I just returned from a quick trip with my wife to Provence and Cote d'Azur. Leaving our baby was tough but 4 nights in St. Remy and 2 nights in Eze were fun and much needed. We ate pretty well this time around and I wanted to share some thoughts.
First night was supposed to be L'Aile ou la Cuisse near our hotel in St. Remy but the similarly named La Gousse D'Ail was where we accidently ended up. It was completely forgettable despite being a family affair with the matriarch serving us. We had a bottle of mediocre ventoux rouge vin and a few classic bistro items that were done rather poorly. A shame since we passed by L'Aile ou la Cuisse several times over the next few days and it looked like a solid casual option in St. Remy.
Second day was spent all over the Luberon. Initially, we planned for breakfast at our hotel, grazing on some food at the market day in Gordes, stopping by Roussillon and then ending up at Bastide de Marie for dinner in Menerbes. In the end, we found Gordes to be pretty tourist-y and the same with Roussillon. After 90 minutes in each town, we decided to drive on to Bonnieux which we loved...and then Menerbes which we liked a lot. We even got to our dinner early so we drove to see Lacoste for a bit. I liked the quieter towns but Gordes wasn't for me. Add 20 degrees and peak tourist season and I would be not a happy Chowhounder there.
Bastide de Marie...good...not great. It started with drinks in their patio overlooking the vineyard and sunset which was very enjoyable. But I found the whole evening a bit forced and formulaic. It was worth going to and I'd even recommend it to someone looking for a nice dinner in the Luberon but I wouldn't return. Service for such a small group of diners felt slow...particularly towards the end of the meal. My terrine was quite good to start but my pork main was merely okay. We skipped cheese sadly because service ran so late and we had a 50 minute drive in the dark to St. Remy. Dessert was a decent apricot tart and some sort of chocolate mess. At 92 Eur, unless you're drinking enough wine...wasn't really worthwhile to me.
Next day was St. Remy's market day...infinitely bigger and more enjoyable than Gordes. We ended up having a delicious simple lunch at Cafe de la Place. This place is packed for a reason. For an all-day cafe, the food is surprisingly delicious and the staff works their a$$es off. We opted for a simple italian salad of meats and cheeses and greens. Also had the best croque monsieur of my life with some frites. All simple food done expertly well.
Dinner that night was a surprisingly pleasant 50 minute drive to Gigondas. This had some highway miles and much easier to navigate than Menerbes in the dark. We arrived at sunset for our dinner at L'Oustalet and it was rather magical...or at least, one of my most enjoyable meals. For a Michelin 1 star, the food was delicious, the service was warm and professional and the setting was just unbeatable. I recall a delicious Saint Pierre with girolle mushrooms to start along with a main of veal tenderloin. The cheese course wasn't my favorite...very salty pecorino with their olive oil and homemade bread. The wine list was solid and priced well. Wine service was perfect. I can't recommend dinner at L'Oustalet enough...particularly with the temperature and time of the year we dined.
Thursday was a day trip to Arles. A very enjoyable town that reminded me of a smaller version of Paris meets Barcelona. We had a rather delicious lunch outside under the bushes at Le Galoubet. Probably found originally from a NY Times 36 hours clip, we really enjoyed our lunch here. Not cheap and not the biggest portions either but my lunch of veal tonnato and their signature hangar steak with morel mushrooms were expertly cooked. Service wasn't the friendliest which I was saddened by. I really liked this place and would return with no hesitation.
Thursday dinner was at Le Relais du Castelet outside Fontvielle. On the road from Arles to St. Remy, down a farm path by some olive trees, this place appealed to me as the non-tourist alternative to Bistro Paradou in Baux de Provence. It was too chilly to eat outdoors and we were the only tourists there. 3 courses plus cheese for 45 eur would be fine but the choices that night weren't my favorite. Starters were particularly bad...a crab soup with crab from the camargue and pan fried lamb liver...bad picks to begin our meal. The roast lamb with vegetables and olives was much better...a big slab of perfectly roasted lamb. The cheese plate was passed around and luckily we received it first. A bit heavy on goat cheese but a nice touch. I wouldn't necessarily return or recommend and probably would've tried Bistro Paradou if I could do it over.
Overall, we enjoyed our trip quite a bit. It's definitely a vast area that warrants repeated visits and while it wasn't our favorite part of France, the hits were outstanding.
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