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Dining in and around Avignon


Lesley C
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I'll soon be in Avignon for a few days and was looking into good restaurants in the area. I've come accross four that look interesting: Brunel, Christian Etienne, La Mirande and La Vielle Fontaine. Has anyone dined at these restaurants? I'm not really interested in the Pourcel Brasserie (though I quite like their cuisine).

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Lesley - I had a really mediocre meal at Christian Ettiene a few years ago and I wouldn't go back there. Whenever I'm in that region I take the 35 minute drive north to Mondragon to eat at La Beaugraviere. But the trip is really for their staggering wine list which is well worth the schlep. The food is plain, but can be inspired on the rare occassion. But the wine list? My god it's unbelievable. The other 35 minute trip that is worthwhile is to Lourmarin where you have Le Moulin de Lourmarin and La Feniere. Otherwise I think all the others are six of one, half a dozen of the other, all of them plain.

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I'm saddened by the fall of Hiely-Lucullus. We first ate there on an early trip to France at a time when most of our meals were at very simple places. We returned some twenty years later as more experienced diners and were pleased as before. That was the year Hiely announced his retirement. It appears his successor has not succeeded as well. I see it still has a star in Michelin, but not even a mention in GaultMillau.

Ed Behr's mention of l'Isle Sonnante, a tiny restaurant (16 seats) in his The Art of Eating, Fall 2000 issue made me want to try it. Unfortunately we couldn't manage Avignon the last time we were in Provence. I also see that GaultMillau has declined to list it. For what it's worth, in that same issue, Behr mentioned Christian Etienne for haute cuisine in Avignon.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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In contrast to Steve, one of my best experiences in my 2000 Provence trip was Christian Ettienne.  I went twice.

Maybe you could hedge your bets by going for lunch.  The restaurant is in a building that's almost as old as the Papal Palace, and that was worth a visit almost in itself.

beachfan

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I second Steve P's recommendation of Loubet's Moulin de Lourmarin. Together with Roellinger (by repute only, as I have yet to make my way to Cancale) and Loraine at Joigny, Loubet is in my mind one of the strongest two-star chefs in France. Below, as an example, are the first three courses from a menu taken in (with very rough translations) when I last visited Loubet:

Ecrevisse pattes rouges, vinaigrette d'algues de "Nori" et "Santolines", bouillon comme un capuccino de champaginons sauvages, une emulsion aux "amandes vertes" de Lourmarin (ecrevisse with red feet, vinaigrette of "Nori" seaweed and ?, bouillon with a capuccino effect flavored with wild mushrooms, an emulsion of green almonds from Lourmarin)

Complicite de foie gras, l'un confit, l'autre poele, confiture de "tomate verte", jus caramelise au ratafia de "pin sylvestre" (Foie gras sampling; one confit; the other pan-fried, with a green tomato jam, caramelised jus with pin sylvestre)

Cromesqui de joue de porc en fannette de noisette, infusion laiteuse a l'"Arquebuse", noix vertes pochees comme un vieux garcon de la saint jean (Cromesqui of pigs' cheeks flavored with hazelnut, a milky infusion with Arquebuse and green walnut)

Loubet is a disciple of Veyrat, and, like his mentor, utilizes local (in this case, Luberon) herbs and flowers, "forgotten" vegetables, etc. Interestingly, while both chefs have some complexity in their cuisine (which I ordinarily dislike), I appreciate Loubet's cuisine.  There is a wonderful use of acidity and bitterness, respectively, including certain medicinal flavors and bitterness from unusual Luberon herbs, roots and other plants. Loubet's restaurant is beautiful as well, with an interior portion lodged inside a restored former olive mill and the outside area around a distinctive olive tree and vine-clad areas.  Loubet's meals are very filling, and much better than those of Reine Samut in the same village (Auberge de La Feniere).  :wink:

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It's strange that Avignon seems to offer so few outstanding places, considering its vibrant cultural life. For another forum I was asked to list "reasonably" priced places in Avignon and other towns in Provence. Since my only lunch experience in Avignon was a funky, eclectic place (of no interest, I'm sure, to lofty eGullets) I asked a French friend who lived there for 20 years: "pas grand-chose" she said, but mentioned that on l'ile de la Barthelasse one finds the best restaurants, certainly qua ambiance. She mentioned Le Bercail "pas de la grande cuisine mais un cadre magnifique, sur le Rhône, avec vue sur le Palais des Papes".

Frieda

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Since my only lunch experience in Avignon was a funky, eclectic place (of no interest, I'm sure, to lofty eGullets)

Frieda -- Only if you would like to do so, I'd be happy to participate in a discussion of the perceptions of the restaurant choices and eating habits of eGulleteers, offering only my experiences.  :wink:

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Since you say around Avignon my suggestions would be Alexandra at Garons (by Nimes Airport but it has a super garden) and my tip for higher things plus it's great value for Povence. Also La Table de l'Horloge at Saint-Quentin-la-Poterie near Uzès - do pop into Uzès before hand for a wander round.

I would second Steve's suggestion of La Beaugraviere at Mondragon for wine buffs. They also have a couple of simple rooms (Logis ** standard and priced accordingly). Haven't been for 3 years and see it's dropped out of the guides - anyone been more recently?

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In May '01 we visited Avignon, dining at H-L [awful] and Hotel de l'Europe [disappointing except for cocktails

in the garden/terrace]. We did enjoy a very pleasant dinner at a Relais & Chateaux property slightly outside of Avignon proper...Le Prieure. I suspect that it wouldn't compare with Loumarin [where I have not yet dined] but it is a very short distance/drive if that is a consideration.

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Again, thank you all for the recommendations. I know we're booked at La Beaugraviere (it's a Cotes du Rhone wine tasting trip so unfortunately the Luberon is out). I'll report back on any new discoveries.  :smile:

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We did enjoy a very pleasant dinner at a Relais & Chateaux property slightly outside of Avignon proper...Le Prieure.

I had a lovely meal there too.  It's in Villeneuve d'Avignon, which is a fabulously central and peaceful place to base yourself.  I stayed at the  Hotel La Magnanerie and am dying go go back.  5 minutes to Avignon, 30 minutes to almost anywhere in Provence.

beachfan

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Lesley - I was tasting in the Southern Rhone this past February. Fortunately it was truffle season so our trip was based around eating truffle menus in the evening and tasting wine by day. I don't know if you've ever been tasting there before but I will give you a few recomendations and if you have, others will use them in the future.

By far the best tasting is at Beaucastel in Courthezon, just outside of Chateauneuf du Pape. It is quite convenient to Avignon as it is located outside of the town and adjacent to the autoroute as well as the route nationale. The tour there is usually given by Mike Rijken, who is of Dutch origin and is their Director of Public Relations. Mike speaks perfect French and English (and Dutch obviously) which makes a tour extremely user friendly. The tour usually lasts between an hour and 90 minutes and usually includes tasting barrel samples of the component parts of the most recently vinified vintage. In addition, if Mike sees you are a true amateur of wine (the French expression for true hobbyist for those who never heard that expression,) he will crack open a number of different older bottles of wine for you so you can see how the wine ages after it is blended and bottled. And the chais at Beaucastel are magnificent, only rivaled in my experience by the chais at Chapoutier in Tain l'Hermitage. It has the feel of a different era, like one you might get when visiting the racing grounds at Churchill Downs or Saratoga Springs. The moment you step into their cave the deep aroma of wine that is imbedded in the wooden tanks and barrels is magnificently intoxicating. Not only one of the best things to do in the region, but in my opinion, one of the best things to do in France. It;'s quite easy to get an appointment there. If you just call their main number they will schedule one for you.

We also enjoyed our tastings at Domaine Soumade Andre Romero in Rasteau and at Domaine Aphillanthes which is outside the town of Travaillon, just north of Orange. Both excellent Cote de Rhone producers. But unfortunately we weren't able to get to my favorite Cote de Rhone producer, Domaine Gramenon. They are in sort of an out of the way place, not far from the town of Nyons. If you happen to be there on a Thursday, the market in Nyon is supposedly the best olive market in the region and a tasting at Gramenon right after a trip to the market might not be a bad thing. Hope this helps. I can give you the CIA on a few other producers if that is helpful, but mostly they will be in Chateauneuf.

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I will give you a few recomendations ... others will use them in the future.

With a little luck and some programming talent, the next software upgrade will restore the sophisticated search feature. Information such as this should be of use to many members and lurkers over time. It's very helpful when members post with the understanding that they are adding to a data base that can and should be useful to far more than the original poster on the thread.

I've not been to many wineries in France and most of those have small wineries when friends were stocking their cellars in the Languedoc. Steve confirms my impression that the better, and certainly the more well known wineries shoud be contacted in advance for an appointment. In many ways Provence is best enjoyed in the spring and summer. The weather and the length of the daylight hours are two good reasons. They are also reasons that Provence is all but overrun with tourists. In spite of the very short days and long shadows that leave open plazas without direct sun at the chilliest time of year, the smaller number of tourists make Provence a reasonable target in the winter. Steve, you were there in February, do you think the wineries were any more hospitable in the off season than they might be in the summer?

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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Bux - You know I've never been to France in the summertime. Once many years ago a business associate and I went to Paris the day after Bastille Day and it was so empty that I vowed never to return in the summer again. But my general sense of Provence from being there at the end of the season (last weekend in September) is that the tourists make them cranky.

You have to remember that the winemakers are basically farmers and they live a farmers life and a farmers year. In general the best time to visit wineries is after the February school vacations are over, and through the end of June. During the summer months when they are all busy working hard in the vineyards up to and including the harvest (anywhere from the last week of August until mid-September,) and including the vinification period which often ends with the bottling of the prior vintage they are often to busy to see you, and if they do have time they are rushed. That brings you right up to  appx. November 1. That is usually when they start selling the new vintages and you will find the winemakers in their offices, eager to give tours in order to sell the vintage. Of course the larger wineries have year round staffs that give tours and they might be less affected by the seasons than smaller wineries.

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  • 1 year later...

We'll be arriving in Avignon late Christmas Eve. We'll be staying in the city center until the 28th. Any suggestions for good meals ranging from cheap to pricey? Will everything be closed on the 24th as well as the 25th and 26th? Thanks for any thoughts!

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On the pricy side in Avignon itself there is Christian Etienne assuming that it is open during your stay. Have a look at Duncan's review of our visit there in September.

There are some suggestions for the Avignon area more generally in the Northern Provence thread.

Have a nice time - in general we have found that you can eat in all sorts of places round Avignon very well and at reasonable prices.

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Hi,

i worked at "la mirande" as a chef a few years ago and it offers some really good bites. It doesnt come cheap, but the produce dont either as they're of very, very good quality. Mostly leaning towards Mediterranean cuisine and strongly rooted and respectful of tradition.

Be careful, as there are lots of michelin-starred restaurants in town and around that do not deserve such reward.

Go check Villeneuve-les-Avignon, just across the bridge : lovely village that has 2 or 3 good and worhtwhile restaurants.

Eddy M., Chef & Owner

Se.ed Artisan Foods, Vancouver BC

Follow Se.ed's growth at: http://spaces.msn.com/members/fromseedtofood/

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  • 3 years later...

Quick, put this place on your list of places to go in Avignon A 2 Pas du Potager! This is a wonderful little place with impeccably prepared, inventive, and delicious food for a very reasonable price. I've put a more complete review here on French Letters but here are some photos of Chef Didier Mariani's lovely food to encourage you to go. We had the pleasure of meeting etalanian and her husband in Avignon last night and I know she wants to post more pictures from this dinner, so these are just teasers.

You'll need a car to dine there, as it's outside the city center, but only by a few minutes of slightly confusing driving. He makes excellent use of a Paco Jet, by the way.

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A tiny amuse gazpacho of the summer's last garden tomatoes, a mussel, and some fennel sprouts. A 2 Pas grows nearly all of its own fruits and vegetables.

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Awesome house-made rolls leavened only with a natural fruit starter made mostly from apples.

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My starter of scallop carpaccio with a tiny dice of beets and green beans, a drizzle of apple honey vinegar, and little piles of caviar.

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And when you're there, if you get a chance to order this wine, do. It's brilliant.

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  • 3 months later...

If you're in the central, touristical part of Avignon, you could do far worse than to dine at L'Opéra Café in the Place de l'Horloge. We went running in there the other night before a flamenco ballet (which you can read about here) and because we were late we begged for anything we could eat and be out the door in, get this, 25 minutes or less. A huge plate of well-seasoned beef tartare with some really delicious frites and a glass of Chateauneuf du Pape appeared on the table in less than 5 minutes. We gave our server a nice tip (first time we've tipped in France) and he saved a table for us to return after the show.

Later we shared an extravagant creation they called Pastilla, a riff on b'stilla with the lamb rolled and fried crisp in feuilles de brik and a mound of perfectely grilled and spiced eggplant, zucchini, and other vegetables, plus another glass of that very nice red. A quite decent plate of mixed chevres and salad for my dessert, a cheesecake interpretation for my husband, and we were done for the night.

The place is rococo beyond imagination in decor, but with a pretty intense disco flavor late at night. The service was impeccably friendly and helpful, and we'll gladly return.

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