La Mère Germaine is a vibrant and friendly restaurant that was first opened in 1922 by Madame Germaine Vion, who was previously the chef at the Élysée Palace in Paris. Thus the name of this iconic Châteauneuf-du-Pape restaurant was born.
La Mere Germaine in Chateauneuf-du-Pape
Recently it was renovated and reopened by its new owner Andre Mazy, who also monthly selects special local wines for all the wine enthusiasts visiting the village from all corners of the world. During my visit, there was a large Chinese group wine tasting in one of the rooms, but the wine tasting area is separated from the other dining rooms and we enjoyed a relaxed lunch with tremendous views of the vineyard-dominated Southern Rhone landscape.
Terrace at La Mère Germaine
La Mère Germaine restaurant view
Atmosphere: Casual, artsy and fresh. There are three dining areas. The first room has been infused with art as the paintings hang, the sculptures stand and to encourage creativity wine is being tasted there. The room with huge old windows and a mirrored wall allows for the natural light from outside to lighten up the room. The last is a terrace protected from the Mistral wind by windows built into the arches, so you can savour the sun and fresh air without your napkin flying all over the place. It is a very casual place where locals chat with foreigners. Although the entire menu is in French, the friendly staff explains what each dish is about.
The food at La Mère Germaine is traditional yet slightly innovative with a daily changing lunch menu, so one never gets bored. There is usually one fish and a number of meat courses, vegetarians will have to request something special. The food is honest, the portions generous and it is intensely tasty – no salt and herbs was spared on preparing these meals.
Fish Terine at La Mère Germaine
Since the food is changed daily, I will try to give you an idea, what it could be like from the dishes we had during our Monday lunch at La Mère Germaine. We tried all three appetisers on offer, all without the exception delicious.
The Terrine de Poissons Aux Herbes, Tartare de Tomates was delicate and a quite light starter. The fish in the egg-based terrine was freshened up with the herbs and the zesty chopped tomatoes on the side added some juice to the otherwise dry terrine. It was perfectly balanced and excellent with a glass of a medium-bodied white Rhone wine.
The cantaloupe melon was in season and most of the restaurants in the region included this Southern fruit in their menu. At La Mère Germaine they have adopted a more sophisticated starter beyond the classical melon with ham. The Fraîcheur de Melon et Caillette, Gaspacho de Melon was served with a side of a small cantaloupe gazpacho, the chopped melon slices with herbs and vegetables were made into a salad and a meat terrine, so there was a little bit of everything. The gazpacho was refreshing and not too sweet, the salad with melon resembled more the Asian style of fruit and veggie mixed salads and the terrine was based on a great quality of meat.
The third starter of Foie Gras Confit, Chutney de Melon Jaune, Cake à la Verveine called for an aromatic even slightly sweet white wine or a fruity tannic red would cut through the fatness of the duck liver. Another great use of the cantaloupe here. There must have been an over-production of melons this year in France! The sweet character of the melon chutney combined with the verveine (verbena) infused cake instead of the commonly used bread or brioche was unique and very tasty accompaniment to the delicate Foie Gras.
Foie Gras Confit at La Mère Germaine
From the main courses we went for the Filet de Cabillaud Roti, Matignon de Légumes et Coques, Fleur de Courgette Farcie. The roasted cod filet with vegetables and cockles (small mussels) stuffed in a courgette flower had not a fault. It was an interesting way with cod. White wine is a must since seafood combined with fish and green vegetables rarely go with red, unless there is a rich sauce such as tomato or a meat juice in it.
And finally, the real carnivores would be delighted by the Gigot à Agneau Rosé, Pommes Croustillantes, Légumes Sautés, Tomates Confits. The traditional chunks of cooked lamb were served with potatoes, sautéed vegetables and preserved tomatoes. If one was still hungry after eating the sexy thigh of lamb, then a dessert filled the gap. We had space only for a cup of coffee and tea, and the scheduled wine tasting in front of us, so we had to preserve our stamina for the afternoon happenings. Judging from the neighbours’ plates, the sweets at La Mère Germaine looked worth savouring.
Veal Filet at La Mère Germaine
Drinks: The wine list is specialised on the Rhone Valley wines for great prices for a restaurant. Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines are listed by vintage with the oldest wines reaching over 40 years back. The owner offers a special local selection of great-value-wines each month. Nevertheless, there are some Burgundies, Champagne and other lesser known wines from around France.
We started with a local white wine from Domaine Lou Devete 2010 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc Les Poéses de Marie, a blend 50% Grenache Blanc and 50% Clairette aged for six months in barriques (small oak barrels). The production is quite small. Depending on the year it usually reaches about 1.300 bottles. It was refreshing yet deep and ideal with our appetisers. Later, we ordered another lesser known red from the Domaine du Lampourdier 2010 from the nearby Côtes du Rhone appellation. It was intense with a hint of spice from the Syrah in the blend. Great and juicy wine with the lamb, but a bit too intense for the fish main course.
Cuisine: French traditional bistro style; Southern Rhone cuisine
Price: medium (three-course lunch menu €23; four-course dinner menu €37)
 +33 4 90 22 78 34
 3 Rue Commandant Lemaître; 84230 Châteauneuf-du-Pape; France