The surreal extravagance of our last meal in Liguria left us with a quandary: how could any restaurant live up to that experience, which was all the more incredible for having caught us off guard? After pondering that question for a few days, I decided to put it behind me. Eating, after all, is about living in the present and appreciating each meal for what it's trying to be, not for what it might have been.
With this bit of wisdom in mind, five of us piled into our little blue Twingo again and set off not for the Italian border, but for the hills behind Vence. It was a beautiful Sunday, with barely a hint of autumn in the air - only my friends who grew up in southern California could detect the almost imperceptible chill. I was wearing flip-flops, blissfully unaware that I would soon be trading them for socks and boots.
I had heard good things about L'Ecole des Filles from Armand Crespo, owner of the wildly popular Bistrot d'Antoine in Nice, and liked the idea of eating in this former girls' school on the edge of Le Bar sur Loup, near Grasse. Those who were already seated at the terrace tables when we arrived seemed to have taken the theme to heart: they held their backs straight, spoke in hushed tones and turned their heads to look at us, as if checking out the new kids in the class. Until the wine started to flow, only the cars whizzing by on the other side of the fence broke the almost reverent atmosphere.
L'Ecole des Filles has been a restaurant for eleven years but young chef Stéphane Lucas - his wife Eve looks barely out of school herself - has breathed new life into this institution. Wisely, he keeps the menu brief (just two choices for each course) and changes it every ten days to reflect what's available at the market. Without taking the school theme too far into the realm of kitsch, there are many sweet touches such as the cow pitcher for water and the bowl of Haribo candy that comes at the end of the meal; one of our group spotted Kermit the frog in the restroom. The menu is, of course, hand-written on a blackboard.
Before the starters arrived, we nibbled on little finger sandwiches and sampled a sweet pumpkin soup served in colorful little cups; I wondered if it had a touch of honey. I was the only one to choose rillettes de lapin, shredded rabbit meat preserved in fat - here, presented on a slice of toasted country bread with pickles and green onion for contrast, it tasted almost light (for rillettes, anyway). A smoky eggplant purée completed the dish. Smoked salmon with mozzarella, potato and a slightly frothy pea sauce was an unusual combination that worked.
Main courses were equally creative: we had thin beefsteak atop a fried risotto cake with tomatoes, chard and grilled eggplant, and sea bream a la plancha with wild mushrooms, braised lettuce wrapped in bacon and a foamy sauce. Maybe there was a little too much going on for my taste, but I lean towards simplicity more than most. For Sam, the chef came up with creamy risotto topped with beefsteak, which looked good to all of us.
The meal's only disappointment was the peach and berry melba, whose ice cream had melted by the time it got to our table. Without the texture and temperature contrast, this dessert was a flop despite the beautiful raspberries and the crunchy granola on top. Much better was the buttery pear frangipane tart, which came with a perfectly formed scoop of ice cream and caramel drizzle on the plate.
A three-course meal costs 39 euros here, which is not for every day, but there is also a 24 euro, two-course lunch menu on weekdays and the chef charged only 15 euros for Sam's main course and dessert. With just three courses (four counting the nibbles) and two small carafes of wine this Sunday lunch was much better behaved than the one before - not that I would ever compare - but that's probably a good thing.
L'Ecole des Filles, 380 avenue de l'Amiral de Grasse, Le Bar-sur-Loup, 04 93 09 40 20.
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That there must be nice ... No teacher! It goes back in time to relive moments while eating school meals!
I invite you to discover the site of travelers Trivago, your photos deserve to be present ...
And why not tell your dining experience at this restaurant unusual!
vaba member (greedy) Site Trivago