Jon and I are spending this week in Provence with some friends who have a five-month-old. We feel like we were “just” here, but really it’s been three years since our last trip to Provence, and this time we’re staying in a different part of the region, just outside Aix-en-Provence in a small, charming town called St. Cannat.
Because our friends are new parents, we’ve been cooking in a lot, rather than eating out, which means we’re now already well acquainted with local market schedules as well as with the locations of a hyper-marche or two.
Yesterday, though, we enjoyed a simple lunch outside in the sunshine, sitting beside the Sorgue river in l’Isle sur la Sorgue, a town famous for its Sunday antiques market.
I’d gone there hoping to find old mixing bowls or pretty knicknacks to brighten up my London kitchen, but instead I embarrassed myself by offering 40 euros for an old tin sign that the seller wanted 140 euros for. Needless to say, the seller was rather insulted, and I’m sure I managed to do further damage to the reputation of Americans as a clueless people. [But really, 140 euros for a battered and rusty tin sign? What do I look like? A clueless American?]
At least there was lunch, though. We chose Le Potager de Louise for the simple reason that it had riverside seating (plus the fact that the other restaurant with riverside seating, L’Ecailler, next door to Le Potager, was manned by a matire d’ who was obnoxious).
90% of the French diners around us were eating salads, so we followed suit. And I’m glad we did. The salads (all priced at around 13 euros) were huge, packed with crispy lettuce, beautifully dressed with a sweet vinaigrette, and chock full of toppings. Salade Nicoise was a standout with just the right anchovy saltiness and creamy hard-boiled eggs. Feeling indulgent, we ordered a side of fries, which were greasy and soggy, so who knows how the kitchen would do if they actually had to cook hot food.
So if you stick with the salads and it’s warm and sunny enough to sit outside along the river, Le Potager de Louise is a winner. Our server was friendly (though she disappeared for long stretches), and nobody rushed us from our comfortable table, allowing us to lazily observe the market foot traffic going by.
Salads and a half-bottle of crisp rose cost us 16 euros a person, which puts our lunch firmly in the cheap-and-cheerful category.
Le Potager de Louise, 9 Quai Rouget de l’Isle, 84800 l’Isle sur la Sorgue, France; +33 4 90 20 96 56.