In the heart of Avignon stands tall and strong the historical Pope Palace. During my years at the University d’Avignon I could not get enough of its majestic presence and somehow always felt protected by the thick defensive wall of 11km all around the city centre. There are numerous restaurants in Avignon but the one everyone should go to is Restaurant Christian Etienne, or like we say back home: Chez Etienne. I am tempted to say that since you’re in France and going to a gastronomic restaurant, how could you expect to be diseapointed? But Chez Etienne is not just a restaurant with good food, it is a place with such a quality of service in the best location in Avignon that will give you the real French food experience that everyone should experience at least once in their life to understand what all this fuss is about.
There is always a seasonal menu, this time it was Menu Cochon, and the usual Lobster menu and the traditional Petit Palais menu which are always available. My mum went for the traditional Petit Palais menu, with foie gras, red Mullet and duck. Super classic flavours in big portions (compared to your usual gastro restaurant), and very well executed and presented. Husband and sister went for the decadent menu Cochon, with 6 courses all around pork, including rillette, crackling pig’s ear, chorizo, pig’s tail etc… They had lots of fun and were well full by the end. I went for the menu Lobster as I wasn’t hungry enough to eat 6 courses of the menu Cochon. I have to admit I was a little disappointed with the lobster and the amount of it. My mum absolutely loves this menu but she doesn’t live in Britain and never went to North Devon and Scotland where lobsters are bountiful, fresh, cheap and absolutely delicious. My menu was the most expensive one and I found this a little excessive.
But as you know by now, I am super picky, and next time I will go for the Petit Palais, or definitely the menu Cochon if I am hungry enough.
I go on about the quality of service and location, but you really need to understand what I mean. Our table was booked for lunch, as we rather not have a big meal for dinner and we left the table at 4pm. When do you ever sit for 4h in the same place outside of home? Either you’re at work and you are actually being paid for it, or you’re having a very good time with friends or family during a very good dinner. I guess since we are not spending Christmas with my family this year, it kind of felt like Christmas for my mum, which is why she wanted to give us such a treat. The main difference being we were sitting on a beautiful outdoor terrace on a warm Indian summer day, overlooking the Pope Palace, surrounded by aromatic herbs bushes and being looked after by amazing waiters.
The location is of course unique but the service was exceptional. The menu Cochon cointained more dishes than the other 2 and we had extra little appetisers and desserts to make sure we would not be without a plate in front of us while the others would be eating at the same table. Nobody rushed us, the wine always arrived at the right time and we even had the chance of talking to famous Christian Etienne, one of the best Provencal Chef. He talked to us and all the other tables, made sure everyone was happy and even shared with us that he loved the food buzz from London and travelled there often.
Don’t expect Chez Etienne to serve you lunch after 1.30pm , or to juggle with tables like their do in the UK with a service at 6.30pm and another one at 9pm. This is NOT the French way. You pay for a dinner, you also pay for a table and a moment that must be totally yours. Therefore, nobody will rush your meal or even dare “warning” you that the table is booked again in 2h so please don’t linger… The food scene in the UK has boomed and is becoming incredible, but the service and the customer service is far behind. And it is Chez Etienne that you will experience what every paying customer should feel like: Customers are Kings!
We had such a wonderful time I can’t wait to go back there again in winter to make the most of their beautiful rooms indoors and maybe go for their Menu Confiance (Trust Menu) and be treated to a real surprise menu. But this is another budget for another time. Until then, my husband will be dreaming of their cheese trolley every night…