Restaurant Simone (Villeneuve-lès-Avignon)

© Emmanuel Ferrand

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It’s been a few years since Marie-Charlotte Antonini, an in-the-know wine lover, traded in public relations for the papal life at this former cardinal’s livery. With this 15th-century palace as a backdrop, she never tires of providing guests with food and drink prepared by a series of chefs in residence: Julie Caute, Valentina Raffaelli, Priscilla Trâm… And on this spring Sunday, seated on the massive terrace dotted with century-old chestnut and olive trees, drumroll please… we were delightfully surprised to find Arles-based chef Numa Muller (ex-Simone and Paulette in Arles, and Madame Jeanne in Marseille) being offered culinary asylum until September 2023. It was a festival of perfectly crafted plates the day we went, savored to the song of a blackbird: flame-charred green asparagus drizzled with an incredible taggiasche olive jam, and paired with labneh plus harissa mayonnaise; lace-like calf’s head carpaccio intensified by cubed eel and cream; tuna belly lounging on an impeccable celery rémoulade seasoned perfectly with seaweed, Henri Milan verjus and La Guinelle vinegar; classic veal sweetbreads that were as tender as they were crispy, glazed in a full-bodied jus and caressed by a damn good coffee sabayon, all served with a seasonal vegetable ragù, while the nearby table savored a heady porchetta straight from the roasting spit… Before an intense Valrhona chocolate quenelle with toasted almonds and fleur de sel, plus a rich and silky hay ice cream and buckwheat crumble for dessert. // Raoul Taburin 

FEELING THIRSTY? : Provence represent: Libre comme l’air, a Luberon white blend produced by Laura Aillaud (€6.50 a glass), Haru, a rosé from the Domaine Milan in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence (€36 a bottle), an Hérault Grenache from Sauta Roc (€37)… 
PRICE: : À la carte €36-56 (lunch), dinner menus €55 (five courses) and €85 (six courses). 

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