Thursday, 14 August 2014

Le Prieuré

7 Place du Chapitre
30400 Villeneuve-les-Avignon
France




In her opinion:
When we booked our South of France trip, we knew perfectly well that we would be adding some new posts to this blog! Afterall, French food is incredible and we wanted to share with our readers why we love it so much.

To be honest, I actually kept French food as my number two favourite foreign food after Spanish cuisine (of course it goes without saying that Portuguese food is what I consider food of my homeland and my overall pick) until I had lunch at Le Prieuré. When I was doing research for our trip, I stumbled upon Le Prieuré in the town of Villeneuve-les Avignon across the river from its famous neighbour Avignon. The setting is what captured my attention. It looked gorgeous and I wanted to eat there. I should also mention that this is a Michelin star restaurant...so, of course I knew that the food would be excellent as well. And it put French food back on top as my favourite type of foreign food.

Getting to Le Prieuré which translates to the priory was not an easy feat but when we reached the parking lot, I looked around and smiled...it was so worth it. The sweetly scented garden leads you to a gorgeous manner house which houses the hotel and restaurant. We were met by a hostess that seated us inside the beautiful dining room. We were then served by a team of 5 wait staff.



I began with a glass of Clos des Cimes "Prieuré". I have grown to appreciate a good glass of red wine. I had always heard that as your palate matures that you will grow to like a bolder red. I have steered away from tannins in the past but this wine was magical for a lack of a better word! The finish was chocolate...I have never had a better glass of wine in my life!



As we were studying the menu, a waiter brought over some hors d'oeuvres for us to munch on while making our choices. 



These included a lovely fried risotto ball, the most delicious salmon and citrus cream bite and a carrot wafer. This was a lovely start to our meal.

After inspecting the a la carte lunch menu, this is what I choose:

Amuse-bouche: 
The kitchen sent out a gorgeous gift - a "Cream of Fennel Soup".



This was rich, creamy and almost sinful. Just a wonderful tease of what lay ahead.

For my appetizer:
Dublin Bay Prawn Cannelloni and Fresh Crab
(Thin Shellfish Jelly, Acidulated creme from Bresse)



This was delectable. It was served cold. The sweetness of the prawns and crab worked very well with the saltiness of the caviar. It felt decadent eating this appetizer and every single bite was pure pleasure.


For my main:
 Milk Fed Lamb from Pyrenees Region in 3 Ways
(Grilled Chop, Candied Breast and rolled Saddle, eggplant cannelloni with mint and sweet garlic)



I was a little worried after I picked this main. Although I enjoy lamb...I like it when it's done right. Why was I even a little concerned? This was perfection on a plate. The lamb was perfectly cooked and absolutely delicious. I really enjoyed the eggplant cannelloni which was sweet and lacked any of the bitterness that can be associated with eggplant.

For my dessert:
Coffee and Calamansi Dessert
(Crispy Meringue and Smooth Caramel)




We had been warned by one of the wait staff that the dessert would be the show stopper. And it did not disappoint. Calamansi is a type of citrus often used in Asian desserts. It resembles a tiny decorative orange but the flavour is similar to lemonade with a tangerine essence. This was a chocolate, coffee and citrus masterpiece. I think I shed a tear or two as I enjoyed this beautifully presented piece of culinary art.

One of the sommeliers had suggested a sparkling rose to go with the dessert.



This was a perfect choice. It was the perfect accompaniment for the chocolate of both desserts.

With our bill, we were presented with a beautiful little gift of sweets. This consisted of coconut marshmallows and beautiful cherry bonbons.



Absolutely wonderful. This is why this is a Michelin star restaurant. It's little unexpected things like this that make meals unforgettable. 



I will go out on a limb and say that this was the best meal I have ever eaten in my entire life! I will never forget it as long as I live. Le Prieuré was perfection. I had very high expectations when I visited and it definitely did not disappoint.


In his opinion:
I find it hard for once to put into words the amazing experience that was dining at Le Prieuré. If I could plan and dream about the perfect lunch in the perfect small town in Provence, France, I'm sure it would be very close to what I actually saw, ate, drank and experienced in the town of Villeneuve-les Avignon.

The setting is perfect even as you drive into the parking lot. The tree shaded lot serves as a preface to what hides behind the walls surrounding the actual hotel and restaurant that sits where an actual Priory did in the 1300's.
The walk to the restaurant itself is magnificent as you stroll through the immaculately kept gardens, the pool and the outdoor sitting portion of the restaurant.

Every detail is carefully tended to and perfection seems to be the norm at every table and place setting. From the embroidered napkins, to the silver utensils, you feel that you are somewhere special even before the first bite. 


As we perused the menu, we received an incredibly beautiful treat in the form of hors d'oeuvres. Fried risotto balls, carrot wafers and a delicate bite of salmon and citrus. The presentation was great and the taste surpassed it. (Image shown above on blog.)

My appetizer of choice this day was the "Half Brittany Blue Lobster Roasted in a Shell then crusted with a slightly Salty Butter (Borage flower and sauteed spinach, reduced juice)" As much as the picture depicts the colour, complexity and beauty if this dish, it unfortunately does not do it justice compared to seeing it and tasting it in person.

Generous bits of lobster submerged in reduced juice and foamy spinach surrounded by edible Borage flower seemed complex but yet so simple. Textures dominate the palate and the flowers added to the extra sensory experience.


For my main dish, I opted for the "Filet of John Dory slowly seized with Olive Oil (Fennel mousseline and French caviar, Abers shellfishs)".

Again, the presentation was flawless and extremely appealing. The fish was so soft and moist that it melted in your mouth with every bite. The slightly pan seared exterior of the fish didn't take anything away from its softeness inside and the Albers shellfish as a topper was divine . The French caviar sat on a bed of pureed fennel and potato complimented the fish perfectly both in texture and flavour.



For dessert, the selections seemed to be all around chocolate, more chocolate and with more hints of chocolate. I chose the "Pure Caribbean ganache served in a Chocolate Case (Exotic fruits and lime bitter cocoa sorbet)". As the picture shows this was a work of art and highlights the restaurants reputation for elaborate desserts. The lime bitter cocoa sorbet had edible gold leaf on it and the passion fruit jus surrounding the chocolate base was a punch of flavour. The surrounding chocolate case completed the look very well.




As we enjoyed a lovely glass of sparkling rose recommended by our sommelier, our bill arrived with yet another treasure from the kitchen (pictured above). There were bites of coconut marshmallows and beautiful cherry bonbons served in spoons.



The Good: Impeccable customer service, amazingly executed dishes and flavours to match are a rare winning combination that this restaurant exudes so effortlessly.

The Bad: It's expensive (but well worth it) and the waiter failed to tell us that we couldn't have the lunch special (prix fix) because it was a bank holiday.

The Verdict:
One of the best gastronomic experiences of my life. This bucolic restaurant sets a standard that is hard to beat or even reproduce. Using only seasonal produce they serve artistic yet simple dishes that are executed to perfection. Customer service and the setting are for lack of a better word, out of this world.


I give it 4 1/2 out of 5 Olives as rating


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