Destination: France: Provence
Auberge la Fenière
Set behind plane trees on the road leading to the village of Lourmarin, La Fenière is run by one of France’s top Michelin -starred chefs, Reine Sammut. It started as a simple patio restaurant that Sammut launched twelve years ago in a refurbished 19th-century farmhouse, little dreaming that her self-taught cuisine—a creative mix of family recipes from Malta, Tunisia, Sicily and Provence—would catapult her into the limelight. Today La Fenière has evolved into a bona fide culinary destination comprising a charming eighteen-room country inn, a gastronomic restaurant and a neorustic bistro, La Cour de Ferme, in an enormous barn. There’s also a boutique that specializes in local gourmet products.
To the original seven Provencal-style rooms in the main house, just above the spruced-up Baroque-meets-Zen dining room, Sammut and her husband, Guy, have recently added eleven in three different sites. In the farm’s revamped stables are the five contemporary Bellevue suites, featuring clean lines, a flashy color scheme of reds and violets, Pop art and private terraces that have a view of the lush hillside vineyards and the Durance river valley. There’s a long stone pool for lap swimming. Friends or families seeking privacy may prefer to book Reine and Guy’s former private home, a gray stone 19th-century granary, tucked behind the olive and fruit tree grove, that has been converted into a comfy four-bedroom annex stylishly supplied with hand-stitched quilts, a plum leather sofa, pistachio walls and a cavernous red-tiled bathroom. Those desiring a more boho experience—or just a special treat for the kids—might opt for one of the two authentic gypsy caravans parked in the neighboring field and fully equipped with bathrooms and air-conditioning.
Among the auberge’s international clientele you’ll meet members of the Parisian beau monde such as French fashion and soccer stars, draped in white linen, many with young children in tow. The atmosphere is friendly and relaxed, thanks to Sammut, whose personality is as radiant as her cuisine. Highlights of the latter include a John Dory carpaccio with local olive oil, roast lamb with spices and pineapple confit with dark chocolate mousse and an exotic raspberry-hibiscus sorbet.
After a breakfast of croissants, homemade bread, cakes and jams and lavender honey, laze on the grass surrounding the main pool to the thrumming of cicadas, then check out Lourmarin’s boutiques and historic château. Come sunset, order a cocktail in one of the airy white Moroccan tent lounges scattered throughout the garden. Serious foodies should take advantage of Sammut’s Thursday and Friday morning cooking classes, which culminate in lunch made from ingredients plucked from the vegetable and herb patch. Rooms from €170; suites from €220.
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