If you are touring the Gorges du Verdon, the Auberge du Teillon is one of the very best - and best-value - restaurants in the region.
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At first sight it looks very much like a typical, stuffy, old-fashioned provincial French restaurant. From the outside it's nothing spectacular; you would drive right past without a second glance.
Inside, the dining room is rustic kitsch: toy clowns on the mantlepiece, illuminated plaster niches and curious concealed lighting in the ceiling and, bizarrely, figurines of Laurel and Hardy standing guard in the fireplace. There is piped muzak as well, not too loud fortunately.
But the Auberge de Teillon is packed daily and nightly (reservations are essential) and with regulars as well as passing tourists.
On our visit on a Tuesday evening in early September, the restaurant was, on some tables, squeezing in two sittings (the evening service starts early by French standards, at 7pm).
Which is not to say that you ever felt rushed. The restaurant is run by a small, brisk, friendly team and a family that has been in the catering business for five generations (they have owned the Auberge du Teillon since 1987). Menus are available in English.
In the kitchen, Yves Lépine, pictured, focuses on a cuisine du terroir that majors on regional ingredients and changes along with the seasons. He offers various set menus which are a fantastic bargain.
One is lavender-themed, with dishes such as duck with lavender honey and lavender crème brûlée. There's also a children's menu. House specialities include home-made smoked salmon and foie gras.
We had a market salad and stuffed courgette flowers in a truffle jus for starters. They were followed by baby rabbit stuffed with foie gras, which arrived with little traditional garnishes (ratatouille, gratin dauphinois, tomates provençales), and a daube (stew) of Sisteron lamb, which was gloriously tender with no gristle or fat. The cheese trolley groaned with over a dozen well-kept local cheeses, though almost all of them were goat's cheeses.
The restaurant must have just taken delivery of a huge consignment of raspberries since, as well as the regular dessert line-up (profiteroles, tarte tatin and other classics), there was a special extra raspberry menu. Rather than sabayon or anything fancy, we opted for plain fresh raspberries, which were enormous and delicious.
Portions are more than generous so bring a healthy appetite. You also get a number of unannounced extras with the set menus.
Olives (very good, not salty) with your apéritif and an amuse-bouche (a small cup of cream of broccoli soup garnished with a splash of olive oil) turn up before you've even started work on the meal proper.
Between the starter and the main course comes a trou provençal (a boozy fig sorbet spiked with marc de Provence) and in between the main and dessert a "pre-dessert" (apple crumble with mascarpone in a little verrine).
A rather tacky laminated menu flagged up coffees and teas, which we passed on. Had we ordered them, they would have come with more complimentary nibbles.
There's a small car-park and a flower-decked outdoor terrace across a (rather busy, noisy) road from the main restaurant but no garden at the back.
Note that, although the address suggests the Auberge du Teillon is in Castellane, the restaurant is actually in the hamlet of La Garde (population: 70) a good five km / three miles out of Castellane, so if you are staying there you will need to sort out a designated driver or a taxi.
The other option is to spend the night at the Auberge itself, a two-star hotel with a modest reputation that's not up to the level of the restaurant. The Auberge du Teillon closes for four months in the middle of winter.
Visited September 2013
Where: Auberge du Teillon, route Napoleon, La Garde, 04120 Castellane. Tel (+33) 4 92 83 60 88. Website for the Auberge du Teillon