**NOTE THIS RESTAURANT CHANGED HANDS IN WINTER 2013/2014. THE NEW OWNERS REOPENED IN MAY 2014. HERE'S THE NEW INFO**:
Late last year, Sébastien Aringhieri , the owner of the building that houses the Restaurant de la Gare de Bonnieux, sold it to designer Pierre Cardin, who has been buying up lots of property in the Luberon. Cardin, in turn, asked Sebastien to stay on and run it for him. "We renewed and refreshed everything," Sebastien tells me, "putting in a new kitchen, new bathrooms, a new terrasse that fits 60." But my guess is that those who've been eating here and loving it for years won't notice much change...at least I hope not. The charming old building dates to the early 1900s and it's been a restaurant since the 1950s. It draws a heavily local crowd...and the few tourists intrepid enough to find it. This neighborhood--a charming little quartier with an old train station--is like a wonderful step back in time
They still serve lunch only (every day but Sunday) and it's still one of the very best deals around. First, you serve yourself ("à volonté") from a buffet of starters, then they bring out the main course, which changes every day. Last time I went it was beef stew in red wine sauce, served with a potato gallette; other days you might find a navarin de veau, sauté de canard or poulet rôti, sautéed lamb with tagliatelles...that sort of thing. Friday is usually fish. Included in the price is a basket of bread and your choice of cheese or dessert, all for a whopping 14€. There's also a new, second menu option available at 28€. The previous chef's hearty, homestyle cooking was perfect for the setting and I assume the same is still true. One small difference is now you have to pay for your wine, but don't worry you can handle it: it comes from the nearby wine co-op and it's just 3€, 6€ or 8€ per carafe.
Lunch is served in a large convivial dining room--with a hodgepodge of art on the walls and a huge fireplace--or on the terrace overlooking the fields and hills. The welcome is warm, the food is great and the plat du jour formula makes everything super easy. Better still, the set price makes this a total no brainer if you go with a group.
Lunch is served every day except Sunday, from noon until roughly 2:30... or until the food runs out. And just FYI, Pierre Cardin also bought the old wine co-op next door, and has been busy transforming it into a conference center/movie theatre. Opening night was in mid May and it will start showing movies to the public in September 2014.
The only problem with Restaurant de la Gare is that it’s hard to find the first time you go; it's in the countryside outside Bonnieux. Heading east on the D900 towards Apt, turn right (south) on the D36 towards Bonnieux. After 500 meters or so, take a right at the third road, at something called Odalys Residences. (If you see the big Cave de Bonnieux on your left, you've gone too far). If you're coming from the other way, meaning from the village of Bonnieux heading north, take the D36, pass the Cave de Bonnieux on your right and take a left at Odalys Residences.
Restaurant de la Gare
Quartier de la Gare, across from the old train station
Photos from top: You've arrived! Daily specials and desserts are posted on blackboards. The old train station, across the street from the restaurant. *Note these photos are old; I'll post new ones when I can.