La Provencal

La Provencal has been serving fine French food for twenty-five years.

This Girl was due an airing. I saw a Facebook post reminding peeps that this place was an institution, operated by Julie and Jean Claude and could only be enjoyed as long as they continued their service. It sealed the deal. I haven’t been in 20 years and I’ve been saying for half as long that I needed to go back. I might have tried over Easter one year when they were (sensibly) closed for the holiday.

This time we got a table. I was very excited. It was the same night as the inaugural Gin-uary Festival. It was the same day as Hobart’s hottest summer day for the season. We tasted gin samples in a hot shed for hours before dinner. We might have been a little worse for wear on our arrival. Julie was gracious regardless.

They’re old school. They don’t have a fancy website or an Instagram account. Which shows you can buck the latest trends and continue to be successful.

But then again, you can’t go wrong with French cooking.

La Provencal is housed in a quaint South Hobart cottage. Never having been to France, in my mind’s eye, I imagine it is typical of a restaurant in the French countryside, a family business in a converted home, surrounded by ornaments and furnishing collected over the time of the owners’ lives together.

I’m often reluctant to choose French cuisine when deciding on a restaurant. The French don’t fear butter and cream, and good for them, butter and cream are delicious. From time to time, I valiantly put concern for my arteries aside, and enjoy classic cooking techniques, the holy trinity of leek, celery and carrot; delicious sauces; perfectly cooked seafood and meat; finely julienned vegetables; gorgeous desserts and of course, loads of butter and cream. So much of Western cooking is rooted in French techniques. French food is as diverse as the regions that make up the country, but there are some safe assumptions.

On our visit the menu contained some cuisine favourites, French onion soup with cheese and croutons; pan-fried chicken livers with sweet grape sauce; or prawn timbale with creamy bisque-style sauce. Main courses included: braised beef in a white wine and brown stock sauce with a garnish of sautéed capsicum and home-made gnocchi; roasted quail served with a red wine and mushroom sauce on a green pea puree; braised beef tongue with French lentils and a piquant sauce; and grilled lamb loin on a bed of white bean mash with ratatouille and tarragon and white wine sauce.

Boys and girls, don’t go out and get trashed on gin and not be able to eat to your heart’s content at a French restaurant. Just don’t.

Seated, we blinked at the menus placed in front of us and lamented our diary scheduling.

Because we couldn’t not try at least one entrée, we shared the rilletes de porc, $22, aka potted pork terrine served with cucumber pickles and toast. Delectable meat served matched with the vinegared vegetable, what’s not to like? It was perfect to share as a large entrée serving.

The Lovely Deputy chose the canard au poivre vert, $40, roasted duck breast with a green peppercorn sauce garnished with sautéed apples and potato. I’m in food blogger hell at this stage, wishing for the duck. Instead I chose the filet de saumon sauce julienne, $39, a grilled salmon fillet served with a creamy white wine and julienne vegetable sauce and served with a semolina, parmesan dumpling.

The gin started talking and ordered a side serve of chips, $9.

The duck and the salmon were as predicted, perfectly cooked and perfectly paired with their accompaniments. The meals were both simple and complex. Only a few major elements appear on the plate but their sophisticated flavours are built up in layers from the firmest footings. I loved my salmon, it was delectable and a large but lighter meal. A perfect choice for my circumstances and the day’s climate.

Julie saw us struggling and offered to remove the chips from our reach.

I looked forlornly at the dessert menu and knew the preparation time and extra food would push us both, in turn, over the edge. I see another visit to La Provencal in my short-term future. To whet your appetite think Tasmanian cherries poached in mulled red wine with cinnamon ice cream; chocolate coated pistachio ice cream on chocolate sponge with crème anglaise; and tarte tatin.

Kicking. My. Self.

La Provencal is one of Hobart’s quietest achievers. It delivers wonderful food and service with decorum in an unpretentious setting. It is definitely worth making an effort to get to.

Find La Provencal at 417 Macquarie Street, South Hobart.

Normal opening hours are Wednesdays – Saturdays, from 7 pm. Make a reservation by calling 6224 2526.

Another restaurant of similar ilk is Lebrina.

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