bedoin la gousse dail signTired and hungry after a day's cycling around Mont Ventoux, we choose La Gousse d'Ail somewhat at random from the line-up of restaurants on Bédoin's main square. It turned out to be an excellent decision.

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This family-owned restaurant produces imaginative, affordable regional cuisine. It's simple, hearty fare, not posh gastronomy. And, given the establishment's name, which means "clove of garlic", you can expect lashings of the same.

But the portions are huge and the food overall of high quality: certainly more ambitious and imaginative than you'd find at a comparable small-town restaurant elsewhere in Europe or North America.

The two set menus offer a short choice of starters, mains and desserts. They change weekly and are chalked up on a blackboard. At midday you can opt instead for a eat-as-much-as-you-like cold buffet and there's even a truffle menu too in season.

Both set menus were very reasonably priced and so we were surprised to be presented with an unexpected extra, a free amuse bouche (pre-meal nibble). Rather more than just a nibble, actually, this was a small, whole, locally produced saucisson all ready on a wooden board for us to slice ourselves.

bedoin la gousse dailIt would probably have been wiser not to have tucked into quite so much of it, because mountains more food shortly arrived.

Croustillant de chèvre was a sort of provençal-style börek: filo pastry filled with goat's cheese and almonds. Garnished with asparagus, the rillettes of salmon combined smoked and fresh fish.

Of the main courses, the noisettes of rabbit were neat little packets of chunky flesh in a thyme scented jus. We might not have ordered the caillettes d'agneau if we'd known it was lamb's stomach but, eaten in blissful ignorance, it too turned out to be tasty if a bit tough.

Both main courses came with the same three vegetables: creamy polenta, broad beans and chard. And then there was more: a "soup" of fresh strawberries from nearby Carpentras and a raspberry and chocolate fondant. It was all washed down nicely by an accompanying pichet of ridiculously cheap Ventoux rosé wine.

You can well imagine that the kitchen and waiting staff are over-stretched at the height of the tourist season. On a mild evening in mid-May, however, the service was brisk but friendly and cheerful.

Our multi-lingual waitress found a moment to chat while Nancy, the co-owner, bustled around in her trademark jaunty straw hat.

All the tables on the little outdoor terrace were packed with a cosmopolitan mix of tourists back from the day's expeditions, and something of a mild party atmosphere reigned.

However La Gousse d'Ail is sufficiently good to attract local residents too and remains open all year round. It's a good idea to book ahead in winter for the small, cosy dining room which seats around 20 people.

Visited May 2015

Where: La Gousse d'Ail, rue Portail Olivier, 84410 Bédoin. Tel: (+33) 4 90 12 82 02. Credit cards not accepted.

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