Venasque restaurants
Restaurants
Speaking of fine dining...
    A Salute to Our Favorite Neighborhood Restaurants

Just as we were leaving for France, a good friend mailed us an article from Bon Apetit magazine, listing some of the best French bistros in Provence. Since most were within a short drive of Venasque, Pad and I made a point of visiting as many as we could. This list, together with updates on a few our favorites, should be helpful to all our renters.

Bistro de France, 90-74-22-01
67 Place de Bouquerie,
Apt

       Though Pad and I much prefer the  markets in Carpentras (Friday) and L'Isle  sur la Sorgue (Sunday), we occasionally  enjoy the drive through Col de Murs and  out toward Apt's Saturday market. This is  a big town, with a good selection of  cobbled streets, and a choice of many  outdoor cafes.
       None is more popular than the Bistro  de France, which is located right in  market square. It's fun to reserve a table  for lunch on market day. You can rest  your weary feet and watch the rural  commerce. This was especially refreshing  on the hot, June Saturday we visited. The Bistro's awning had an automatic misting system (similar to the ones used to spray lettuce in the supermarket). Every five minutes the awning would spray out a cool mist above the diners (a haphazard form of air conditioning). Passers-by, especially children, would halt and spin, hoping to catch a bit of the cool spray. The result was a charming bit of street theater.
     Comfortably misted, we dined on chilled Cavaillon melon and Seranno ham. In fall, one can sup on such menu classics as crespeou, a layered Provencal omelette with herbs, spinach and zucchini, and old-fashioned blanquette de veau, the ultimate bistro comfort food. If you're visiting on market day, make reservations. 67 Place de Bouquerie, 90-74-22-01. Lunch for two, $60. Closed Sunday and Monday.

 

Le Bistrot du Paradou,
90-54-32-70

57 Ave. de la Vallee de Baux, Le Paradou

     This tiny village between Arles and St. Remy should be your first choice for lunch or dinner when traveling south. Le Bistrot du Paradou is a short drive from Le Baux and fulfills every fantasy of what French country dining should be. There are vintage tiled floors, stone walls, and timbered ceilings. Chef -owner Mireille Pons, commands the open kitchen, while husband Jean-Louis works the room. There is only a single, four-course prix fixe menu each day. Tuesday, for example, might feature farm-raised guinea hens. Friday is aioli, the traditional Provencal feast of steamed veggies and salt cod accompanied by pungent mayonnaise. Call first to reserve and check the menu for the day. 57 Ave. de la Vallee de Baux, Le Paradou, 90-54-32-70. Dinner for two $105, includes wine. Closed Sunday and Monday.

Le Bouquet de Basillic,
90-72-06-98

Route de Murs, Gordes

     Who can resist Gordes, that nearby medieval city clinging to a cliff? It's so close to Venasque that we sometimes take the drive just for ice cream and an evening stroll. We've always found the restaurants there either too chic or too touristy. That's why we're so delighted to discover Le Bouquet de Basilic, in the heart of Gordes and right down from the parking area.
     Tucked behind a souvenir shop, Le Bouquet is a delight. A leafy terrace offers cool shelter on hot days and the timbered, turmeric-hued interior is the perfect retreat when the mistral blows. Marianne Galante, the restaurant's owner, offers distinctly Mediterranean fare, with specials chalked up on the blackboard each day. Think about a lemony crab salad or a tagliatelle with fresh tomatoes, garlic and the restaurant's signature basil. Route de Murs, 90-72-06-98. lunch for two $70. Closed Thursday.

Le Jardin du Quai, 90-20-14-98
91 Avenue Julien-Guigue,
L'Isle sur la Sorgue

     Most of our renters know that Le Bistro d'Industrie, which offers al fresco dining along the Sorgue River, has long been Pad's favorite haunt when we shop L'Isle sur la Sorgue's Sunday market. He must have his crepe forestiere.
     But for those who want more elegant environs, Le Jardin du Quai might be a sometime alternative. It's tres chic, frequented by antique dealers and well-heeled couples who always have a dog in tow. In fact, part of the pleasure of dining is this beautifully appointed outdoor courtyard is the pure theatre of watching ladies with a great deal of money "air-kiss" their favorite decorators. Oh yes, and the food is superb.
     Chef Daniel Hebet drew raves as chef of the classy Hotel La Mirande in Avignon. Here, he offers an unadorned but sophisticated market-based menu in an atmosphere of retro chic, complete with an old zinc bar and vintage bistro tables. As at Paradou, there's a single, prix fixe menu for lunch. The day we visited, it began with grilled asparagus and shaved Parmesan, moving on to braised pork, and finishing with a superb strawberry tart. We found our waitress a trifle haughty. After all, she could see we weren't designer-clad antiquers. But what won my heart was M. Hebet, himself, who overheard my daughter say she didn't eat meat. Et voila, he delivered a beautifully composed salad to our table with panache. This is no place to visit in a hurry. But if you're looking for a long afternoon of fine dining, it's the bomb. 91 Avenue Julien-Guigue, among the antique warehouses. 90-20-14-98. lunch for two $60. Closed Tuesday and Wednesday.

In our previous newsletters we have always devoted a couple of pages to reviews of restaurants in or near Venasque. Most of our preferences and prejudices remain constant. With each visit to France, we try to return to our favorites, even if we only go for a light lunch. In the paragraphs that follow, we have updated our reviews of those restaurants that have given us the greatest pleasure over the years. This is by no means a comprehensive account and we encourage you to add to these suggestion by leaving your own tips in the guestbooks at Chez Kubik (or email them to us and we'll distribute to future guests.)

If you're anxious about making reservations in French, you can stop at the Tourist office in Venasque (just around the corner from Chez Kubik). They'd be happy to help. And if you want to make a reservation from the US, dial 011-33-4 in front of all the telephone numbers on this page.

Auberge du Beaucet, 99.66.10.82
Le Beaucet

                              

     Our good friend, Pierre Rouby, proprietor of this charming restaurant in neighboring Le Beaucet, retired last year and the restaurant passed to new ownership. Our renters tell us that the dining experience is still superb, though somewhat more expensive. Good news: the outdoor terrace, lost in a landslide a decade ago, has been rebuilt. You can now dine under the stars on warm summer nights. Le Beaucet is a charming village that truly "clings to its cliff," and is worth a visit if only to stroll the tiny, cobbled streets. Call for a reservation. It's always busy.

Les Ramparts. 90.66.02.79
Venasque

     It is a treat to have such a charming restaurant within 50 meters of our home. The food is first-rate (especially Lily's favorite: ravioli in a leek sauce), but we think dining on the outdoor terrace adds immeasurably to the experience. The views are spectacular and the warmth of the setting sun is delicious. Sometimes we just wander up after dinner for a beer and a game of pool. For summer dining, reserve an outdoor, terrace table. In spring and fall, the view is just as breathtaking from the glass-enclosed porch. We always dine at The Ramparts on the day we arrive in Venasque. For us, it's a homecoming. Particularly appropriate for families.

 

Chez Serge, 90.63.21.24
90 rue Cottier, Carpentras.

     A number of our renters have laid claim to discovering this charming restaurant just behind the Carpentras Tourist Office. An annual visit to the eponymous Serge is always on our schedule. As are his tasty, rustic pizzas. You can take a table in the outdoor courtyard, or cozy up inside. Either way, the menu is eclectic and the host a delight (Serge's English is fluent). He also serves the bet "chevre chaud" salad in all of Provence. Again, make reservations, or you'll dine elsewhere.

 

And further Afield...

La Grange Neuve, 90.66.55.27
 Route de Saumane,
Le Roque Sur  Pernes
.

     This inn does dinner for guests  and will add you to the list if you call to reserve early in the day. You dine in a  converted barn, family-style. The owners  are Belgian and very accommodating.    The farmhouse menu changes daily, it's simple and genuine.

Les Florets, 90.65.85.01
Gigondas.

     If you read the Michelin green guide, you'll see a hike described under the Dentelles de Montmirail. It's a quick hour up the mountain and gives a marvelous view. At the foot of the road that leads to the trail, you'll find Les Florets, a country inn with a classic dining room. We hiked, then changed to less scruffy clothes and had a Sunday lunch there. Very French bourgeoisie. It took 3 hours and was a delight. Summer dining on the terrace.

Restaurant des Halles, 90.63.24.11
41 Rue Galonne, Carpentras.

     Like its name implies, the Restaurant des Halles is located in a courtyard just beyond the covered fishstalls in the heart of the old, walled city and the place to be on market day (Friday). We dined there, cheek-by-jowl, with other shoppers who were animated by a day of bargaining and loaded down with their straw baskets. The food is good, cheap, and the atmosphere delightful. Go early on market day, if you want a table.

Mas de Bonoty, 90-61-61-09
Chemin de la Bonoty,
Pernes les  Fontaines.

     Just outside of St. Didier, en  route to Pernes. Picture a pleasant inn  run by two English gentlemen,  complete with poolside dining and a  stand-out chef. That's the Mas de  Bonoty. Just the place you'd like to dine  on a warm, Provençal evening. The  sophisticated menu compliments the  country décor. No place for a quick  meal, but perfect for a long evening of  good conversation and fine food.

Au Fil du Temps, 90.66.48,61
Place L. Giraud, Pernes-les-Fontaines.

     One-star dining in Pernes! This storefront restaurant has won a loyal following, and no wonder. Really excellent food, beautifully presented. The last time we dined here, a multi-generational table of locals was celebrating a grande dame's birthday. We felt like we had front-row seats at an Eric Rohmer film.

L'Isle Sonnante, 90.82.56.01
7 Rue Racine, Avignon.

     This restaurant takes its name from Rabelais's description of Avignon as the ringing island (because of the incessant sound of church bells tolling). The restaurant is small but exceptional - and good value.

Bistrot de L'Industrie,
L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue

     Along the quay, towards the Gare SNCF. One of the many cafes that line the river in the old part of the city. We lunch at this creperie/pizzeria every time we visit the Sunday market and antiques fair. Pad is devoted to the Crepe Forestiere - wild mushrooms in a creamy sauce. Last time, we finished with a crepes Grand Marnier. Decadence. Reasonably priced, an outdoor terrace.

La Prevote, 90.38.57.29
4 Rue Jean-Jacque Rousseau,
L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue

      Exquisite fare and décor in a restored warehouse in the center of the old city. The green waters of the Sorgue River running underneath the building can be seen through the floor, part of which is made of thick glass. We had a superb Christmas Eve dinner here, complete with truffled pate and entrecote.

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Julie Michaels
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or call 413-274-6839,   413-528-2646
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