Gigondas in Vaucluse is one of my favourite places in the south of France. Backdropped by the craggy Dentelles de Montmirail, it’s not only one of the prettiest villages in Provence, but the vineyards that surround it produce the superb red wine with its signature nose of la garrigue – the low, wild vegetation including rosemary, thyme and lavender that upholsters the surrounding countryside, which is generally known by the same name.
There’s another reason I loved stopping here, and that’s L’Oustalet, which means la petite auberge in Provençal, and is one of the best restaurants in Provence. I’m not the only one who thinks so, since chef Laurent Deconinck’s table was awarded a star by the 2019 Michelin Guide. One way or another, it was nice to see the hard-working Deconinck, who’s cooked here for a decade after working in the kitchens of Michel Rostang, Raymond Blanc, Alain Senderens and Pierre Gagnaire, receive the acknowledgement he so very much merits.
Deconinck’s menus are produce-centred, and so follow the seasons in terms of what L’Oustalet’s own vegetable garden is producing, and also what can be purchased from other local farms.
If I’ve had wonderful meals here at every time of the year, I especially like coming when asparagus is in season in Provence, because Deconinck is a gifted vegetable cook. The other time that is ideal for a stop here is truffle season, because he buys the fragrant black tubers locally and uses them generously. But summer’s glorious, too, when locally grown tomatoes, courgettes, aubergines, apricots, strawberries and other local produce feature on the menu.
Dining here recently with a friend who lives in Bonnieux, we were delighted by Deconinck’s intemporal dishes, including cockles and razor-shell clams in a parsley pistou, a starter; and main courses that found that sweet spot between relaxed dining in the country and a judicious dose of metropolitan creativity – monkfish with an acidulated herbal condiment, seasonal mushrooms and baby artichokes barigoule (braised in white wine) and locally raised lamb with Swiss chard, garlic and pine nuts. N.B. Since L’Oustalet belongs to the Perrin winemaking family, the list here is superb, and they also have comfortable, attractive rooms if you don’t want to drive after a meal.
Place du Village, 84190 Gigondas. Tel. +33 (0)4 90 65 85 30. Average à la carte €65. www.loustalet-gigondas.com
From France Today magazine