Jouques restaurant review - Souvenirs de l'Avenir
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Provence restaurant review

Perestrello Geller goes native at Souvenirs de l’Avenir, Jouques restaurant, in his continuing series of Provence restaurant reviews

I feel like a new man. For too long this year I have been chained to the fine dining tables of Provence. I have attempted to sate myself on dainty morsels of immaculately prepared food. Only now, half way through the year, do I realise what a fool I have been. Provence is a land of full flavours, of gutsy, sock it to you cooking, and instead of celebrating the uniqueness of the land, I’ve been dining as if I was in Paris.

It took me to get down and a dirty with the locals to remember what eating out is all about. Here’s the secret, it’s about heaving plates of full flavoured food that keep on coming until your belly is ready to burst. And all this at a price which is as near as one can get to ridiculous. At the Souvenirs de l’Avenir in the hills above Jouques, the three course lunchtime menu, with wine is just €12.50.

With the Greek crisis and the collapsing euro that will soon be the same as a Pret a Manger sandwich. Except that you get so much more for your money. On the day I visited the menu consisted of a green salad, dressed with bacon and croutons, a huge chunk of slow roast pork, and a heavy slice of dense fruit tart with ice cream. The place was full with locals when I arrived and still full when I left. Probably because a good half an hour of repose is needed after such a mountain of food.

And what an environment to slump into one’s chair and belch contently. The restaurant, sits perched above Jouques, looking out over the hills of the Var. There’s a large shady terrace giving out onto an even larger garden. Children run free while their parents eat.

Because it was hot, and I’d observed the immobilising effect the set menu was having on fellow diners, I opted for the 25 euro menu. On offer was a carpaccio of courgettes or gravalax to start followed by confit de canard or filet de boeuf aux cepes, then a dessert au choix.

Dining light wasn’t an option though. In my head I’d pictured pretty strips of green and yellow courgette, in a light vinaigrette. What arrived was an enormous salad with a brick of pastry encrusted cheese sitting on top of a swirl of courgettes. Crowning the plate was a dollop of intensely garlicky pesto.  It took 15 minutes of perspiration to clean the plate, by the end of which my mouth was numb with the shock of all the flavours. My partner had the Damien Hirst inspired Gravalax, a chunk of salmon which arrived floating in its own pickling jar. Once fished from the embalming tank, the salmon was delicious when sliced thinly and eaten with the accompanying dill and cream.

The starters as it turns out were just the bridgehead, for the full frontal garlic assault of the mains. The filet de boeuf arrived with a vampire-busting gratin dauphenoise, the confit de canard, with new potatoes roasted in the oven with rosemary and yet more garlic. Perhaps it’s all done to ward of the mosquitoes. Both the steak and the duck were moist and tender and as far as imaginable from the dainty flavours of the fine tables I’ve been frequenting. I’d like to say it was like a breath of fresh air, but with the garlic, I’ll stick to a reminder of the real Provence.

I chose the lightest dessert possible, strawberries and cream. My partner the chocolate mousse. The strawberries had been marinated in lemon to bring out the flavour, the chocolate mousse had some crushed pistachio nuts whipped into the mix, to add an extra nuance. By now we were as round at the Monty Python character, who offered just a wafer thin mint at the end of a meal, promptly explodes.

Before we could combust the bill arrived with the reminder, that the restaurant did not take cards and the following explanation:

‘because like all restaurateurs we are dishonest bandits, but we are also bandits who have been running a family restaurants for generations who love to feed people well.’

I couldn’t agree more.


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