By Harlan Hemple on January 04, 2018 in
côte d’azur, le candille, provence, food, wine
You do not ‘eat dinner’ at Le Candille. Dinner is for those who are in a rush; who have a television program to watch or a place to be. Dinner is for people in a hurry.
Here, you dine. You experience. You savor.
You breathe and taste the terroir of Southern France. Make no mistake – this is local food.
Hotel Le Mas Candille has its own bounty growing across its acreage: lemons, rosemary and other herbs abound – along the hotel’s paths, outside rooms, near the pool and by the boule court. Resourceful Chef David Chauvac ensures this very locally-sourced bounty finds purpose on the plate.
Other ingredients are sourced farther afield, but it’s relative. Some distances are measured in a handful of kilometers, others mere hundreds of meters.
Cheeses and seafood including salmon, scallops and prawns are brought in from the nearby market stalls in Cannes. Other ingredients originate in and around Mougins.
So, to be clear, you are eating the bounty – la générosité – of this earth: Provence.
On a recent trip with my wife to Provence and the Côte D’Azur, we spent a relaxing four nights at Le Mas Candille, a beautiful traditional farmhouse, a Relais & Chateaux property, on the outskirts of Mougins, just 15 minutes from Cannes.
As a base for seeing the region, it was perfect – and we enjoyed several lunches and dinners at the hotel’s Michelin star restaurant, Le Candille, in between day trips.
After enjoying several lunches and dinners at Le Candille, I’m already ready to return!
Dining at Le Candille was a treat. I had read positive things about Chef David Chauvac and his creative Asian-influenced spin on Provencal cuisine. The restaurant was already known to me – both for its location in Mougins (of gastronomy fame) as well as Le Candille’s decade-plus of Michelin stardom (no small feat).
From a gourmet picnic lunch for one of our day trips, a Market Menu lunch and a spa-day detox lunch to more than one stunning dinner, Le Candille’s food was outstanding – and memorable.
Lunch | le déjeuner
At lunch, the sun-drenched valley between Grasse and Mougins – even in October – gives you the Cote D‘Azur vacation-feel. It leaves you with that same contented feeling of having spent time with an old friend – comfortable, relaxed, tranquil.Maybe it’s the light.
Lunch isn’t hurried, but nothing here is. Le Candille is the perfect place for savoring food, appreciating wine, and relishing time with a table mate.
Lunch begins, as do all meals, with both a mise-en-bouche and a foie gras preparation. Chef Chauvac selects the best ingredients at local markets each week and designs the weekly mise-en-bouche to highlight them specifically. So if you fall in love with a particular mise-en-bouche and dine here more than once in a week, you will have the opportunity to enjoy them again.
Dinner | le diner
As evening arrives on the hillside of Mougins, the distant sparkling lights of Grasse appear – atmospheric yet removed, creating a comfortable intimacy.
There is attention to detail beyond the flavors and plating, as one would expect. The wait staff is attentive and available but doesn’t hover.
Wines are paired by the knowledgeable Chief Sommelier, Julien Leroux, and made for some intriguing flavor profiles – proving an excellent complement to the dishes.
Sauces are used with a light touch – they enhance the main ingredients, but don’t overwhelm the senses or overpower the food. Instead, they blend to create inspired new flavors.
Plating – while colorful, clean and well-thought-out – discards some of the theatricality found elsewhere in favor of elegant simplicity.
The hotel’s (and restaurant’s) private label Champagne – La Cuvee Sur-Mesure ‘Le Mas Candille’ – hits the mark in its attempts to capture the flavors of Provence.
Meals began with a mises-en-bouche comprised of three intensely-flavored (and yet surprisingly complementary) bites. Widely described as a pre-meal glimpse into a chef’s approach to cuisine, Chauvac’s trois bouchées proved no exception.
The Parmesan-filled pastry and the duck confit-filled pastry were well-balanced with intense flavors.The first was a bite of salmon matched with a morsel of orange. The flavor is complex in its own right, absent sauces or preparations common in other parts of France and the world. This is a Provencal-style sashimi, and the rich, almost-creamy toothpick-speared bite of salmon speaks for itself. The salmon was a favorite of mine.
Terrine of Foie Gras
Foie gras, as is common in France, made an appearance in a terrine on a matching black slate tray, topped with a pinch of paprika. It had been transformed into a mousse, complemented with champagne and grape.
The foie gras’ near-cream-like texture was light and made to be savored. Its richness made the portion feel far larger than it was.
Starters | Apéritif
For appetizers, on different nights my wife and I sampled a number of dishes.
Highlights included pan-fried scallops with adzuki beans, shellfish, mandarin and cachaça sauce (my favorite, the scallops had a natural sweetness which was further augmented by the cachaça sauce) and the ravioles de cèpes (cep mushroom and free-range chicken ravioli with a smooth tarragon-scented sauce) was my wife’s top choice – and my very-close runner-up.
The Main Course | Le Plat Principal
This past fall saw some wonderful main course dishes featured at Le Candille. We both enjoyed the duck (with a carmelized soya sauce and lotus seeds) and the monk fish (cooked in a salted butter and date cream), but absolutely adored the flavorful, lean and tender beef tournedos with artichoke and quince tart.
For me, the beef won the day with its rich-yet-surprisingly-light jus sauce.
Too often, I find that sauces hide the natural flavor of meat, and I had thought the Tasmanian peppercorn jus might overpower the beef.
In the hands of the stellar chef Chauvac, however, it proved to provide flavor accent rather than heat. The sauce wasn’t an afterthought, but it also wasn’t the focus – just another important element of the entrée’s ensemble. Paired with a right bank Bordeaux, it was an entrée that left me wanting more. (And then even more!)
My wife is a fan of cheeses, so the cheese specialist’s selection was a popular dessert for her. The large cheese trolley features a broad selection (at least 15 distinct kinds of cheese) of fine local & regional cheeses, which are cut table side based on a discussion of your tastes with the server. I particularly enjoyed the creamy Stilton with its rich vein of blue.
Le Candille did not disappoint. In fact, I’d say it alone is well worth a trip to Mougins. The restaurant team is genuinely dedicated to ensuring meals are memorable, and the dining room itself is a tranquil and comfortable retreat.