Bruno is said to be the best truffle restaurant in the world, with a generous serving of truffle in every meal – even dessert.
So it is with excitement and intrigue that I travel to the small village of Lorgues, on the southeast coast of France, not far from Marseille.
Anticipation is high. Forbes magazine has described the family-run restaurant as “truffle heaven”.
A long tree-lined driveway invites you off the main road to a garden filled with fine sculptures. The property is beautiful. Stone fountains crawl with moss and wrought-iron lamp posts glow when darkness falls.
Along with the restaurant, there are a handful of guest rooms, all with the rustic charm of the French countryside. I’m staying in a stone cottage with terracotta roof tiles and vines climbing its walls. There are terracotta tiles inside too, and the room is large with ornate golden furniture and statement frames around oil paintings. It’s old-world elegance.
The Bruno gentlemen are elegant too – just as charming as their property.
Clement Bruno – known as the “Truffle King” – is affectionate and humble, with an air of sophistication. His two sons, Benjamin and Samuel, are dark, brooding and intelligent.
Benjamin is the chef and is passionate about working with truffles. Samuel manages the dining room, ensuring guests are treated to an experience like no other.
There are multiple rooms in the restaurant. For winter, request a table beside the fireplace in the main room, while in summer, dine among the garden in the glass-panelled conservatory. It’s filled with light and romance.
Bruno is an elegant establishment, with a touch of Aussie flavour. Truffles are imported from Manjimup Truffles in Western Australia during Europe’s off-season.
Clement says, at first, he was surprised by the high quality of Australian truffles and they are very important to his business.
“Thanks to Australia, we can use black truffles in (France’s) summer,” Bruno explains.
Despite the prestige that comes with truffles, restaurant Bruno and the Bruno family are unpretentious. The service here is faultless, as are the dishes.
That night, I enjoy multiple courses – all featuring truffles as the hero.
The fungi is shaved over eggs and a gorgeous cut of beef; served with a delicious foie gras terrine; wrapped in pastry; and combined with foie gras and stuffed in pigeon.
My favourite dish is the divine baked potato with a silky truffle cream and shaved truffle.
It’s followed closely by the interesting dessert – Italian ice-cream flecked with truffle. It’s sweet but not sugary. I’m intrigued with every spoonful and soon my silver bowl is empty.
What may surprise many diners is the quantity of truffles used in every dish. Forget a couple of flakes – this family want you to really taste and enjoy their star ingredient.
One of Clement’s favourite sayings, he tells me, is: “You see truffle on the menu, it disappears on the plate and reappears on the bill.”
But not here. The cost is reflective of the quantity and the quality. There are a number of truffle degustation menus and prices vary, generally costing between 71 euros and 190 euros ($A106 to $A285).
“When people come here they say `finally I get a taste of truffle’,” Clement says with pride.
Despite the prices, Clement tells me “money has no power here”. It’s a nice thought, and harks back to the initial days of the restaurant, which wasn’t always the success it is today. In the early years, back in the `80s, there were few diners. That changed though, after a journalist visited and spread the word.
At the end of the meal, with my appetite sated, I make my way back to the stone cottage just a stone’s throw from the restaurant. My stomach is full of truffle and so is my mind.
As my head hits the pillow, Clement’s words play over: “The truffle grows where she loves. She doesn’t know flags or borders.”
IF YOU GO
GETTING THERE: The restaurant Bruno is in Lorgues, about 90 minutes from Marseille and Nice, which are both serviced by airlines across Europe. There is also the high-speed TGV rail service from Paris (raileurope广西桑拿,). The train takes about five hours and 35 minutes from Paris to Nice and about three hours and 20 minutes from Paris to Marseille.
STAYING THERE: Room prices range between 160 euros and 320 euros ($A240 to $A480) per night. Breakfast costs extra. You can contact restaurant Bruno via email [email protected] or call 04 9485 9393 from within France. There is a website (restaurantbruno广西桑拿,) but it is only in French.
PLAYING THERE: For more ideas on what to do in France, check out The Traveller’s Collection – a boutique Australian company offering gourmet food and wine tours in France and the rest of Europe (thetravellerscollection广西桑拿,广西桑拿网,)
* The writer travelled as a guest of The Traveller’s Collection