There are some restaurants who fluke a Michelin star, but last week I visited a kitchen which strives for excellence every day and truly deserves this prestigious accolade. Visiting Chez Bruno, hidden away in the Provencal countryside, was a unique culinary experience and for me, it provided an education about the world of truffles.
Chez Bruno was opened in 1983 by Clément Bruno, a talented chef and world connoisseur of truffles. In 1999 the restaurant received its Michelin star which it has retained ever since.Chez Bruno has always been a family focussed business and three years ago Clément’s ambitious son, Benjamin took over the renowned kitchen. He continues the much-loved traditions of his father whilst creatively renewing recipes to showcase the truffle.
In summer the outdoor setting is dazzling, a beautiful haven surrounded by idyllic gardens; in winter the cosy sumptuous indoor dining room is warmed by a roaring fire and has a magical feel. We were lucky enough to be amidst the action in the kitchen at the chef’s table. We sat quietly observing as a whirlwind of chopping, cooking, cutting happened around us.
Champagne was swiftly delivered, and I relished the opportunity to chat to Benjamin about truffles and Provencal food. He emphasised that he likes to keep his recipes simple to let the fresh Provencal ingredients, and local truffles “speak for themselves”. Although he uses both local and imported truffles, and varieties of black and white, most of the produce is found within two hours of the restaurant, ensuring exceptional quality and fresh flavour. He also mentioned that only truffles found in France, Italy and Australia are really worth bothering with. The truffle season always sees a flurry of fine restaurants offering up dedicated menus, so I’ve tasted my fair share recently, but at Chez Bruno the truffles look more elegant, taste more refined, and the aroma is even more alluring.
With the just-baked rolls out the oven and the plates prepped, it was soon time for dinner service, and our eight course bespoke meal commenced. Benjamin insisted on offering us all the speciality dishes as well as a host of other sensational treats. Scrambled egg with truffle was a comforting bowl of fragranced eggy delight with cracked black pepper on top, particularly delicious when loaded onto a piece of the crusty bread. I imagine this is what royalty eat for breakfast along with the divine truffle on buttered toast which was served next.
After watching the dedicated chefs plating up the artistic Foie gras with beetroot, lentils and truffle, we tasted this colourful dish which Benjamin said he had introduced to the menu very recently. It was a more summery combination with vinegary dressed lentils, slivers of different beetroots, chives, crumbled black truffles and an immaculate slice of foie gras – the flavours and textures worked wonderfully together. Chez Bruno is best known for its secret potato and truffle dish, which visitors return for regularly. Sensationally simple, this dish only uses half a baked potato, a rich cream and truffle sauce, slices of white or black truffle, and a little seasoning. It was my favourite dish, especially with the exotic white truffles, which are the more expensive and have a more intense taste. The potato was fluffy and soft, coated in the most irresistible cream infused with truffle flavour.
A mouthful of palate-cleansing champagne and truffle granita was presented before the meat course. By this point I was too full to eat as much as I would have liked, and felt momentarily jealous of those with a larger appetite. Benjamin personally made us magical pastry parcels filled with pork and foie gras with a jus and topped with slices of black truffle. This is the kind of dish you want to come home to after a really long day at work, hearty and luxurious.
For dessert we had refreshing Italian truffle gelato, and tasted an orange and chocolate dessert, which seemed very out of place without any truffle!
When we left, the kitchen was still a hive of activity, as the enthusiastic chefs continued to grate, shave, crumble and sprinkle the wondrous black ingredient. The truffle is a delicacy that has become too common in restaurants, especially as they are often using inferior produce. Visiting Chez Bruno was an eye-opening and immersive experience, I know now that I will never think of this extravagant, distinctive little ingredient in the same way again, and urge you to visit the Truffle King if you ever find yourself in this part of the world.
More information and book a table at Chez Bruno here: www.restaurantbruno.com