Michel and Gisele Montisci bought the popular Restaurant de la Gare outside Bonnieux in 2009; the building dates to the early 1900s and has housed a restaurant since the 1950s. It draws a heavily local crowd...and the few tourists intrepid enough to find it. This charming little quartier, with its old train station, is like a wonderful step back in time. And the restaurant offers one of the best meal deals around.
First, you serve yourself from a buffet of cold salads and vegetables, then Gisele brings out the main course, which changes every day. Last time I went it was beef stew in red wine sauce, served with a potato galette; other days it could be a navarin de veau, sauté de canard or poulet rôti. Chef Patrick Pin's hearty, home-style cooking is perfect for the rustic setting and a pichet of local wine, a basket of bread and your choice of cheese or dessert is included in the price. It's all 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. And the price for all this hearty goodness? Just 15€, my friend. Lunch is served every day except Sunday, from noon until roughly 2:30, or until the food runs out.
And what's this about Pierre Cardin having bought the old buildings next door? Gisele tells me it's true, and that Mr. Cardin told her he plans to convert them into a cultural center and a cinema. Renovation is nearly complete, she reports, but the project is still under development and nothing is definite yet. Cardin, as you may know, owns the old château of the Marquis du Sade in nearby Lacoste, and has underwritten a popular arts festival there for more than ten years. Cardin has snapped up many other buildings as well, creating all sorts of local drama—but that has nothing to do with the great lunch you’re going to have in Bonnieux.
The only problem with Restaurant de la Gare is that it’s hard to find the first time you go. Heading east on the D900 towards Apt, turn right (south) on the D36 heading towards Bonnieux. After 500 meters or so, take a right at the third road, at the Odalys Residences. (If you see the big Cave de Bonnieux, 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.