Le Provencal

Licensed/BYO $-$$$   Hat iconHat iconHat icon   Glass icon
417 Macquarie Street, South Hobart
03) 6224 2526
Open: Wednesday to Saturday from 7.00pm;.

About 10 years ago, Jean-Claude Rival of Le Provencal returned from a family visit to France lamenting the fact that French culinary basics like artisan-made pates, terrines and stocks were rapidly disappearing because smaller producers and restaurants couldn’t afford the equipment the EU health authorities, after a few hundred years of their production, now deem necessary to safely make them.

Things that had traditionally been the basis of the country’s illustrious gastronomic reputation were now being bought in, he said, from large industrial kitchens.

By way of confirmation, it was reported that in 2013 as many as 70 percent of the restaurants in France were doing just that, using ready-made meals produced offsite, including, believe it or not, pre-chopped steak tartare. Remember those big breakfast bowls of creamy café au lait? Well forget them. By law, they can now only be made using UHT milk. Further, less than ten percent of all French cheeses are reportedly now made from raw milk. And, in a country where angry farmers protested by tearing apart a McDonalds in 1999, France is now McDonald’s second-most-profitable market in the world.

The unsurprising result is that last year, only five French restaurants made it into the World’s 50 Best Restaurant Awards and, as a culinary tourism destination, France is losing out to Spain, Italy and even Denmark.

So, we in Hobart are inordinately blessed to have what was once one of France’s national treasures, a family-run restaurant like Le Provencal where everything is made in house using fresh local products cooked in a style that is both traditional and personal.

In my first review of Le Provencal many years ago – well before French food’s decline – I wrote “Le Provencal is the sort of small restaurant you might find, or happily ‘discover’, in towns and villages throughout France. Not one on the town square aimed at capturing the tourist traffic, but perhaps down a side street, round a corner, the one the locals eat at, where the faces are familiar, le patron is in the kitchen, madam’s on the floor and where families, friends and neighbours gather to celebrate life’s little successes and memorable occasions”.

So it wasn’t surprising on our most recent visit to see the restaurant near full of familiar faces, including another restaurateur and two men who, they said, had been meeting there for dinner every Thursday for the past 20 years. “We don’t even order any longer” one of them men said. “We’re happy for Jean-Claude to just send out whatever he thinks we’d like”. Also pleasing was to see a table of younger locals in for a celebration. For it’s for that next generation, the hamburger and food-fashionista generation, that Le Provencal will serve to demonstrate what consistent, unpretentious and timeless good food, real food, and friendly, unobtrusive service is all about.

Our dinner of gratinee a l’oignon, sautéed chicken livers with grapes, onion ravioli made to Jean-Claude’s Alsatian grandmother’s recipe, fruits de mer a la citronelle and duck breast with prunes – each dish a French classic – was superb. And the dessert list looked just as good.

New since our last visit is an expanded but still concise and well-priced list of wines, mainly Tasmanian scattered through with some interesting and affordable drops from France. Although they’ve generously never charged BYO corkage, next visit I’ll be leaving my bottles at home.

Onion soup $17.90; entrees $21.00; mains $37/$38.00; sides $8.50; desserts $14.50

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