Plat: Bass with Little Vegetables at L’Auberge de Tavel
A major advantage for any wine enthusiast visiting an appellation in the Southern Rhone is to have a ‘point de chute’ (a landing place) from which to nourish the body and reinvigorate the spirit.
With the wine cellars at estates closed from noon to 2:00 p.m., your desire is to seek refuse at a restaurant in close range. Better still, you desire a spot that offers an excellent value in quality – price.
For a day of wine tripping among the estates in Tavel, an appellation producing only rosé wines, among the world’s best mind you, it’s not wildly unrealistic to lower expectations given the size of the place. The notoriety of its rosés notwithstanding, Tavel is thinly settled – 2 inhabitants per acre as all farmable land is planted with vines; the appellation covers only 930 acres, a bit more than a quarter of the surface area of Châteauneuf du Pape.
After a morning of vinuous indulgence in Tavel, PVB wanders into, as if by default, L’Auberge de Tavel where on an unassuming tree-shaded terrace several out-of-the-region couples, informally dressed and in casual conversation, rest their arms on blue-and-white checkered tablecloths. On this serene sun splashed afternoon, a B&W Cocker lets out an occasional low-pitched whine to its master for attention or a snack.
In short order, one is bluffé (amazed). L’Auberge de Tavel is a culinary windfall that transcends your expectations for quality, and for value.
Entrée: Cream of Avocado with Prawns
Throughout your sitting, the service is impeccable. Two graceful waiters attend to you, replying politely to your questions without being gastropedantic nor unctuous. When refilling your wine glass, they respect an imaginary half-full line.
For the menu of 25€ (pictured here) offering a choice of entrée, plat and dessert, the quality of preparation and presentation is Haute Cuisine Bourgeoise for a price of a Bonne Cuisine Bistrot pocketbook (see column for descriptions). Moreover, how pampered you feel to be doted upon with amuse bouches and minardises.
As for the wine, L’Auberge de Tavel has an excellent selection of regional wines, with numerous obligatory rosés. Given the day’s rosé tasting binge, PVB opted for a Lirac Blanc 2010 Le Domaine la Genestière. Note: Many of the estates in Tavel have parcels in the neighboring appellation Lirac.
Dessert: Prune Crumble and Sherbet with Elderberries
Consider this: A stay in Tavel, located in the Department of the Gard 9 miles east of Avignon, puts you only 15 minutes from Châteauneuf du Pape, and beyond the Côtes du Rhône Villages of Cairanne and Rasteau.
L’Auberge de Tavel Hôtel – Restaurant, 7 Route Romaine, 30126 Tavel, Tel: 04 66 50 03 41, Rooms from 85€ for a single to 180€ for a suite in high season, 80€ to 150€ respectively in low season.
Menu 25€ for entrée, plat and dessert, w/amuse bouches + mignardises served daily lunch and dinner, other menus at 39€, 42€ and 57€. Superb selection of regional wines.