L'Oustau de Baumaniere, a fine Provence restaurant (Provence Part 6)

L'Oustau de Baumaniere, Les Baux, Provence, France

I'm ending my series on food-centric travel in Provence with a visit to L'Oustau de Baumanière, arguably the finest restaurant in the region. For me, this restaurant sums up the best points of Provençal cuisine as interpreted at a high level, and shows how it can achieve its greatest heights.

L'Oustau de Baumanière is located at the foot of Les Baux, a dramatic medieval town that is built on a craggy hilltop. It's a hotel-restaurant with about 20 rooms. The Baumanière restaurant is given 2 stars in the Michelin Red Guide. It's pretty well known, and the chef, Jean-André Charial, has tutored many other chefs and written several books. The same owners also operate the one-star Le Cabro d'Or, which is about a kilometer away from the town

Four years ago, I spent an idyllic and very indulgent week staying at the Baumanière with my family, and eating there at least once a day, sometimes twice. I don't think I can do that again any time soon. This year though we were on a much tighter budget. We decided to have just one splurge meal in Provence, and there was no question where it would be.

On fine days - and most days in summer are sunny and warm here - lunch is served on a beautiful, tree-shaded terrace with a view of the craggy hills above, and flowers all around.

From my previous visit I knew that the Baumanière excelled in vegetable preparations, so I was very excited to see that they had an all-vegetable menu called Legumes de Printemps cuisines de different manieres et quelques huiles d'olive AOC de la Vallée des Baux, which is listed on the menu page. I guess that we were still within the spring season in mid-June, and we had more or less what is listed there. The waiter explained to us that it was a degustation of spring vegetables prepared in various ways, and that each course used a different kind of AOC (Appellation d’origine contrôlée) olive oil. Plus, there were the desserts which we should request in advance, with delectable names like Désir and Sensation.

The best way to describe this meal is to just show you, so here are some photos. The whole meal was an education in what can be done by delicately cooking the freshest, tender vegetables of the season.

Puree of fava beans A purée of fava beans. This was probably my favorite dish of them all... Vegetable Medley (2) ...more maybe it was this one. Stuffed zucchini blossoms, garnished with crispy fried zucchini blossoms....

Pasta with vegetables and truffles ...or this one! Freshly made pasta infused with truffle-scented olive oil, scattered with chopped truffles, and served with more tender vegetables.

Granita of Muscat de Beaumes de Venise with melon A granite made of Muscat de Beaumes de Venise (a sweet dessert wine), with melon and melon sorbet. Not in the picture is a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Incidentally, one of their weaknesses when I was there before was the desserts, but this time they were perfect.

There are more photos on my flickr page. If you don't want to go for the vegetarian option, their signature Gigot d'agneau en croûte (baby leg of lamb wrapped in a pastry crust) is to die for, as is anything they do with duck.

What I love about the Baumanière is that, while it's very expensive - as any Michelin two- or three-star or above restaurant is, unfortunately - and while the setting is perfect all around, it's very relaxed. The service is attentive yet unobstrusive. If you want that full on, luxurious restaurant experience in Provence, in a gorgeous location, you can't do much better than l'Oustau de Baumanière.

L'Oustau de Baumanière, Les-Baux-de-Provence. The menus are here.

This is the last of my Provence summer food travel series. I hope you enjoyed it! One last thought: I really wanted to convey how easy and not too expensive it can be for a serious food lover to travel in France, or in Europe in general. You don't have to blow your budget on expensive restaurants, or just settle for fast food level food. You can eat what people who live in the area eat, with the occasional splurge, and have a really great time. For what it's worth, our Baumanière meal cost more than the food for the rest of our vacation!

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Provence, Part 6: A Fine Restaurant

Your photos are really quite wonderful.

Kalyn | 28 June, 2006 - 02:21
maki | 28 June, 2006 - 18:53
nadia | 9 July, 2008 - 15:27

Idling away on Google

Idling away on Google looking for great tips for people travelling to Provence, came upon your blog and I must say it is the single most informative, readable and inspiring piece I’ve seen yet. We’re going next week with two wee kiddies and can’t wait! Thanks for taking the time to do this.

Kiri | 31 August, 2008 - 16:27

Re: L'Oustau de Baumaniere, a fine Provence restaurant ...

Fabulous!

This post inspired me to go to Oustau de Baumaniere on my honeymoon last year. I wrote my own blog on it which can be found at www.passportfoodie.com

You really did the restaurant justice in both your photos and graceful prose.

Taylor Young | 8 July, 2009 - 21:32

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