St Remy de Provence

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

 

Numero 25

 

19/10/17

St Remy de Provence

We’re in St Remy looking for somewhere to eat, but our regular haunts (La Casolette and the Bistrot des Alpilles) are closed: it’s the end of the season, after all, and things are winding down. We’re not inspired by Les Saveurs current menu (too much focus on veal), so we’re walking along the Boulevard Mirabeau trying to decide. We settle on Numero 25, mainly because it looks so stylish inside. The set menu looks interesting too; it’s a little expensive compared to other places in the area (thirty two euros for three courses) but still very reasonable by British standards.

I start with the carpaccio de boeuf charolais, which is perfect – soft and melty and utterly indulgent. Philip has the tataki de Thon albacore, slices of lightly seared tuna served with a spicy wasabi sauce. Again, it’s very nicely done.

My main course is a pave de Thon albercore – a fish pie – but it’s not like any fish pie I’ve had before. It’s served with an attractive (empty) lobster head, and it’s in a pot with a pastry crust, which is crisp and quite delicous. Inside, there’s a generous selection of prawns and mixed fish, although there’s perhaps a bit too much bulgar wheat in the base, bulking out the meal. Philip opts for the Parmentier de canard confit, which comprises chunks of duck and truffles under a garlic mashed potato. It’s great – tasty and richly flavoured – but would definitely benefit from some kind of vegetable accompaniment.

Pudding is crumble pomme & caramel salé, which is big on apple and short on crumble – just what I need after my hefty main course. It’s served with vanilla cream, which I don’t eat, but it’s a pleasant way to end the meal. Philip has the moulleaux coulant au chocolat, a fondant, which is nicely cooked, crispy on the outside and oozing in the middle. It’s served lukewarm, rather than hot, which does rather diminish the pleasure, but it is quickly devoured.

Again, we eschew the wine – we’re not sure why: but we just don’t fancy a drink. All in all, we’ve had a lovely evening – an interesting and imaginative menu that has left us feeling comfortably satisfied.

4.1 stars

Susan Singfield

Bistrot Des Alpilles

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30/10/15

St Remy de Provençe

As restaurants in Provençe go, Bistrot Des Alpilles Is markedly different from the others – forget the traditional, old world settings that are generally the norm here  – this light, airy and spacious venue, with glass windows on three sides, is a stylish new build with a decidedly contemporary feel. The effect is rather like eating in a large and luxuriously appointed conservatory. We’re the first diners to arrive but are soon followed by other Friday night customers, all in search of some fine dining. The good news is, they’ve come to the right place. The service here is prompt and the staff are friendly.

There are four of us and we decide to choose from the 24 euro menu, which offers a selection of four dishes in each section. The starters include a memorable duck confit, served on a puy lentil salad. The warm fowl has a superb smokey flavour and is perfectly set off by the delightfully chewy lentils and the piquancy of the dressed salad. There’s also a charolais au boeuf served with al dente vegetables, and flavoured with pesto and parmesan; one of our party goes for an ouef joliet, a lightly boiled egg  in a brioche bun, served with porcini mushrooms. All the starters are note perfect, which bodes well for the main courses.

I opt for the mitonné de jour de boeuf (a chunky stew of ox cheeks in a succulent red wine sauce) which comes accompanied by a small dish of potatoes, mushrooms and crispy smoked bacon. The stew is delicious enough to require mopping up with chunks of freshly baked bread. Susan has the concigglionni aux moules safranées (saffron flavoured mussels on fresh pasta shells, served with slivers of smoked salmon). The pasta is clearly made in-house and its cooked to perfection. Again, there’s very little here to criticise and plenty to enjoy.

In our experience, if things are going to go wrong in France, it will be with the desserts – but I’m delighted to report that there are no problems here. There’s a fondant au chocolate, which is everything it ought to be – a deliciously light exterior which when broken into with a spoon gives up its rich, chocolate filing in an aromatic puddle. It comes with a pool of pistachio custard and a generous dollop of pecan nut ice cream. It doesn’t hang around on my plate for long. Susan’s soufflé gourmet glacé au caramel is every bit as delightful as the title suggests – perfectly set and deliciously flavoured.

As ever, we drink a bottle of the local rosé wine and after some discussion, we decide that we really can’t fault anything we’ve had here tonight. So it gets full marks. The sad thing is, we’re heading home tomorrow, but it concludes our week’s visit to Provençe in winning style.

5 stars

Philip Caveney

Les Saveurs

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28/10/15

St Remy de Provençe

Les Saveurs is a delightful little restaurant in the heart of St Remy, with space for about forty diners. We’re here on a quiet Wednesday in October, so it’s far from full, but there’s still a convivial, friendly atmosphere, and we’re ready to enjoy ourselves.

We’ve learned to order rosé wine when visiting Provençe; it’s not our preferred hue when we’re in Britain, but it’s the prevalent colour here, and tends to be better than our habitual white. We’re delighted today to see a selection from the local Mas de la Dame vineyard, which we visited earlier in the afternoon. At €21 for a bottle, it’s a fresh, crisp-tasting drink, and well worth every cent.

There’s a three-course set menu at €26, but we opt for the a la carte today; we’re not hungry enough for starters or puddings, and the main courses sound delicious.

Our companions both opt for the filet de boeuf angus, a generous slab of steak that’s cooked to perfection, soft and pink and tender throughout. There are garlicky roast vegetables to accompany it, and some skin-on chips that seal the deal: this is truly appetising fare.

I have l’agneau des Alpes, a lamb steak stuffed with sausage meat, with a lamb cutlet on top. The lamb is perfect: succulent and tasty – and served with ratatouille and crushed potatoes.

But the star is the bouillabaisse Philip chooses, a hearty bowl of intense fish stew, chock-full of crab, red mullet, dogfish, scallops, and one enormous langoustine. Served with the traditional croutons, cheese and aioli, this is a shining example, showing exactly what this dish can be.

It’s hard to fault food this good, and I’m not going to. If you’re ever in St Remy de Provençe, and looking for somewhere to eat, I’d suggest you give Les Saveurs a go.

4.8 stars

Susan Singfield

La Cassolette

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25/10/15

St Remy de Provençe

We’re in St Remy in Provençe and no visit there would be complete without a visit to La Cassolette. This intimate and unpretentious restaurant, located on a narrow side street of the town, is an old favourite of ours, so it feels slightly odd to be reviewing it after all this time, but hey, here goes.

There are four of us to dine and the welcome at La Cassolette is always warm, the service prompt, the portions generous. We opt for the set menu at €21 per head (there is also a cheaper option at a surely unbeatable €13!). For starters, there’s a wonderfully rich and aromatic fish soup, which is served with toasted French bread, grated cheese and a bowl of thick, garlicky aioli. There’s also rillette de rougete de bassillic (potted red mullet, light and citrusy, marvellous) and a superbly flavoursome goat’s cheese salad.

On to the main courses. Two of us opt for Gardianne de Toro, a beef stew (made from the bull rather than the cow) with large melt-in-the-mouth chunks of meat flavoured with red wine and the unexpected contrast of slices of orange. This is  served with a mound of wild Carmargue rice and mopped up with slices of really fresh French bread. Delicious. Susan samples the pavé of rump steak, a meal that’s notoriously easy to get wrong, but this is an unqualified delight, mouth-watering and succulent with fat, crispy on the outside and nicely rare within. It comes with a perfectly judged potato dauphinoise and grilled tomato Provençal. One of our guests samples the sole meunière, light, fluffy and glorious in a beurre sauce, served with fresh vegetables.

If I’m honest the sweets don’t quite display the perfection of the previous courses – there’s a tart au citron that, though perfectly acceptable, is a little sweeter than I’d really like: a huge sticky rum baba that’s so shot full of rum it makes your head swim: there’s a panna cotta, which though delicious, hasn’t quite set, and there’s a trapezienne – a Genoese sponge cake swimming in creme patisserie. This is all fine, but it lacks the precision of the earlier courses.

We drink a carafe of the local rosé wine, which works out around a pound a glass and we feel we’ve enjoyed a superb meal at a great value price. If you’re lucky enough to be around St Remy and you’d like to sample traditional cuisine, this is definitely a place that’s worth a visit.

4.7 stars

Philip Caveney