I was lucky enough to be taken by some friends to the beautiful La Bastide Saint Antoine in Grasse for a lovely lunch during the Christmas holidays.
This bright manor house is surrounded by a formal garden, with lime and chestnut trees visible from the glass-enclosed dining room, and is part of a traditional country house hotel which has beautiful Provencal rooms and exquisite views over the Haute Maritime.
The hosts are Odette and Jacques Chibois.
Jacques is the head chef and figurehead, and has won two Michelin stars for his amazing cuisine.
Lunch during the week is a special treat, because the food is delicious and the price is realistic.
We enjoyed many of the dishes on the menu, but to start we particularly liked the bream tartare marinated with citruses, the warm fish soup, and the cauliflower royales with hazelnut flavour.
Cauliflower is a recently rediscovered vegetable which can be prepared in many ways, and here it is paired with the hazelnut flavour, which is a perfect example of beautiful fresh vegetables in a fabulous sauce.
Our main dishes included roast rack of veal with old-fashioned stuffed tomatoes, and crispy sweetbread with Provencal flavours.
The veal was perfectly cooked and the tomatoes were stuffed Provencal-style with delicious breadcrumbs bursting with flavour.
We also enjoyed roast local lamb with eggplant and ratatouille, flavoured with marjoram pesto.
I love pesto, and I also love eggplant, so this was the perfect choice for me, as it was beautifully pink and perfectly prepared.
As readers of my column will know, a meal can only be great if the desserts are great, and La Bastide did not let us down.
Apple pavlova was just what it sounds like – meringue, apple and ice cream. Could there be a better combination?
We also loved the Grand Marnier soufflé, which looked like it came out of the most traditional French cook book and tasted just as good.
Mousse of mascarpone with Tahiti vanilla and a coulis of raspberry was as pretty as a picture, and, even for people who do not love mascarpone, this was a dish to delight.
In all, even though it was a rainy day in the South of France outside, the view, the food, the ambience and the service, made us feel like honoured guests in a beautiful country house enjoying a leisurely, luxurious luncheon.