On my first night in Avignon, I did some research on where to go for dinner. According to TripAdvisor, the #1 rated spot was a spot called Fou de Fafa. Thank god for the Flight of the Conchords, otherwise it may have never caught my eye so immediately. I quickly looked it up on my map, got dressed, and made my way over, only to find it was closed due to special circumstances that evening. The sign did, however, provide an email address to contact for reservations. Funnily enough, it never even occurred to me to make a reservation. Even despite my experience at Rodney’s, which has got me into the habit of making Tuesday night resos at neighbourhood bistros in Toronto.
I emailed my reservation request, which was met with a prompt reply from husband & wife owners Russell and Antonia. The British couple is fluent in English, French, and German. They run the entire restaurant all by themselves, with Russell doing all the cooking, and Antonia doing all the serving. They make a great team. “We like it that way,” Antonia told me during dinner the following evening. “We keep it small and manageable… most of the time.”
I arrived at 7:30 the next evening, receiving a very warm welcome from Antonia. “Make yourself at home,” she insisted. You could tell that she meant it. It turned out that I was smart to make a reservation, as all the tables in the restaurants were reserved for the evening. A couple of walk-ins throughout the evening had no choice but to wait.
This marked the first time I ever dined completely by myself. That means no book. Nothing. Zilch. Nada. It was a bit interesting as it allowed me to pay more attention to the meal in its purest form, not being influenced by my company, whether it’s with friends, a date, or my family. To be honest, I felt slightly uncomfortable at first. The small space’s low ceilings and cold stone walls created a bit of a dull ambiance, but the classic Sinatra and Rat Pack music made up for that. I decided to begin with an apertif: A glass of bubbly Prosecco at only 4.50 euros. Shortly after silently toasting myself, Antonia brought an amuse-bouche – I believe it was foie gras on crostini, but I’m not 100% sure. Regardless, it did the trick: My mouth was amused.
The menu offered very good value: You could order any starter and entree or any entree and dessert for just 22 euros. Or you could have all three for 26.50. There were five choices for appetizers, including a goat’s cheese croustillant with roasted red peppers and black olive jam. If I hadn’t been indulging in so many goat’s cheese salads as of late, I might have gone for that. Instead I ordered the beef carpaccio, which was topped with the obvious parmesan and arugula, as well as the not-so-obvious rocket pesto. I found it superb. I even caught myself dabbing my finger in the leftover pesto and parmesan once the meat was all gone, savouring every last flavor.
Following in the suit of red meat, I picked the entrecôte steak with a roquefort sauce, roasted tomatoes, and crushed (read: mashed) potatoes as my main. Though tempted by the fried duck breast and salmon fillet, I had to give into my first red meat craving of this trip. The steak, though very simple, was cooked perfectly medium rare. The roquefort sauce, topped with arugula, was tasty but certainly nothing out of this world. That being said, I did manage to destroy everything on my plate, save for some steak fat and tomato juice.
I paired my food with a fairly decent 2009 Côtes du Rhônes from Maison Camille Cayran. 14 euros for a half litre, which proved to be more than enough for me. The wine started out a tad acidic but smoothed out as the meal progressed.
Truthfully, the highlight of my experience was being served by owner Antonia. I think there’s something delightful about being served by the owner of a restaurant. Perhaps because you know that they’re not in it for a big tip. This isn’t their part time job. This is their life.
I left the restaurant slightly drunk, happy, and with money in my pocket. The total bill, including service tax, was 39 euros. Un bon marché!