TOURRETTES-SUR-LOUP, FRANCE: In the stunning medieval village of Tourrettes-sur-Loup, Michelin starred Chef Julien Bousseau is stirring up the culinary scene in the south of France with his lovely restaurant Clovis.
Clovis is a tiny restaurant in an ancient stone building set in the warren of alleys near the bottom of the village. Chef Bousseau makes a point of creating a menu out of local and regional ingredients. His wife Leah runs the restaurant with him. It has a dozen tables, and a small patio. They have two children.
Clovis: Julien Bousseau’s culinary temple in Tourrettes-sur-Loup
Open 10 years ago, he has held one Michelin star for the last 7 years. For a restaurant of this size that is virtually unheard of. The key ingredient in the equation is Bousseau, who constantly seeks out innovative takes on Haute Cuisine.
Originally from Brittany, Chef Bousseau is only 37 years old. His wife Leah is from Tourrettes-sur-Loup. Together they have blazed a trail of culinary glory that has put this tiny village on the foodie map.
The glory of Tourrettes-sur-Loup
Tourrettes-sur-Loup is a beautiful medieval village that seems to linger suspended in the sky. It literally clings to the face of cliff, coming down to a point that overlooks the spreading valley below.
The homes in the village stretch back 500 years. It is without question one the most picturesque villages in the South of France, just a few miles west of the ancient Roman city of Vence.
Tourrettes-sur-Loup: Artists, potters, weavers, restaurants
In the last 10 years it has grown from a place where artists could find small studios to paint or make ceramics into a more upscale collection of shops and restaurants.
Yet it still retains its charm and unique, ancient character. In one shop, for example, Chat Souo, the proprietor weaves intricate scarves, tapestries, and tablecloths on a loom right in front of you.
Getting around in Tourrettes-sur-Loup is easy. There are no cars, so park in the common parking lot at the top of the village. Walk down the alley on the east end of the main square to the bottom of the village.
Tourrettes-sur-Loup: The Village
Take your time. Even the most simple of houses seems to be a museum piece. The air is intoxicating.
Unlike much more touristy St Paul de Vence, Tourrettes-sur-Loup seems magical, unaltered, frozen in time. The shops and restaurants are not intrusive, and it retains its charm.
Once you are at the bottom of the village take the time to enjoy the view. The sense of being suspended in the sky is inescapable. Far below, in the distance, an old bridge straddles the valley floor.
To return follow the main path back up the west end of the village back to the top. There is also a middle path part way down that bisects the village.
Chef Julien Bousseau’s Michelin starred Clovis
Halfway up the western path is Clovis. A small restaurant, the interior is smartly designed with cool grey walls, thick wooden tables, and modern pop art on the walls. There is also a small patio with several tables just outside the front door.
Leah greets each guest, acting as matre’d and head waiter. The menu of the day is written on a chalkboard. It changes daily, depending on what Julien has found at the market.
Today at lunch he has three different themes: Aspargus, Red Snapper, and Duck. Two preparations of each themed ingredient are offered. The menu is quite reasonably priced by Michelin standards, and you can mix and match the menu choices.
Clovis: A four course culinary adventure
Two courses, an appetizer and entrée, are only 40 euro. A three courses meal can include a fromage course, and four courses include dessert. A lengthy chefs menu meal with wine is 105 euro.
Today it is a light lunch of two courses apiece. Fresh green Asparagus with langoustine sauce is delightful, and a fantastic opening course.
Tartar of red snapper in a tomato basil sauce is exquisite. Served with fresh baby fevette beans on a base of bone jelly, it is striking in its simplicity and the contrast in taste profiles.
Clovis: Asparagus Risotto and roasted Red Snapper
Asparagus risotto with ribbons of raw and cooked asparagus is a thing of beauty, clean and light, sumptuously refreshing. This compelling dish was the star of the lunch.
Roasted red snapper is perfectly cooked, with a nice crisp outer crust, but flaky and tender on the inside. Served with baby potatoes on a delicious spinach sauce, it tantalizes with each bite.
Clovis is worth the pilgrimage to Tourettes-sur-Loup
Dinner is more involved but the concept remains the same. Chef Bousseau buys what is most freshly available, changes the menu regularly, and invites his customers to indulge in the day to day variance of the menu.
As such, you can visit Clovis regularly and the menu is always different. The cooking is clean, with the freshest of ingredients. The emphasis is to take advantage of the bounty of the region, and the access to growers and farmers.
Michelin star Chef Julien Bousseau has something special
It is a question of putting yourself in the hands of a great chef and seeing what he creates. This artistic sense of how to approach Haute Cuisine has catapulted Clovis in to the ranks of the finest restaurants in the south of France.
If for that reason alone it is worth the trek to Tourrettes-sur-Loup. But Tourrettes-sur-Loup, an amazing spectacle in itself, is an essential part of the equation that makes Clovis so special. A unique sense of place, a wonderful culinary adventure, in a truly magnificent setting.
An artistic chef bringing out the best of his art. Its a beautiful meal, in a simple but lovely atmosphere. A transcendent experience in an epic location. Chef Julien Bousseau captures all of this and more. A pilgrimage to Clovis will be richly rewarded. It is clear that great things are certain to be expected from him for years to come.
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Joel Berliner is a travel writer based in Los Angeles @JoelBerliner
All Photos by Alison Reynolds @BigAlPeoplesPal