Old yet modern, vibrant yet relaxed and casual despite serving gastronomic fare this is La Petite Cave. The waiter was very friendly when we dined there and proved that he cares about how his guests feel. The restaurant is located in the small ancient village of Saignon, just up the hill from Apt.
Just outside of La Petite Cave
You have to park near the church and then walk through the cobbled village streets and charming little squares with fountains until you find a tiny entrance to the cave where the restaurant is located. The atmosphere is charming and cosy. There are not many tables so I would recommend booking your dinner table ahead. (La Petite Cave is closed for lunch)
Vaults at LaPetite Cave
Food: Fresh, inventive and reasonably sized. The menu changes seasonally and in some cases instead of duck you might be served chicken, although the waiter will inform you about it. Some days it is perhaps challenging to find the right amount of ducks in this countryside area! Important though is that the food tastes good and here at Le Petite cave it is more – the food is excellent!
I chose a refreshing starter of Soupe Froide de Petits Pois, Mousse de Crabe, Avocat – a Chilled Pea Soup with Crab Mousse and Avocado. It was delicious! The thick and concentrated pea soup was nourishing but also refreshing at the same time, the crab with its soft texture and sea salty nature added the dominant flavor and the avocado and herbs mousse added volume and depth to this dish.
Chilled pea soup with crab and avocado
A more traditional starter are Rillettes de Maquereaux fumé, Cornichons, Raisins, Menthe – Rillettes of Smoked Mackerel, Cornichons, Grapes and Mint. The rillettes of chopped slated mackerel are served in a glass pot with gherkins (pickled cucumbers) and grape halves with mint infusion. A prefer this to the traditional pork rillettes version as it is more refreshing and not too heavy.
Moving to main courses with Saumon Poché, Pommes de Terre au Safran, Cocos Plats, Sauce Béarnaise – Poached Salmon, Saffron Potatoes, Runner Beans and a cup of Béarnaise Sauce. Delicate salmon and potato with touch of saffron got a bit more zesty not just after squeezing a bit of lemon over it but also with the bean mash adding vegetal touch to this dish. La Petite Cave’s take on the Béarnaise Sauce was a nice surprise. Not only butter and egg yolks, this sauce had more herbs in it that I am accustomed to, and I liked that for it even more.
Poached salmon
My partner wanted Confit de Canard, Pois Chiches en Curry, Purée de Choufleur, Coriandre – Confit of Duck leg, Curried Chickpeas, Cauliflower Purée, Coriander. The restaurant was out of duck so he was instead offered a chicken in the same version. I had a taste, or two, and loved it. The curried chickpeas added Middle Eastern flavor, cauliflower softly balanced it, and grilled garlic cloves brought it to perfection.
Confit de Poulet
Later you can have either cheese or some sweet delicacy. We tried the Fromage de Chèvre et Miel de Saignon – Creamy Goat Cheese with Honey from Saignon. Served warm on a sizzling pan and sprinkled with noisettes of red pepper, there was no flaw in this cheese preparation. Just dip a piece of bread into it and let yourself carry away on a cloud of eternal taste bliss.
Goat cheese
I was craving chocolate so went fora desert. The Fondant au Chocolate, Mascarpone, Sorbet de Cassis – Chocolate Fondant, Mascarpone and Cassis Sorbet brought me to a chocolate connoisseurs’ heaven. The Fondant had just perfect melting texture, richness and two friends on each side. On the left was a refreshing and rich home-made cassis sorbet and on the right a creamy whip of mascarpone and vanilla pods. I did not know which one to eat first or which one to leave for the last mouthful (I usually leave the best part to the end) as all the three little pots of these delicacies were incredible. This desert will be a main subject of my dreams in many nights to come.
The ultimate chocolate delicacy
Drinks: For an aperitif you can have a glass of pastis or local wine.
The wine list is all local and very reasonably priced. The most expensive wine on the list when we dined there was €55. On the waiter’s suggestion we ordered a bottle of white wine from Château la Canorgue, Luberon. This organically certified blend of Roussanne, Marsanne, Clairette and Bourboulenc was deep, complex and full of life. The winery has been practicing biodynamic and organic winemaking for over 30 years, so they are not new to this area and it seems that they have learnt to do it very well.
Cuisine: French Mediterranean; gastronomic bistro style
Visit: August 2012
Price: Medium (great value for the quality and originality: 2 courses 24 €; 3 courses – plats 29 €)
Opening hours: From 7:30pm Tuesday to Saturday for dinner.
Contact: +33(0) 490 766 492; Mobile: +33(0) 637 850 922
Address: Rue Le Quai, 84 400 Saignon, France