Thursday, September 30, 2010

Maison Bru - Sublime Restaurant in Eygalières, Provence

I've just got back from a so-good-it-was-practically-narcotic lunch at Maison Bru in Eygalières. The food was sublime.

Open since 2009, Maison Bru is related to Chez Bru in the centre of the village. When Chez Bru opened years ago there were dark mutterings in Eygalières about the swanky style, high prices and fact that it was owned and run by Belgians. (Is there any nation anywhere that likes its neighbours?)

It's true that the style of Chez Bru sat oddly at first with the laid-back atmosphere of the village. While everyone else was hanging out smoking and drinking cheap rosé in the Bar du Centre and Bar du Progrès, the Chez Bru waiters carried on as if they were serving at the George V in Paris, and the prices almost matched.

These days, of course, Eygalières is stuffed with bijou little businesses and galleries and Chez Bru is not at all out of place.

Ironic then that the owners, Wout and Suzy Bru, have turned Chez Bru into a brasserie and taken the serious talent for cuisine out of the centre to Maison Bru. The more ambitious Maison Bru is in a new building sitting in splendid isolation on the Route D'Orgon. It's large - sit inside or out - and has 9 guest rooms built around a nice swimming pool.

The Wouts obviously called in some "contemporary" designers to style Maison Bru. The place shrieks 'pricey'. The clean lines, muted tones and smooth surfaces create a pretty cool atmosphere. It's fairly luxurious.

But actually none of that matters. The food was so good it wouldn't matter if it was served in a wooden shack.

Here's an idea of some of the dishes and flavours.

Among the amuse-bouches were tartare of tuna and a delicate roast beef that melted instantly.

One of the starters came with wasabe and basil ice cream. Sounds gimmicky and self-consciously fusion but it was gorgeous. Another featured foie gras with cardamom. Ditto and ditto. The flavours were just so well judged (and the temperature was exactly right.) The wasabe for example was understated in relation to the basil, which was good. But the cardamom was equally balanced with the foie gras. It was perfect.

There was a King crab dish with oysters and a truffle sauce that was out of this world. A friend had abalone with truffle that was gorgeous. Red mullet with tiny tomatoes, tiny transparent circles of pasta and a lightly-flavoured mustard sauce was gorgeous too. Pigeon was underdone just to perfection. The flavours and textures were just sublime. No other word for them.

We didn't - couldn't - eat desserts but were served a delicate strawberry soup/coulis and, later, warm madeleines and coffee with burnt almonds covered in dark chocloate. I've never got the French thing about madeleines, Proust notwithstanding. They always seem like a fuss about nothing - dry-ish, tasteless, uninteresting. These madeleines opened my eyes though. Warm, fragrant, moist in the centre - they were lovely.

It's always difficult to convey the quality of restaurant meals but if you go and eat there you'll find out for yourself how much skill and judgement there is in the kitchen at Maison Bru. It's hard to imagine anyone would be disappointed by food this good. There was nothing too rich, nothing too heavy.

The single thing across all the courses for three people that didn't work in my opinion was parmesan ice cream. Parmesan just doesn't work as an ice cream flavour however talented the chef...

There's no doubt though that this chef is highly talented.

Maison Bru is on and
Rooms cost between 150 euros and 380 euros apparently.

And no, I don't know the Bru family and the views here are strictly my own, freely offered.

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