Greetings dear readers and friends from a very chilly Provence. It’s been a while since the last blog post, and honestly, during the winter months, I’m a bit hard-pressed to know what to write about. Everything slows down here quite considerably… maybe it’s due to the weather, or maybe we’re all just spending too much time indoors indulging in some of the French “winter favorites” like raclette, soups & stews, and mainly anything involving potatoes and cheese. But whatever the reason, the winter season is really a period of “hibernation” and calm.
But during this period of calm, there’s no reason to give up a little of the “gourmet” life. We don’t splurge often on restaurants, usually cooking at home, but when we do, we have an all-time favorite that never disappoints – L’Esperance in Bandol.
Now this isn’t my first post on L’Esperance in Bandol, but we are so crazy in-love with this petit gem in Bandol, that I couldn’t pass up another opportunity to sing its praises.
And what better time to be in-love than on Valentine’s Day… a great excuse to “splash out” as the Brits say, and treat out taste buds to a little TLC.
At last count, L’Esperance boasts 8 tables that are always occupied (read: book early!) and are usually host to French folks celebrating special occasions… birthdays, anniversaries, or holidays like this past V-day. And I would more than agree with this tradition – if you’d like your loved one to feel extra-special, get yourself tucked into one of these tables.
Not only does the chef change the menu frequently, but his products are always of the finest quality. If you’d like beef, he’ll have on hand the finest cut from Limoges, or if you fancy lamb, look no further than the renowned Provençal lamb of Sisteron. You’ll find nothing out-of-season on his “carte”, quite the contrary… he revisits his dishes using seasonal products from the local street markets.
And if the taste and the quality weren’t enough, you’re sure to be wow’d by the presentation. If cooking is an art form, L’Esperance’s chef is a master showman. Each plate is a visual delight, often adored with edible flowers and herbs. And of course, each plate is chosen to best showcase the dish… I just loved the dish (see photo) on which my scallops were presented, have yet to see anything like it.
Basic menus (which really have nothing basic about them) start at €32, which include a set “entrée, plat, & dessert”, or you can upgrade to the Gourmet Menu at €52 which includes more choices and allows for a supplemental cheese course.
We try to go in with a “budget” in mind, but once we spy those first courses coming out of the kitchen, it’s difficult not to “upgrade” and sample a bit of everything. That being said, the first menu is a real bargain as far as French-dining is concerned, and at those prices, you can afford more than one stop-over at L’Esperance during your travels down south. Bon appétit!