Hotel La Bastide de Moustiers****
Restaurant Michelin One Star
Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, Haute Provence, France
This is the decidedly up-scale country inn of Alain Ducasse in the highlands of Provence. La Bastide de Moustiers has been our favorite restaurant in Haute Provence since it opened in 1995. Ducasse has different chefs in his fabulous stable that come and go here and what they all have in common is their superb training and the ever present oversight of this remarkable man - M. Ducasse. It has maintained a very steady level of quality cuisine for many years now and meals are served in a lovely environment, both inside and out, that is hard to match anywhere. We go as often as we are able both for the food and the unique collections of rooms and suites (not to mention the pet donkeys on the back hillside!)
The establishment itself has never faltered maintaining a polish and attention to even the smallest detail since it first opened it's doors over 25+ years ago. Within a few years of opening, new rooms and cottages were added built in the traditional manner styled in modern Provençal, filled with antiques that hide the 21st century high tech entertainment and communications devices and A/C vents. A medieval herb garden was installed followed by a professional kitchen garden that climbs the hill behind the Bastide. This all makes the journey up the winding and scenic roads very worth while.
The whole experience actually is rather magical. Whether sitting outside on the terrace looking out over the verdant valley sipping a Pastis or at one of the cozy tables in one of four dining rooms each with its own character, the meal and the environment in which it is eaten become one. The service always both professional and friendly at the same time.
The menu still changes daily depending on what the local markets and producers have in stock that is at its best altough its initial concept of serving simple food prepared with distinction has given way, over the years, to recipes out of the Ducasse play book that suite what is daily fresh from their kitchen garden or from their suppliers. If you have a problem with a certain dish, they will gladly make a substitution if they can or, if on their computer they see you ate the same dish on your last visit, they will often offer you something else.
This year on our visit we noticed a distinct change in the taste of the cuisine. It is still immaculately prepared. But it has shifted away from purely South of France Mediterranean tastes and while the ingredients of the dish are still local and very fresh, spices and flavorings are being added to make the cuisine more of a "fusion" in character. It is well done, if you like that sort of thing. On a personal level, we travel thousands of miles to France to taste, well, the tastes of France, rendered in new and different ways perhaps, but still with a national character. We can get endless "fusion" in California, so on this trip we were a touch disappointed not to find what we have been enjoying for a quarter of a century. But we also know that tastes changes along with fashions and we would hate to see any restaurant loose that vitality of innovation.
There is nothing like lunch on the terrace overlooking the verdant valley that spreads out before you as you eat under the dappled sun from the old plane tree. Then that evening, as the sun is setting and its light floods the ancient dining room, enjoy a leisurely dinner as darkness creeps upon you.
The Bastide has been known from its inception for its sinful desserts. Not just one, but one following another. And they are so good, that even the threats of a wife cannot stop the guy with a sweet tooth from digging in. So they are not big, but they are delicious. The bite sized apres desserts and even chocolate chip cookies warm from the oven that used to be served with coffeebit has been discontinued, probably a good thing for my waiste line but my taste buds do protest the omission.
La Bastide is right at the entrance to the Grand Canyon of France the Gorges de Verdon and minutes from the lovely lake of St. Croix with boating, wind surfing, canoeing and other water sports. The most charming village of Moustier-Ste-Marie is just up the hill. It is a must on any itinerary.
Dogs are not allowed in the dining room. But reception will look after them so they are easy to check on between courses. They are allowed out on the terrace dining area and in the rooms but must be accompanied at all times and on a leach.
La Bastide de Moustiers****
Chemin de Quinson
Member of Chateaux et Hotels de France