Our two week family holiday in the south of France is always a firefoodie challenge. There is pretty much a blanket ban on open fires and barbeques everywhere except in private houses. Having seen more than one forest fire in the region at close hand I can see why.
We are surrounded by family and friends where we stay, and when my sister in law offered to feed and look after our kids one evening so my wife and I could try out her favourite local eaterie, what could we say? Her generosity was even further extended to driving us to the restaurant and picking us up after the meal.
La Ferme Ladouceur is a few kilometres from the stunning village of Ramatuelle, near St Tropez on the French riviera. It is locally reknowned for its evening only restaurant which is run along side their chambres d'hotes. The converted farmhouse is set back off the main road, surrounded by vineyards and has a beautiful shaded terrace at the rear. We asked for a special table and got one, right on the edge of the terrace under the canopies of olive and fig trees.
- Petit femlleté boufe et figue
- Brandade de cabillaud, coulis de tomate
- Soupe de pesches
We were guessing as much as you as to what we would receive other than what we could work out with our limited French. The first course was something to do with beef and figs, no clue on the second course other than the tomato coulis, then cheese, and finally peach soup?
We were given the choice of red or rosé to have with our meal, and opted to start on a refreshing, chilled rosé which came to the table in a bottle without a label having been filled from a cask in the kitchen. Then came the first course, and wow. It was a small pastry parcel surrounded by a thick glossy sauce, and garnished with a salad of mixed leaves and redcurrants. The first cut into the pastry revealed a finely minced beef filling with a few slices of fig on top of it. The beef was beautifully seasoned and combined well with the sweet fig, pastry and sauce. The sauce, I think, was a reduced and thickened beef consommé. The leaves and redcurrants had a wonderful cleansing effect as an end to the course. Our plates were left clean, any last traces having been wiped up with some of the home made bread. Our first experience was full of complementary flavours and left us wanting for more.
The fish was firm, white and just moist enough, and looked like it had been baked. It was not like the watery cod often served, but superior in quality. To be honest, I wasn't totally sure it was cod until I looked up the translation of 'cabillaud' the next day. The pureé beneath the cod was an intense, creamy, fishy experience. I was thinking of celeriac and not potato at the time, but the next day translation revealed it to be the 'brandade' on the menu; an emulsion of salted cod, olive oil and milk, a specialty of the region. Cod on cod, an abundance of seasoning, the sweet carrot and the tomato coulis, a divine dish. The toasted bread on the plate I'm sure was there for the final clean up. My wife and I couldn't stop raving as we were eating. It was (together with the wine) an intoxicating experience.
La Ferme Ladouceur is one of those places you have to try. The surprise menu of the day, the ambience and the quality have to be experienced. We will definitely be going back there. Oh, and remember to take cash, no cards accepted.