Le Moulin de Mougins

November 11, 2008

The Moulin de Mougins is a culinary icon on the Côte d’Azur. Its renowned chef, Roger Vergé, popularized the “Cuisine of the Sun” in his books, his shop and his school as well as in his three-starred restaurant. When Vergé retired in 2004, the enterprise was taken over by Alain Llorca, who had already established an excellent reputation as chef of the Chantecler in the famous Negresco Hotel in Nice. We have not been back to the Moulin de Mougins as often as we should because our choice in this neighborhood has been Jacques Chibois’ Bastide de Saint Antoine. On October 30, 2008, we took the opportunity of our drive back from the Gorges de Pennafort and Fayence to stop for lunch at the Moulin de Mougins.  

Even without a reservation, we were warmly welcomed and seated on the glassed-in terrace at the back of the restaurant. (Eventually, the terrace was over half full, about twenty lunchers.) We were brought a complementary glass of champagne and hors d-oeuvres:
Crab quiche and little eggrolls with a chicken mousse.

At lunch a «Déjeuner du Soleil» menu is offered at 59€; it includes three courses with three choices in each. For 120€ one can order five courses from the entire à la carte menu: starter, fish, meat, cheese and dessert. We chose the smaller menu, which also comes with an option for a half bottle each of a “Vin du Soleil” at 15€ or a “Vin Prestige” at 25€. We opted for the latter, which turned out to be 2002 Château de Berne, a red wine from the nearby Var. It was nice, but still quite closed.

The amuse-gueule was
Crème de polenta aux truffes

Very creamy white polenta had been flavored with some truffle shards and truffle oil. Excellent.

Linda’s first course was (at a 15€ supplement:)
Risotto aux truffes / jus court

A creamy risotto is a classic way to convey the pure truffle flavor. This was excellent.

My first course was
Carpaccio de Saint-Jacques / champignons de Paris / blinis / crème à la ciboulette

I had a motive for ordering this instead of the delicious sounding endive confit with foie gras. The previous week we had been served a Carpaccio de Saint-Jacques at La Chèvre d’Or. If you read my blogpost, you will see that I was very negative on it. I wanted a comparison. This one was quite different although it had to deal with the basic problem that raw scallops have a subtle flavor and a gooey texture. By comparison these were sliced more thinly which helped the texture problem. On top were thinly sliced mushrooms, the ordinary white type, lightly marinated in lemon juice. (I think this idea was popularized by the famous foie gras/champignons dish at Astrance.) The combination worked well here with the acidulation being on top of the scallops rather than as a marinade, which allowed them to be fresher. The chive cream and the blini underneath were non-assertive and complementary. I did not find it to be a great dish, but it was executed much better that the one at the Chèvre d’Or (where its à la carte price is 110€.)

Linda’s main course was
Gigue de chevreuil rôtie / chutney de fruits secs / sauce poivrade

The venison was moist with a real venison flavor. The chutney on top of the beet slice with the black pepper sauce made a good combination.
My main course was 
Carré de porcelet / myrtilles / pommes purée à la châtaigne
The chops of roast suckling pig were tender, moist and flavorful. The skin was somewhat crispy, although I would have liked it to be even more crackly. The brown sauce was light and good. The chestnut/potato purée was appropriate for the season and the dish. It was rich, creamy and delicious.

Linda’s dessert was 
Le millefeuille par Jean Michel Llorca

The chef’s brother, Jean-Michel, has worked as his pastry chef at three different restaurants. This millefeuille had very good vanilla flavor all the way through and was not too sweet.

My dessert was 
Verrine pommes /  noix

This martini glass with apples, walnuts and a caramel sauce on ice cream continued the autumnal theme.

There was a nice little plate of mignardises with the coffee.

The meal was very good, with no unsatisfactory dishes. It was an extremely good value. We need to come back soon for the full menu.
About eight years ago, before blogging, we had a sensational dinner at the Chantecler when Alain Llorca was the chef. In that environment all he had to worry about was the cuisine and the Negresco’s eccentric owner. Now he is running a small conglomerate enterprise. His eleven rooms are Relais et Châteaux; he has a cooking school and a shop. During our lunch Llorca was meeting with people who had drawings of some project. This is not unusual with top chefs nowadays, but I worry about the distractions. He has another obstacle: he is a short drive from Cannes and much of his upscale clientèle will come from the many festivals and congresses there. (Le Moulin de Mougins is known for holding the huge Hollywood-celebrity-fueled amfAR charity event during the Cannes Film Festival.) The other famous restaurants in the Cannes area have had trouble keeping up their standards in the face of an affluant, but undiscerning, audience (with the special exception of Tétou.) There was nothing about our lunch at the Moulin de Mougins which indicated that Llorca’s talent was not still being applied, but we need to give it a bigger test.
Addendum December 11, 2008
Nice-Matin reported today that Le Moulin de Mougins has been placed under court administration for six months following an irreconciliable disagreement between Alain Llorca and the other shareholders. The restaurant remains open. Alain Llorca has departed and will occupy himself with his Café Llorca in Vallauris and other ventures. For now Jean-Michel Llorca has stayed on.

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