Auberge de Tavel

La Table d’Yvan

18/10/18

Mas des Carrasins, St Remy de Provençe

It’s that time of year again – October half term – so we’re spending the week visiting my parents in Provençe. Mum has long been extolling the relative virtues of Groupon restaurant deals in France: unlike in the UK, where the majority of voucher options are for pizza or burger joints, here, high-end establishments regularly have tempting offers. Last year, she proved the point by taking us to Auberge de Tavel for lunch (check out our review here: https://bouquetsbrickbatsreviews.com/2017/10/24/auberge-de-tavel/); this time, it’s dinner at Table d’Yvan, situated on the outskirts of St Remy, part of the Mas De Carrasins hotel.

It makes a strong first impression: the setting is beautiful. In the warm dusk, we walk through an immaculately tended garden area, where summer diners eat their meals. There are lemon trees, laden with fruit, numerous olive trees and surprising sculptures set between the plants. We’re inside though (it’s warm, but it’s still October) in the equally eclectic dining room, the tasteful white and silver decoration offset by bold and interesting works of contemporary art, and bright colours, skilfully arranged.

Nor does the food disappoint. This is a six course tasting menu, and our expectations are tempered by the €54 per couple price. That’s less than £25 a head, so we’re anticipating cheap ingredients artfully managed. We’re wrong. There’s nothing low-rent about this food except the price.

We start with an amuse bouche: an aubergine and mushroom patty served with a sweet potato purée. It’s delicious. As I’ve mentioned in previous reviews for B & B, aubergines are the only vegetables I don’t like. But this is lovely: the patty almost meaty in its texture, and beautifully complemented by the smooth sweet potato sauce.

Next up, is a butternut squash soup with crayfish, garlic cream and bacon crumbs. The first mouthful is disappointing – it needs seasoning, I think – but then I stir in the garlic cream and the flavour is instantly transformed. Aha! I’d still like it to be a little warmer than it is, but it’s mouthwateringly good.

After that we have goat’s cheese three ways: with courgettes in a creme légére served with vegetable chips, in a raviolo with tomato and basil, and in a profiterole, the choux as crispy and flaky as any I’ve ever eaten. All three are superb.

We’re now at course four and I’m beginning to regret accepting a bread roll with the soup, even through the bread (I chose wholemeal from a basket of six different types) was fresh and warm and perfectly baked. But this is no dainty tasting portion, it’s a full sized meal of guinea fowl served with polenta chips, chard and a rich jus. And I’m running out of superlatives too; everything here is so damned fine. I don’t think I’ve eaten guinea fowl before, but it’s definitely on my radar now, and I intend to have it again. It’s marvellous, rich yet delicate, all soft meat and crispy skin. Aah. Even the memory makes me hungry!

Thank goodness the fifth course is a modest one: more goat’s cheese, which I think might be a misstep when I read it on the menu but, in reality, it works really well. This time it’s two simple slices of fresh cheese, mildly flavoured and very subtle – a palate cleanser, if you like.

And then there’s pudding: a raspberry mousse served between two biscuits with a scattering of fresh raspberries, a scoop of sorbet and a thin strip of raspberry jelly meticulously laid across the top biscuit. There’s a raspberry coulis too, and it’s as sweet and sharp and sumptuous as anyone could wish.

We’re delighted. Everything has been beautifully presented. It’s pretty food with robust flavours. We feel spoiled and indulged. We’ve shared a carafe of fruity sauvignon blanc, and enjoyed a relaxed evening with my mum and dad, who are always lovely, lively company. What’s not to like?

5 stars

Susan Singfield

 

Auberge de Tavel

17/10/17

Tavel, Provence

Auberge de Tavel comes highly recommended: my mum, who is no stranger to a fine dining establishment, tells us that the five course lunch  she ate here last year was the best meal she’d ever eaten. Anywhere. Ever. It’s hard to resist the lure of such enthusiasm – and why would we want to? We’re spending half term with my parents in nearby St Gabriel and, even better, Mum has found a Groupon deal, promising us that same menu for a mere 39 euros per couple. PER COUPLE! We book hastily, pile into the hire car and head off into the hills.

The auberge is a charming little hotel in the tiny village of Tavel. We decide to make the most of the October sunshine and sit outside (something we definitely won’t be doing when we return to Edinburgh next week). We find ourselves in a small courtyard, all Provençal shutters and bleached grey stone, pretty flowers and trailing plants. It’s delightful and certainly bodes well.

The first offering from the tasting menu is a dainty amuse bouche, a kind of creamy onion crumble in a miniature glass jar. It’s unusual, but rather nice, and certainly whets the appetite.

The basket of bread that arrives before the next course is not the customary sliced baguette; instead we have hunks of warm fresh olive and walnut bread. The walnut in particular is absolutely heavenly.

The second course is soup – a cold courgette soup to be precise, which doesn’t sound at all appetising but is, in fact, delicious, delicately seasoned and bursting with flavour. It’s accompanied by a crisp bread loaded with whipped goat’s cheese, which is admittedly quite hard to eat – not because it doesn’t taste amazing; it does, but because the base is so brittle, the topping so generous, and its location (balanced on the side of the soup dish) not exactly ideal for applying pressure. We narrowly avert any major spillage, and thoroughly enjoy the food.

Course three is lamb, served with vegetables and polenta. I’ve never really liked polenta but this is a game-changer: it’s crisp and light and perfectly complements the robust flavour of the slow-cooked lamb and its rich sauce.

Thank goodness the next course is a light one: a fig comfiture with ricotta cheese. It’s light, and very appropriate for this stage in the proceedings.

Next up, we’re surprised by an additional amuse bouche, creme brulee, creatively presented inside a real egg shell, with a mini soldier of cinnamon toast on the side. It’s cute as anything, and makes us all smile, even before we’ve tasted it. Happily, it tastes every bit as good s it looks.

Our final course is a sort of poire belle Helene/pavlova mash-up, deliberately retro in its style. Presented on a stripy red, white and grey plate reminiscent of 80s teenage bedspreads, it’s a pretty crown of meringue topped with cream, a poached pear, and lashings of nutella sauce. It’s unusual, but I like it.

We don’t sample the wine, although the list is extensive – Philip and I both enjoy a tipple, but lunchtime drinking has a habit of eradicating the afternoon, so we stick to tap water. We do have coffee though, which comes with petit fours; goodness knows, these are an unnecessary addition at this juncture. Still, we eat them – purely, you understand, in the name of research for this review. And very good they are as well.

It’s a great start to our week in France: a noteworthy meal in wonderful company. If you should find yourself in the area this is a restaurant you really must visit. But if you’re going for the tasting menu, you should probably skip breakfast.

5 stars

Susan Singfield