Destination: France: Provence
Bastide de Saint Antoine
The setting of this restaurant cannot be beat: set back behind a peaceful century-old olive grove, it’s located in an elegant 18th-century country manor. Michelin two-star chef Jacques Chibois, who is known for his innovative use of Mediterranean olive oil, also produces his own blend of amber nectar (a small bottle sits on every table). Menu highlights include crayfish with orange and basil, lamb with wild herbs, and for dessert, strawberries poached in spiced wine with olive oil ice cream.
This renowned country auberge is run by the so-called truffle king, chef Clément Bruno. He has been regaling guests with his rich delectable cuisine for years and the restaurant remains a fantastic place for an authentic Provençal meal. Dishes may include foie gras with Melanosprorum and creamy gnocchi with truffles as well as truffle brie and caramelized truffle ice cream. All is served on a shady terrace surrounded by an olive grove.
La Bastide de Cabriès
Locals and plugged-in visitors are buzzing about this newly reopened restaurant (and hotel) that’s located about seven miles south of Aix. Meals are served on a pretty tree-lined dining patio. Rising star chef Benjamin Jechoux, who trained with Jean-Luc Rabanel (of L’Atelier), excels in a mix of Provençal flavors and whimsical combinations (an amuse-bouche may consist of foie gras “candy” and parmesan lollipops). Service is friendly and impeccable, and the menu includes a wide choice of dishes (from a refined six-course tasting extravaganza to an affordable three-course seasonal market menu.
La Villa Madie
This recently-opened seaside restaurant, in Cassis, faces the Cap Canaille and is headed by chef Jean-Marc Banzo, who has two Michelin stars. For a light lunch, order the delicious three-course tapas menu (get a table on the pretty outdoor terrace with a view of the sea and windswept pines). Serious gourmets, meanwhile, should come back for dinner and order the tasting menu, with dishes like Parmesan crumble with tomato confits, sea bass braised in red wine, and clams with shallots and thyme.
Le Moulin de Mougins
If you really want a memorable meal, the temple of Provencal gourmet food that legend Roger Vergé opened more than thirty years ago is still worth the short trip out of Cannes and the major bill you will pay. Award-winning Chef Sebastien Chambru took over the kitchen in 2007 and maintains the romance. The celebration of Provence’s wondrous natural ingredients and stunning scenery continues. Beware: the guest rooms have been updated with Salvador Dali meets Austin Powers décor. One room has metallic gold wallpaper and a gold velour-like bedspread; another is all white. Many who were once utterly seduced by dinner an overnight in the charming bedrooms will be seriously turned off by the new look.
Tip: Come for lunch in the garden and don’t spend the night. Another alternative: Llorca has branched out with his own “baby Grand” as the more casual outposts of top toques are called, Café Llorca in Vallieurs.
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