Jamie Ivey reviews Lourmarin restaurant, Numero 9
Lourmarin is a village on the up. Ten years ago there were 20 shops and restaurants now there are over 100. Between April and October scarcely a week passes without one event or other. There are headline acts like the new Yeah festival, old stalwarts like the Friday market, and innovative new comers like the Venetian parade. Whether it’s the Tuesday Farmers’ market, the twice monthly craft market, the annual Porsche rally, the garden furniture show or the late August gathering of bibliophiles, the village never rests.
Until now though there has been one question mark hanging over this pretty south Luberon village. Ever since Michelin starred Edouard Loubet upped shop from the Moulin de Lourmarin to the Bastide de Capelongue and Reine Sammut hopped from L’Antiquaire down the road to La Feniere, there’s been a lack of serious places to eat.
The cafes serve the people watching market, pizzerias pull in the families, but for the serious gourmand the place has been a disappointment. Quality has too often be sacrificed to the pressure of rising rents. No-one has been brave enough to challenge the presumed directly proportionate relationship between the fixed menu price and the number of bums on seats.
A year and a half ago the lunch menu at Numero 9 was hovering around the 20 euro mark. The place was trying to serve decent food and at the same time undercut the average spend at the neighbouring cafes. Now the menu price is 35 euros and the daily menu often challenging for the tourist palate.
On the day of my visit, there was no choice of starter, an option of fish or meat for the main course and only one dessert. To pull off this sort of limited choice menu, at a high price, it has to be seriously good.
The starter of bouillabaisse with girolles, seared squid and mussels, was a new take on surf and turf. The marriage of girolles with the deep fish stew was surprisingly delicious with the slight crunch of the seared squid offering textural balance. It was innovative, plate-cleansing stuff.
Next up was a five-spice seared salmon, a much more conservative offering which needed to be perfect to make-up for the lack of flair. Salmon’s not my favourite fish, I find it bland, and too reminiscent of wedding buffets. Here the spice crust gave much needed crunch and flavour, and once again, I cleaned my plate. Dessert was a sponge pudding cooked with almonds. Delicious.
The location of Numero 9 next to a trickling fountain, in the lea of the old village walls is perfect. There’s no clinking of plates, or eavesdropping on other people’s conversation, instead there’s an immediate and welcome sense of utter relaxation and pleasure. The food is now consistently the best in the village.