If you’ve read The Three Musketeers or The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas, you’ll be familiar with the idea of horsemen pulling up at inns in the French countryside to get fed and watered. It was this that came to mind when I first discovered Auberge de la Môle, a restaurant in a small town (La Môle) some 20km from Saint-Tropez. Partly because the old building looks like a roadside inn, and partly because it was clearly once a more modern-day refuelling stop as it still houses an old petrol pump at the edge of its outdoor seating area.
But though the setting is not that picturesque – the restaurant is literally on the side of the road – the building is. And the food…
The interior of the place is classic French, with a wood-panelled bar, and the outside area is covered, and shielded from the road with greenery. The road is not busy in any case, so this doesn’t interfere with the dining experience, and on the two occasions I’ve been here – both in the summer – we sat outside while the sun set, and the atmosphere was great.
But the food… the food… I am not exaggerating when I say this is among the best I have had anywhere. And it’s surprisingly reasonably priced. Especially as the quantities are enormous; this is the sort of place where you really should consider a light breakfast and skipping lunch if you are going for dinner.
The deal here is that you order an all-in menu where you get to choose an entrée and main course. Before your starter arrives you are served a great selection of rillettes, pâté, duck mousse and tête persillée, accompanied by cornichons and generous pieces of sourdough. You can add terrine de foie gras maison for a supplement.
The entrees include a perfectly cooked omelette aux cèpes (mushrooms) as well as cuisses de grenouilles fraiches a la Provençale, smoked salmon and crayfish. For a main, I have now had the Tournedos Rossini with hot foie gras each time I’ve been. The duck too, I am assured – confit de canard or magret de canard au poivre vert – is tasty too. There are also two types of filet de bouef (nature or périgueux). The real crowd-pleaser, though, was the side of potatoes – a galette, or cake – which is served by the friendly staff in big slices. Then there’s a selection of cheese, and a bunch of desserts, which include a delicious chocolate mousse and crème caramel. The wines are good too, including a local one that’s really something.
So, not for vegetarians or vegans, or for those who prefer their meals light and less substantial. But if you’re channelling a tired and weary – and hungry – horse rider, and like your food flavoursome and French, I really can’t recommend this place enough.
Auberge de la Môle is open for lunch and dinner. 2 Place de l’Église, 83310 La Mole, France; Tel: +33 4 94 49 57 01
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Portrait by Adam Whitehead