To walk into this restaurant in Avignon is to enter Professor Balls’ emporium from the Pink Panther films. It’s crammed with paraphernalia from 40 years of running a business. It’s truly a time capsule rarely seen these days.
The chef is a proud man splendiferous in his starched 40cm chef’s hat. Handsome, he looks like Brian Wilson before the drugs. A young couple devouring a huge plate of frogs legs in an intoxicating garlic and oil sauce. This all looked very promising.
We had just spent the previous 3 days on the Cote d’Azur, which is a bit bling bling for us, this looked like the real deal.
Our hosts at Mas Pomona had recommended this place as it was off the tourist track and they eat there regularly . The house specialities are foie gras in balsamic vinegar and chicken fricassee. I am a little squeamish so I opted for the crab tart as my entree. Madam et Vin had always fancied trying warm foie gras so she opted for that.
Then it came to the wine choice. I suggested I was driving so couldn’t drink but chef was having none of it. Just buy a better wine in half a bottle, he said. He was right so we ordered a sightly chilled Beaujolais. Perfect, LESSON ONE LEARNED.
The meal, however, went quickly downhill from this point. The fois gras was just too rich, and the texture too spongy for Madam’s enjoyment. She gamely persevered as chef kept popping over to check we were enjoying ourselves. In the end she couldn’t take any more. The chef’s wife just offered a withering look of incredulity when she cleared the plates. Next we heard voices being raised in the kitchen together with pans and cutlery being thrown about. We knew we were in trouble and sure enough the chef started bearing down on us.
‘You did not like ? ‘
‘Yes, it was lovely but too rich’
‘Look all you have done is push it around your plate, Admit it!’
‘OK, you did not like it.’
‘I will not charge you for this dish’,
He turned on his heels and back into the kitchen. Anyway the chicken dish was great and of course we paid in full.
We were staying in the foothills of the Luberon mountains. We could see the moon-like summit of Mont Ventoux from our window and all the surrounding fields grew vines, lavender, olives and fruit. It is a lot more pleasing on the eye than just lots of uniform rows of vines you see in the rest of France.
Obviously, Provence is best known for its Rose wines and it appeared that this is what all the locals drank. We tried 10/12 over the week, all good but nothing approaching the Mas de Cadenet from VYD that I have recommended in a previous blog.
The red Provencal wines were OK but we looked a little further north to the southern Rhone and these were universally good. Having drunk these at home, my senses were heightened further by the smell of hot dry earth and limestone in the Luberon which seem to be reflected in the reds.
So, finally LESSON TWO, when chosing Provencal wines, stick to the reds and roses.