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