My holidays as a young teen were most often filled with the detritus typical of an adolescent male. With neither an ounce of sense nor any concern more pressing than the provenance of my next meal, just occasionally, peeking through the venetians of time, would arrive the first glimpse of adulthood and what was to become a constant state of wanderlust.
If necessity is the mother of invention, then boredom is its father!
It was boredom that drew me to the last room of our summer holiday house, and an exploration of the bookshelf within. Where once upon a time Tom Clancy or Alistair MacLean would have been my authors of first choice, this time something had changed. I had changed.
Instead, I found myself lingering over a well-worn and dog-eared copy of a thin novel simply titled, “A Year in Provence”. I never finished that book, on the morrow we were gone, but the little that did sink in had the most profound effect that resonates even now. In fact, it’s only in writing these words that I realise that those hours spent curled up in a sofa chair were probably the first time in my young life that food and travel became inextricably linked; a realisation that simple words with a dash of wit could provide immeasurable joy to a stranger on the opposite side of the world.
And so it is that the region of Provence holds for me a certain mystique. Fact? Fiction? Until I visit I’ll never know, but in my mind has been built a landscape in a state of perpetual early autumn. Of green grass and russet leaves, vines under blue skies and mare’s tails, stone farmhouses and cobbled streets, upon which ride and drive an assortment of gregarious, contrary, yet warm individuals more interested in a slice of cheese, a glass of wine, and thumbing their varicose noses at authority than to finish that verandah extension to which they are most unfortunately, yet contractually bound.
Le Provençal is as close to Provence as you’re going to get in Hobart, and on this cold, wet, bone-chilling evening, its vibrant warmth was the perfect tonic!
With cocky roosters looking on over our shoulders and gaily painted trompe l’oeil creating a surprisingly effective illusion of summer days in rural France, we perused our menus with much anticipation.
The dishes on offer are varied, offering classical French flavours that are, unfortunately, most rare in Hobart.
The pan fried chicken livers with sweet grape sauce ($20.50) appealed strongly to us both, but as always the Silent Clown won out, leaving me to instead sample the potted pork belly terrine with an accompaniment of vibrant greens, pickles, olives and sun-dried tomato, and a couple of slices of lightly toasted bread on the side ($20.50).
The delicately warm livers were very much the ideal accompaniment to such abominable weather assaulting the windows and doors of the restaurant. Much food jealousy was to be had!
At the same time, the pork belly terrine would have been much more appropriate six months and two seasons later, but nevertheless brought a bright, light and refreshing start to the evening. I though the rillettes from The Coterie were good, but this terrine took the art of potted pork to a delightful new level!
Our main meals, and particularly the perfectly roasted duck breast with plum sauce ($38.00), were again of a high standard. I did feel that the confit-style quail ($37.00) may have been the slightest little bit ‘over’, but the rich, creamy garlic sauce more than compensated.
Befitting the wintry evening, we both finished with a couple of warm desserts with icecream on the side. For me it was a bread and butter pudding with cherries in mulled wine, while Karen chose an upside down apple tart.
The perfect finish to a fantastic meal!
Le Provencal is a throwback of sorts, to an uncomplicated time when word of mouth was king, and service just as important as the meal itself. Jean-Claude, head chef, certainly knows his way around a kitchen (his sauces in particular are divine!), while wife Julie manages front of house with effortless professionalism, offering unhurried advice, friendly banter and silence in ideal proportion.
With typical Gallic indifference, social media is merely a modern distraction of the most unwanted variety for Le Provençal. And why would they need it when they have such a loyal local following? Whether it’s celebration of one of life’s great milestones, or simply a celebration of life itself, Le Provençal offer genuine, classical French cooking from the heart.
Bookings are essential, so make sure you call at least a week ahead. Be aware that hours are also more limited than your typical restaurant.
You’ll find Le Provençal in Hobart’s southern suburbs at 417 Macquarie St, away from the hustle and bustle of Hobart’s many other eateries. They are contactable on (03) 6224 2526.
Opening hours are Wednesday through Saturday, from 7pm onwards.
Like to know what others are thinking? The best you’ll find is Trip Advisor – Le Provençal on Trip Advisor
They do have a Facebook page, but it’s purely a one-way affair – Le Provençal on Facebook