A week ago regular Provence Guru restaurant critic Perestrello Geller was flicking through a magazine in a doctor’s waiting room in Aix. He noticed an article about two star Michelin chef Edouard Loubet’s new bistro La Bergerie. Perestrello asked me to have a look with a view to doing a full review later in the year. ‘I’ll call in battle of the Bistros – two Provence heavyweights Reine Samut at La Feniere in Lourmarin and Loubet in Bonnieux, doing battle over the dining middle ground,’ he said.
So here’s my early season scouting report for Perestrello. First impressions, are very positive, La Bergerie, a former Provencal sheepfold, is a long narrow stone building with arched ceilings, and floor length windows. It is located behind the main Capelongue building, without the stunning views of Bonnieux afforded by the Michelin restaurant. The surrounding garden is mature, and when I dined was full of chefs, bent double like grazing animals, harvesting herbs. Inside the decor is warm, with the long room divided between a cosy seating area by the fire, replete with sofas and magazines, and a dining area with widely spaced tables and chairs. At the far end is an open fire and grill where the chef cooks. There were three other bookings on the day I visited. Even so the sheepfold was still a pleasant room to eat in, acoustically the arches make it a great success with no clinking of knifes and forks or eavesdropping over other people’s conversations. However, the newness of the venture is still apparent with the path that supposedly leads to the entrance ending abruptly in a rose bush.
The food is simple and the choice limited. Gratin dauphinois and ratatouille are kept warm in Le Creuset pots next to the fire. Boned legs of lamb dangle from strings above the grill. The Chef moves to and from the hidden kitchen arriving with steaks and hamburgers to put on the grill. It’s all apparently effortless, cooking stripped back to its bare bones. To start with my wife and I shared a Provencal truffle pizza. It was delicious. The pizza base was as thin as a poppadom but still soft to the bite. Truffles were sliced liberally, resting on top of a light cream sauce. Their earthy aroma filled my nostrils before I even took a bite. Everything was good about this dish except the price tag – 22 euros.
For main course I had a burger, topped with a fine goat’s cheese and served on a bun spread with pesto. It was good but not exceptional. My wife chose the lamb. Thick slices of pink leg meat served with a rich gravy that melted into the accompanying dauphinois. It was excellent and I mopped her plate clean with the remains of my burger bun. We shared a bottle of Loubet selection co-operative rosé and the final bill came to €110 euros. For a shared starter, two mains and a bottle of wine, this is on the expensive side, but nothing compared with the Michelin starred restaurant a couple of hundred metres away.
The grand opening is planned for mid-June, until then phone in advance to check opening times.