Thank Friday it’s Lunchtime – L’Auberge du Cheval Blanc
I’ve done a lot of trips to the airport in Marseille recently. When I get bored with the motorway (or if I decide that I don’t want to pay €4.70 in tolls each way) I take the road over the Luberon Massif. One of the towns along that route is La Bastide des Jourdans – a modern-looking French village with an auberge which catches my eye every time I pass by, simply because of its name. L’Auberge du Cheval Blanc – The White Horse Inn.
I suggested we visit this week, so we picked the LSH up from his exhibition at 12.30 and followed the twisting, turning, nausea-inducing (sorry, YD!) road over the Luberon. When we arrived, it seemed deserted… an empty (but rather lovely) dining room :
and a similarly deserted little drawing room :
Was this a rural French Marie-Celeste?
I stuck my head through a door which led to a pretty courtyard – AHA!
It’s summer-time – everyone is eating out of doors, of course!
We sat and perused the menu
The waitress produced an amuse-bouche while we perused. Fresh, locally grown melon, sprinkled with chopped mint and dusted with black pepper. Very simple, but tasty and refreshing.
I struggled with what menu to eat from. The formule du jour was the most economical option at €19.00, but it was all seafood – not for me! The A la Carte selections were very expensive – two courses would cost almost €40, but there was a third option – a four course set menu for €31, containing all of the A la Carte options that appealed to me. The LSH and Granny also opted for this menu, while the YD just had a starter and a main course from the A la Carte for about the same price!
For my starter, I chose Foie Gras Flan, as did Granny and the LSH. I don’t know what I expected, but it wasn’t this :
Interesting… was this a solid lump of foie gras? Where was the flan? Well, actually, it was right here :
Turned out this was a kind of foie gras soufflé, eggs and foie gras beaten up together and baked. Light and fluffy, served with a mushroom sauce, it was delicious.
The YD had chosen tomato tartare with avocado. I expected a simple tomato and avocado salad. Obviously I had overlooked the word “tartare…”
That mound in the middle is made up of finely diced tomatoes, seasoned with a variety of herbs and spices and lime juice, we guessed. It was light and fresh and tasty. The foie gras flan was great, but this tomato tartare was the winner!
Then it was time for our main courses. I ordered stuffed provencal vegetables. I’ve seen two other versions of this, one was stuffed with cheese and herbs and the other was stuffed with finely minced beef. These were stuffed with minced pork, it tasted a bit like sausage meat. They were good, but I was filling up rapidly so I only ate half of it.
The LSH and Granny both ordered duck, magret to be precise. This came smothered with gravy and wild mushroms, with peaches cooked in the gravy. Delicious. Cooked beautifully, although Granny’s had a bit of gristle which made it difficult for her to cut with her arthritic hands.
The YD chose the plat du jour, which was bass. It was simply cooked and simply presented, but an excellent dish.
After two courses, I was struggling. Next up was a salad with cheese. I have to confess I declined, but Granny and the LSH took theirs and munched their way through it.
I just about had room for dessert. I don’t know how Granny could contemplate it, but she contemplated, ordered and ate it all. She ordered carpaccio d’ananas, wafer thin slices of pineapple, lightly caramelised, served with a scoop of lemon sorbet and garnished with the delicious fraises de bois, forest strawberries which are in season at the moment.
The LSH and I ordered the even lighter pastis ice-cream, served in a fennel syrup. I was curious to see how the pastis ice-cream would compare with the pastis sorbet made by our friends in Scaramouche.
It was a completely different style of ice-cream, more like an Indian kulfi than anything else. It was good; it was light; it was refreshing; it was exactly what I needed.
The YD sensibly refused dessert.
After two hours of eating, we waddled back to ole Jeepy and made our way home, just in time for the LSH to leave for the evening shift in his Expo. I expect he slept for the rest of the afternoon, I know I did!
L’auberge du Cheval Blanc is one of the most expensive places we’ve ever had lunch – with wine, sparkling water and coffee, it came to almost €40 per head. Last week, we did TFIL for almost a third of that! However, in this case, you do get what you pay for – the ambiance is superb, both indoors and out, the chef and waitress were very pleasant and the food was top-class. So, we’ll probably revisit, but it’ll be for a special occasion.
PS. I looked up L’auberge du Cheval Blanc on Tripadvisor. It has nothing but 4 or 5 star reviews, both as a hotel and as a restaurant. One nice story that stood out, by earai from Canada :
We were cycling the Luberon region and since we were travelling outside of tourist season, we did not know where we would be staying. Jetlag was setting in for me such that by the time we arrived in La Bastide-des-Jourdans, I was ready to stay wherever we could find a bed. Fortunately, we landed on the auberge.
The gentleman who greeted us was kind and dealt with our poor French skills in stride. The room he gave us was huge, with room for four or five. It was an old building with log beams, and had a country B&B feel. He provided us with space outside in which to store our bikes and we got a glimpse of the pool that I’m sure would be lovely at a warmer time of the year.
The same lovely gentleman turned out to be our chef, which we discovered when we came downstairs for dinner to a cute dining area, and he was there complete with chef’s hat! He provided us with a menu along with a French-English food dictionary. The meal was rich and delicious, so much so that I had to skip the dessert. And this is coming from people who have been cycling all day and burning a lot of calories.
The room itself was very reasonably priced, though dinner was pretty standard for the area. However, the portions were larger than one might expect with good quality ingredients so that made up for the price. Besides, there was such a great pride in ownership about the place that made it a true pleasure to stay there.
Breakfast was likewise delicious and large. Plenty of fruit, yogurt, bread, juice, coffee/tea.
What made it feel even more special was that we appeared to be the only guests in the place, and the gentleman was very kind and responsive to our needs. The fact that we were the only guests shouldn’t reflect poorly on the place, as we were travelling outside of tourist season and this was not uncommon.
Love that bit about the French-English dictionary!!!
Star Rating (out of 5) :
Service : ✮✮✮✮✮
Food : ✮✮✮✮✮
Value : ✮✮✮
Ambiance : ✮✮✮✮✮