Every year wine and food lovers make a pilgrimage to EdouardLoubet’s, Le Moulin de Lourmarin, where they are treated to unique dishes and abrilliant wine list that are inspired by the Michelin-starred chef’s memories.
Peter Mayle, who famously described Edouard Loubet’s Moulinde Lourmarin in his book, A Year in Provence, sums up the pure pleasure ofdrinking and eating in an almost cinematic way… “It was about half past twelvewhen we sat down at our table in the vast stone room, warmed by a log fire inthe hearth, surrounded by the encouraging sounds and smells that combine tomake an aperitif for the senses: the muted creak of corks being eased out ofbottles, the perfumed zephyrs coming from a bowl of ragout d’escargots, abasket of warm bread and the murmured recitations of the sommelier.”
Mayle is not the only traveller to be seduced by EdouardLoubet’s brand of highly idiosyncratic cooking. At 24, Loubet was awarded theMichelin star, the youngest chef in France to receive that honour. His passion foressential flavours extends to aperitifs, and he serves his own infusions suchas a Kir made with white wine truffles and Luberon honey, topped up withChampagne.
The Moulin was born when Loubet, a former skier, left theSavoie region for the 1200m Mourre NÃ¿gre, in Lourmarin, voted the prettiestvillage in France. He soon discovered that the slopes of the mountain werecovered in aromatic herbs, fresh peas and wild cherries, spring asparagus, plussalsify and liquorice roots. All these make the most intricate recipes, many ofthem drawing on childhood memories, such as his gratin de ma grand-mÃ¿re or hiswild sea bream in a salt crust, a holiday-inspired choice from the Corsicancoast.
The recipes then need the perfect wine to match – stepforward Charly, his sommelier.
"Charly contributes a great deal to my dishes," admitsLoubet. "Firstly I always ask him to have a look at the wines from this region.My style of cooking likes white wines - we have a very good selection inLanguedoc-Roussillon, Luberon and the RhÃ¿ne Valley. In ChÃ¢teauneuf du Pape, wehave an excellent wine that goes well with my Ã©ntrees and fish dishes.
"At the moment I have an autumn menu with more mushrooms,which also goes well with CÃ¿tes du Luberon."
The successful relationship between Loubet and Charly has tobe both honest and searching, and involves a great deal of discussion.
"Now my role is sometimes to say, 'no, that wine is toostrong, it won't go well with the dish'," says Loubet.
"When I taste the wines, I imagine them alongside sweet,peppery flavours, a beetroot or a fruit. I read it as a complementary flavourand avoid anything that might jar."
Clearly, Loubet is in the business of creating memories,especially as the memory of certain wines stay with him very forcefully.
These range from his first memory, being a young boy in theSavoie mountains and finding that wine had “a bitter taste, something tart”,via the specific wine he drank on his 25th birthday in 1970 (a CÃ¿tes du RhÃ¿neHermitage for the record), to the memory of one outstanding wine that hediscovered at one of his first wine tastings. “It was a Corton Charlemagne. AndI was astonished by the roundness, the woody flavour, the vanilla – it reallywas a discovery for me, like a flashbulb had gone off. I loved it! And I stilllove the moment of that memory.”
But memories take time, as Peter Mayle found out when hetried to suggest that he only had two hours for lunch.
"The Loubet eyebrows were raised at the thought of suchindecent haste," says Mayle.
"Ah bon?" replied Loubet. "Well, I'll see what I can do."
"It was my 25th birthday at the Tour d'Argent in Paris. I was offered a ChÃ¢teau Palmer, 1967. It was absolutely fantastic, an opulent match for the Tour's famous canard Ã la presse."
Co-owner Randall & Aubin
"I was in Brittany this summer and we had a rosÃ© just up from Provence - just of €4 a bottle. It was smooth and ripe, soft and lovely. A revelation for a rosÃ©."
Jacques & Laurent Pourcel
To open W'Sens in St James
"I particularly like CÃ¿tes du RhÃ¿ne Berrin, ChÃ¢teau de Beaucastel. We had it on my 40th birthday at a big party on the beach at Cap d'Ail with a Moroccan theme."