L'Oustau du Baumaniere

D27, 13520 Les Baux-de-Provence, Les Baux de Provence, France

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Ousteau du Baumaniere in the village of Les Baux de Provence is a restaurant and hotel set in a farmhouse with an illustrious history. It earned its first Michelin star in 1949, a second star in 1952 and a third star in 1954 for its Provencal cuisine under Raymond Thuillier, who retained the third star until 1986. The current chef is Glenn Viel from Brittany, who was recruited to the kitchen by the owner and then head chef Jean-André Charial, who himself had held two Michelin stars. Mr Viel joined the kitchen in 2015 after having worked at Le Meurice, Plaza Athenee and 1947 at Cheval Blanc in Courchevel. In 2020 the restaurant regained its former glory with a third Michelin star. The property is in a pretty hillside setting nestling under some striking cliffs. The restaurant has its makes the most of this setting, with its vegetable garden and beehives. We began our meal with drinks and nibbles on the terrace before moving into the dining room, which has well-spaced tables, high ceilings, stone walls painted white and somewhat murky lighting. The two slightly different length tasting menus were eight courses at €260 (£223) or ten courses at €310 (£266); we opted for the latter.

The wine list appeared in digital form on an iPad. Sample labels were Domaine St Andrieu Provence rose at €35 for a bottle that retails at €12, Vire Clese Maconnais Heritiers du Comtes Lafon 2018 at €75 for a bottle that you can find in a high street shop for €25, and Chateau Simone Palette Rouge 2017 at €115 for a wine that will set you back €48 in a shop. Further up the list you could enjoy Etienne Sauzet Puligny Montrachet Les Folatieres 2014 at €500 compared to its retail price of €272, or Chateau Montrose 1990 at €900 for a wine whose current market value is €832. For those with oligarch sized wallets, there were some relative bargains in the stratospheric parts of the list e.g. Jean Louis Chaves Cuvee Cathelin 2003 was listed at €5,000 yet at an upmarket wine shop you might currently pay €11,478.

The initial canapés were served on a log, presumably intended to invoke a woodland atmosphere. First was a little rungia (“mushroom plant”) leaf on which was a dot of mushroom reduction. This did not have a great deal of flavour other than the mushroom reduction. Better was a tartlet of smoked eel with peanuts and mushroom emulsion, with fairly delicate pastry and pleasant flavour. Finally, there was a sable of mushroom, with mushroom paste and a slice of raw Paris mushroom (a button mushroom) with peanut shavings (16/20 canapés on average).

What was described as a focaccia bread appeared at this point, the first of a series of different breads that appeared throughout the meal, one for each savoury course. A bowl of snail and mushroom jus with garlic cream had quite deep flavour. Next to this was a dish of squid that had been formed into pasta like strands with lardo, with a parcel of smoked anchovies and basil alongside foam of shellfish and shellfish jus. This was appealing, the squid having good texture and the shellfish jus possessing plenty of intensity (18/20). This was accompanied by very good sourdough bread. This was followed by grey mullet with dried bottarga (salted, cured grey mullet roe) with a fish soup jus, horseradish cream and puffed rice, finished with grapefruit juice with bottarga. The flavour of the mullet was nicely enhanced by the gentle bite of horseradish, the puffed rice adding a contrasting texture (17/20).

The next course was a large carabinero prawn from Spain, served with fennel and lemon cream and prawn jus. The prawn was top notch, having lovely natural sweetness, the anise flavour of the fennel a nice contrast to the prawn (19/20). This came with an excellent little feuillete like “bread” roll made from puff pastry layers. This was followed by John Dory that had been poached and then finished in a pan, served with tomato jus. The fish had been aged for three days and had a rather odd, somewhat mushy texture due to this process. This came with courgette ravioli inside of which was raw courgette and lemon confit. This was accompanied by seaweed bread. The courgette was fine but I didn’t really like the treatment of the fish, with its slightly unappealing texture. The best part of the dish was the rather good tomato jus (14/20).

Next was a pork dish, made from a local Provençal pig. The meat was served in layers, with bacon, ham and filet mignonette, accompanied by a parcel of lettuce roasted with buckwheat and finished with Balsamic vinegar. There was also a pork jus with corn and a little spiral of crisp pig ear. This was a lovely dish, the pork having excellent flavour, the richness balanced nicely by the leafy accompaniment (18/20). Cheese arrived on a handsome trolley and was in excellent condition, a wide range of offerings from across France.

The initial dessert was a display disc on which were a trio of dishes in the style of flower petals with various gels. There was yoghurt and basil, creamy aubergine with elderflower and an apple jus gel. These were fairly ordinary to eat albeit quite prettily presented, the apple being the best of the trio. Better was a jar with a little spoon on which was served a miniature tart with rhubarb cream, the jar containing cucumber and rhubarb jus with pickled rhubarb (15/20). Desserts moved up a gear with a crepe soufflé with Grand Marnier, tropical fruit and orange cream, which was lovely. The crepe soufflé had excellent airy texture and there was balance to the richness from the acidity of the tropical fruits (18/20). Even better was millefeuille of caramel with vanilla cream and pistachio with vanilla ice cream. The millefeuille had gorgeous texture, the vanilla and pistachio providing a lovely filling (19/20). Coffee was served with chocolate cake inside which was a filling of pistachio and almonds. There was also a tartlet of goat cheese with milk and olive oil in an egg shell filled with egg and salted honey.

Service was generally fine if not quite as slick as at some restaurants at this level, with wine topping up rather erratic, though the staff were quite patient and were at all times pleasant and polite. The bill came to €647 (£556) per person, boosted by some very good wine (and a stray glass of wine that found its way onto our bill that I failed to spot at the time). If you went for the shorter menu and shared just a modest bottle of wine then you could eat for perhaps €300 (£258) per person. Overall, this was a very enjoyable meal with a few real high spots in the form of the prawn dish, the pork and the millefeuille.

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User comments

  • Adrian Turner

    This was the first three star restaurant I ever went to and it was just life-changing. We stayed three nights, had three dinners, two lunches and three breakfasts. This was in 1985. Thulier was cooking and served titbits to his cats. We had lamb en croute, chicken with tarragon etc. There was a special trolley laden with sorbets and ice creams. A woman next to us took off her jewellery and watch and cooled herself down by putting her hand into the ice bucket. It was all just another world. We have never been back. And I'm afraid Andy's meal looks just like another ready-made, pre-packed Michelin job that could be served anywhere.

  • Harry Giles

    I have eaten here 9 times over the last 5 years, including this summer. I completely understand why Heston Blumenthal now lives a ten minute drive away. I feel like 17/20 really doesn't represent what this restaurant is capable of, although my last meal there was about 17/20 standard. 17/20 is essentially a complete disaster when considering the best meals I have had here. The menu since lockdown ended seems to be tasting menu only. This is something they don't make clear to people travelling half way across the world often for multiple night stays. Unfortunately, the style of L'Oustau de Baumaniere is not best expressed in this format. A la carte was far superior. Personally, I think the resort where you stay over is wonderful, and, when you dine outside in the evening, and have the real, a la carte menu, this is more like 19/20 on Andy's scale. Possibly, since they won their third star again a couple of years ago, the menu has started to vary less, which is sad. The cellar is unbelievably good value. I know of no other Michelin stated restaurant resort other than Le Pres Eugenie that even comes close to Baumaniere in all of the south of France. I pray it returns to form as it really was a bastion of civilisation.