I was staying with 3 cycling pals at La Garance, a lovely hotel on Route de Mont Ventoux which is in a small hamlet called Sainte Colombe in the department of Vaucluse in the Province, south of France. From sunrise until sunset cyclists would be ascending and descending the mountain. Around the hamlet it is very pretty with lots of olive trees, vineyards and cherry farms. There are only two restaurants in which to eat in the hamlet, La Colombe across the road and La Guintrand, next door but one to our hotel. We could have free-wheeled all the way down the hill into Bedoin where there was much more choice but that meant cycling over 4k back up to our hotel – not something we wished to do after having showered and changed into normal attire after an extremely hot day cycling. Luckily for us, both restaurants were very good.
On our first visit to La Colombe we sat outside on the terrace with beautiful scenery. We were given an hors d’œuvre of black olives, crostini and tapenade. I first came across tapenade when I reviewed ‘Bonjour French Food‘. It’s a Provinçal dish consisting of puréed or finely chopped olives, capers, anchovies and olive oil and is very nice spread onto crostini or bread. We all opted for the €27 menu which consisted of 3 courses. First up and sitting on a pool of tomato coulis was an aubergine mousse with a small crostini and tapenade – similar to the one in the hors d’œuvres but not quite as strong – some cress-type whispy bits with a pretty flower amongst it and a drizzle of pesto around the mousse. Beautifully presented and tasting very nice indeed. For the main course I chose the duck, something I don’t normally have but I was feeling adventurous. The duck seemed to have three variations. One like a mousse, one almost a mixture of mousse and sausage with herbs and the third was actually duck meat. This was served with a creamy sauce and spring vegetables.
Dessert was very nice and chocolatey. Trianon aux chocolats et financier à la pistache. This was a dome of dark chocolate dusted with cocoa powder and topped with a marshmallow. Inside the dome was a cross between a mousse and an ice-cream with an apricot jelly centre and a crunchy noisette base. Around the outside were dots of raspberry coulis.
One of my friends had a selection of cheeses and another the glacés/sorbets. Coffee came with petit-fours of raspberry jellies and chocolate coated wafer beans. We all enjoyed the bottle of white wine which was Domaine de Massane Empreintes 2013 – 80% grenache blanc and 20% viognier.
On our second visit it was slightly disappointing for three of us. This time we all went for the €36 menu which included an amuse bouche of crostini with smoked salmon, a tangy lemon cream, whispy cress and a couple of shavings of truffle. The restaurant also has a special truffle menu so I’m guessing that these are local. My first course was very nice, an asparagus mousse with a creamy sauce, asparagus, thin strips of chives, fresh peas, roasted cherry tomatoes and a light, crispy sesame and poppy seed coated flaky pastry stick. For the main course all but one of us chose the truffle omelette. There wasn’t an awful lot of truffles in the omelette so they couldn’t be tasted. The omelette was served with a green salad and spring vegetables which came a little late to the table. The dessert was somewhat disappointing too. Sabayon de fraises de Carpentras (which is where we stayed last year, not too far away and where I reviewed La Petite Fontaine). This was basically strawberries with a custard style sauce and baked. It needed to be a little sweeter for us all and it didn’t have an awful lot of taste nor texture to it. Petit fours with coffee again, this time jellies with small madeira sponges. We enjoyed the same wine as before.
After seeing what my friend Roger had eaten and very much enjoyed on our last visit to La Colombe and having food envy, I decided to have the same on our third visit. From the more expensive menu again, the amuse bouche this time was an aubergine mousse on a tomato sauce with a delicious caramelised orange tuile. The foie gras starter was divine I must say. It came in three stacked bowls, each one smaller than the one underneath. The bottom bowl contained a nice green salad and dressing. The middle was a foie gras mousse (they love mousse in this restaurant in case you hadn’t guessed, although they call it soufflé) with a foie gras pâté layer. The top bowl was a sweet crumble mixture like biscuit. This went beautifully with the foie gras which was soft and creamy.
For my main I had rump steak which was very tender with no gristle or fat. Spring vegetables again, sauté potatoes and a jus made from Ventoux red wine.
Dessert was glacés/sorbets. One was peach, another perhaps banana? If it was then it was very subtle and a cinnamon one which was the tastiest, even though I’m not a great cinnamon fan. Served with a marshmallow, meringue and the dots of raspberry coulis around the plate and served with a lovely biscuit, a little like a pain au raisin but crisp and thin. Coffee and petit fours and yes you’ve guessed it, the same wine as before.
So, three visits to La Colombe, each time we received a friendly welcome and service was very good. My last meal containing the foie gras was the best. The restaurant has a very pleasant ambience and I would love to visit again one day. If you’re ever in the region I suggest you pay them a visit, but I recommend you book a table in advance. And if you need a place to stay? Well, the lovely Johanna at La Garance will look after you superbly.
Living life, loving cake.