L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue in Provence is a gorgeous little town, patches of land interspersed between strands of river and streams, with waterwheels, tendrils of moss hanging down, dragging themselves round. Known for a Sunday market full of antiques, food stalls and lots of randomness, I spent a lovely Sunday meandering it last weekend. I heard after that this is where Keith Floyd had an antique shop before he became a chef.
I wanted every antique knife, spoon, fork and copper pan but reserved the space for chickpeas and chickpea flower purchased from a grower and a huge fat plait of stinky purple garlic. I watched rotisserie chicken spinning around, glistening with fat and saying EAT-ME, FOR-THE-LOVE-OF-GOD-EAT-ME-NOW. I wanted to, I really did and I desperately wanted to just run and grab some of the potatoes drinking all of that gorgeous chicken fat underneath, but I behaved. As much as I wanted to grab a chicken and just eat it with some bread, I also wanted to sit down and have a nice lunch.
At the last minute we secured a reservation at Le Jardin du Quai, and surely the last one as the dining room was full. It took a while to find it, L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue is peppered with antiques arcades and I have a brutal sense of direction. But we found it, and sat down. Beyond a garden lies a lovely bar and restaurant, a large bright room, a dog called Scooby just outside, shelves with jars of marshmallow rolled around, cut with scissors and served with coffee, crystal candelabras stand sentry beside. In the corner, we perused the wine list, perched beside us on a large blackboard (and chose a lovely local house white). The menu was set and €40 for 3 courses and we were to eat what was on offer with no choice. I love to eat like that, it is often a sign of great confident cooking.
Another kir to start, I am in France after all, served with amuses of a lovely chickpea dip, a tapenade and some radishes. Smoked cod with truffle, celery and shiitake was a gorgeous first course. The cod was lightly smoked and flaked beautifully, the celery was small and crisp, and the mushrooms slivered. Confit veal for mains was tender within and crisp outside, served simply with vegetables and a rich jus. Dessert was a lovely chocolate with praline, biscuits and pistachio. We finished with coffees and some of that wonderful marhsmallow (a banana one, unusually, and it was very good).
A meander by the river and a glass of wine before the airport. It was wonderful to rediscover Provence. Next time, I will swap the smell of truffle for lavender. I must make that soon.
Le Jardin du Quai, 91 Avenue Julien Guigue, 84800 Isle-sur-la-Sorgue (L’), France
Prior to this! (And I recommend you couple these): A Weekend Truffle Hunting at Crillon Le Brave, Provence