops. On the side - a quartet of house made ice creams - vanilla, pistacchio, raspberry and (if I remember correctly) almond. Faultless deep flavors and good creaminess.

To drink, a carafe of a personable red Chateauneuf-de-Pape. Not extraordinary, but very very drinkable.

The room overlooks the main street on Avignon, a perfect setting with its mix of external bustle and interior calm. But the wall paper looks worn and slightly faded, like a memory. Apparently it has seen better, more luminious days. I leave feeling not only disappointment, but also a sense of loss as I try to imagine what this dining room might have been a decade ago. It isn't an extravagant dinner, but it might once have been.

Link: http://chowhound.safeshopper.com/

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