Just as we
were leaving for France, a good friend mailed us an article from Bon
Apetit magazine, listing some of the best French bistros in Provence.
Since most were within a short drive of Venasque, Pad and I made a point
of visiting as many as we could. This list, together with updates on
a few our favorites, should be helpful to all our renters.
67 Place de Bouquerie,
Pad and I much prefer the markets in Carpentras (Friday)
and L'Isle sur la Sorgue (Sunday), we occasionally enjoy
the drive through Col de Murs and out toward Apt's Saturday
market. This is a big town, with a good selection of cobbled
streets, and a choice of many outdoor cafes.
is more popular than the Bistro de France, which is located
right in market square. It's fun to reserve a table for
lunch on market day. You can rest your weary feet and watch
the rural commerce. This was especially refreshing on
the hot, June Saturday we visited. The Bistro's awning had an
automatic misting system (similar to the ones used to spray lettuce
in the supermarket). Every five minutes the awning would spray out a
cool mist above the diners (a haphazard form of air conditioning). Passers-by,
especially children, would halt and spin, hoping to catch a bit of the
cool spray. The result was a charming bit of street theater.
Comfortably misted, we dined on chilled
Cavaillon melon and Seranno ham. In fall, one can sup on such
menu classics as crespeou, a layered Provencal omelette with
herbs, spinach and zucchini, and old-fashioned blanquette de veau,
the ultimate bistro comfort food. If you're visiting on market day,
make reservations. 67 Place de Bouquerie, 90-74-22-01. Lunch for two,
$60. Closed Sunday and Monday.
Ave. de la Vallee de Baux, Le
tiny village between Arles and St. Remy should be your first choice
for lunch or dinner when traveling south. Le Bistrot du Paradou
is a short drive from Le Baux and fulfills every fantasy of what French
country dining should be. There are vintage tiled floors, stone walls,
and timbered ceilings. Chef -owner Mireille Pons, commands the open
kitchen, while husband Jean-Louis works the room. There is only a single,
four-course prix fixe menu each day. Tuesday, for example, might feature
farm-raised guinea hens. Friday is aioli, the traditional
Provencal feast of steamed veggies and salt cod accompanied by pungent
mayonnaise. Call first to reserve and check the menu for the day. 57
Ave. de la Vallee de Baux, Le Paradou, 90-54-32-70. Dinner for two $105,
includes wine. Closed Sunday and Monday.
de Murs, Gordes
can resist Gordes, that nearby medieval city clinging to a cliff? It's
so close to Venasque that we sometimes take the drive just for ice cream
and an evening stroll. We've always found the restaurants there either
too chic or too touristy. That's why we're so delighted to discover
Le Bouquet de Basilic, in the heart of Gordes and right down
from the parking area.
Tucked behind a souvenir shop, Le Bouquet
is a delight. A leafy terrace offers cool shelter on hot days and the
timbered, turmeric-hued interior is the perfect retreat when the mistral
blows. Marianne Galante, the restaurant's owner, offers distinctly Mediterranean
fare, with specials chalked up on the blackboard each day. Think about
a lemony crab salad or a tagliatelle with fresh tomatoes,
garlic and the restaurant's signature basil. Route de Murs, 90-72-06-98.
lunch for two $70. Closed Thursday.
Le Jardin du
91 Avenue Julien-Guigue,
L'Isle sur la Sorgue
of our renters know that Le Bistro d'Industrie, which offers al fresco
dining along the Sorgue River, has long been Pad's favorite haunt when
we shop L'Isle sur la Sorgue's Sunday market. He must have his crepe
But for those who want more elegant environs,
Le Jardin du Quai might be a sometime alternative. It's tres
chic, frequented by antique dealers and well-heeled couples who always
have a dog in tow. In fact, part of the pleasure of dining is this beautifully
appointed outdoor courtyard is the pure theatre of watching ladies with
a great deal of money "air-kiss" their favorite decorators.
Oh yes, and the food is superb.
Chef Daniel Hebet drew raves as chef of
the classy Hotel La Mirande in Avignon. Here, he offers an unadorned
but sophisticated market-based menu in an atmosphere of retro chic,
complete with an old zinc bar and vintage bistro tables. As at Paradou,
there's a single, prix fixe menu for lunch. The day we visited, it began
with grilled asparagus and shaved Parmesan, moving on to braised
pork, and finishing with a superb strawberry tart. We found
our waitress a trifle haughty. After all, she could see we weren't designer-clad
antiquers. But what won my heart was M. Hebet, himself, who overheard
my daughter say she didn't eat meat. Et voila, he delivered a beautifully
composed salad to our table with panache. This is no place to visit
in a hurry. But if you're looking for a long afternoon of fine dining,
it's the bomb. 91 Avenue Julien-Guigue, among the antique warehouses.
90-20-14-98. lunch for two $60. Closed Tuesday and Wednesday.
In our previous
newsletters we have always devoted a couple of pages to reviews of restaurants
in or near Venasque. Most of our preferences and prejudices remain constant.
With each visit to France, we try to return to our favorites, even if
we only go for a light lunch. In the paragraphs that follow, we have updated our reviews
of those restaurants that have given us the greatest pleasure over the
years. This is by no means a comprehensive account and we encourage
you to add to these suggestion by leaving your own tips in the guestbooks
at Chez Kubik (or email them to us and we'll distribute to future guests.)
If you're anxious
about making reservations in French, you can stop at the Tourist office
in Venasque (just around the corner from Chez Kubik). They'd be happy
to help. And if you want to make a reservation from the US, dial 011-33-4
in front of all the telephone numbers on this page.
Auberge du Beaucet,
good friend, Pierre Rouby, proprietor of this charming restaurant
in neighboring Le Beaucet, retired last year and the restaurant
passed to new ownership. Our renters tell us that the dining experience
is still superb, though somewhat more expensive. Good news: the
outdoor terrace, lost in a landslide a decade ago, has been rebuilt.
You can now dine under the stars on warm summer nights. Le Beaucet
is a charming village that truly "clings to its cliff,"
and is worth a visit if only to stroll the tiny, cobbled streets.
Call for a reservation. It's
is a treat to have such a charming restaurant within 50 meters
of our home. The food is first-rate (especially Lily's favorite:
ravioli in a leek sauce), but we think dining on the outdoor
terrace adds immeasurably to the experience. The views are spectacular
and the warmth of the setting sun is delicious. Sometimes we just
wander up after dinner for a beer and a game of pool. For summer
dining, reserve an outdoor, terrace table. In spring and fall,
the view is just as breathtaking from the glass-enclosed porch.
We always dine at The Ramparts on the day we arrive in
Venasque. For us, it's a homecoming. Particularly appropriate
rue Cottier, Carpentras.
number of our renters have laid claim to discovering this charming
restaurant just behind the Carpentras Tourist Office. An annual
visit to the eponymous Serge is always on our schedule. As are
his tasty, rustic pizzas. You can take a table in the outdoor
courtyard, or cozy up inside. Either way, the menu is eclectic
and the host a delight (Serge's English is fluent). He also serves
the bet "chevre chaud" salad in all of Provence.
Again, make reservations, or you'll dine elsewhere.
Route de Saumane,
Le Roque Sur Pernes.
inn does dinner for guests and will add you to the
list if you call to reserve early in the day. You
dine in a converted barn, family-style. The owners
are Belgian and very accommodating. The
farmhouse menu changes daily, it's simple and genuine.
you read the Michelin green guide, you'll see a hike described
under the Dentelles de Montmirail. It's a quick hour up the mountain
and gives a marvelous view. At the foot of the road that leads
to the trail, you'll find Les Florets, a country inn with a classic
dining room. We hiked, then changed to less scruffy clothes and
had a Sunday lunch there. Very French bourgeoisie. It took 3 hours
and was a delight. Summer dining on the terrace.
des Halles, 188.8.131.52
41 Rue Galonne, Carpentras.
its name implies, the Restaurant des Halles is located in a courtyard
just beyond the covered fishstalls in the heart of the old, walled
city and the place to be on market day (Friday). We dined there,
cheek-by-jowl, with other shoppers who were animated by a day
of bargaining and loaded down with their straw baskets. The food
is good, cheap, and the atmosphere delightful. Go early on market
day, if you want a table.
Chemin de la Bonoty,
Pernes les Fontaines.
outside of St. Didier, en route to Pernes. Picture
a pleasant inn run by two English gentlemen, complete
with poolside dining and a stand-out chef. That's
the Mas de Bonoty. Just the place you'd like to dine
on a warm, Provençal evening. The sophisticated
menu compliments the country décor. No place
for a quick meal, but perfect for a long evening
of good conversation and fine food.
du Temps, 90.66.48,61
Place L. Giraud, Pernes-les-Fontaines.
dining in Pernes! This storefront restaurant has won a loyal following,
and no wonder. Really excellent food, beautifully presented. The
last time we dined here, a multi-generational table of locals
was celebrating a grande dame's birthday. We felt like we had
front-row seats at an Eric Rohmer film.
7 Rue Racine, Avignon.
restaurant takes its name from Rabelais's description of Avignon
as the ringing island (because of the incessant sound of church
bells tolling). The restaurant is small but exceptional - and
the quay, towards the Gare SNCF. One of the many cafes
that line the river in the old part of the city. We lunch at this
creperie/pizzeria every time we visit the Sunday market and antiques
fair. Pad is devoted to the Crepe Forestiere - wild mushrooms
in a creamy sauce. Last time, we finished with a crepes Grand
Marnier. Decadence. Reasonably priced, an outdoor terrace.
4 Rue Jean-Jacque Rousseau,
fare and décor in a restored warehouse in the center of
the old city. The green waters of the Sorgue River running underneath
the building can be seen through the floor, part of which is made
of thick glass. We had a superb Christmas Eve dinner here, complete
with truffled pate and entrecote.