Last night, Rich’s parents very kindly took us to La Pierre à Four, which is in my opinion one of the best restaurants on the French Riviera. Set in the charming village of Biot, La Pierre à Four is a testament to the magnificence of true French cuisine. Meaning “the oven stone”, the restaurant has traditional stone walls, and an open kitchen that allows diners to have a peek into the heart of the culinary action. It is often overlooked by tourists coming to the village because it is away from the main pedestrian strip of Biot. But this is good news for true gourmands, because unlike so many of the tourist trap restaurants here on the Côte d’Azur, which churn out sub-standard unimaginative food just because they can, the chefs at La Pierre à Four continue to deliver excellent, creative food every time we eat there.
The four of us all ate from the Menu de la Chapelle St Elor, priced at a very reasonable 30€ per person. The choice was phenomenal, and it was extremely difficult to decide what to eat. Luckily the waiters were very patient, and let us ponder over a crisp glass of a delicious white Côte de Provence wine from the L’Estello Domaine, which aptly is situated just up the road from where we got married last year.
In the end, I opted for a starter of crispy fillets of red snapper, served on a bed of flavoursome salad leaves, raw fresh peas, wild mushrooms, pine nuts and green beans, served with a delicious crème fraîche and lime dressing. It was light, tasty, and perfectly balanced. Nickie had profiteroles stuffed with smoked salmon and goats’ cheese with a cèpe mushroom sauce; Rich had a salmon mousse with Reblochon cheese and coriander, served on a tomato and balsamic reduction; and Andrew had a decadent block of foie gras, served with a red onion chutney and little toasts. I have not quite mastered the art of food photography in dim light, but here is a picture of my red snapper salad.
For the main course, Nickie and I had an exceptional fillet of beef, cooked to perfection, and served with a rich girolles mushroom sauce. Rich had a superb rack of lamb, roasted with a cumin and garlic crust. Andrew opted for duck glazed in honey, served with a miniature tartiflette. All of our dishes came with an interesting array of garnishes, including one vegetable that none of us were able to identify. It had the texture of dried mango, with flavours of vanilla, cinnamon and almond running through it. I asked the waiter, and it turned out that it was actually carrots that had been cooked with Tonka Beans, an unusual ingredient that has a delicious aroma, and is popular with the top French chefs. Apparently, the Tonka bean is illegal in the USA, because large quantities of it have proved to create liver damage in rats! Luckily in France, we are not subject to any of this health and safety nonsense, and the Tonka bean is able to feature freely in gastronomic offerings throughout the country.
After the main course came the pièce de résistance, the remarkable home-made cheeses that La Pierre à Four is renowned for. Not for the feint-hearted, some of these cheeses are so alive that they could literally walk off the plate! We sampled Coulommiers stuffed with apple and Calvados; soft cheese flavoured with chives and Pastis; Brie punctuated with foie gras and walnuts; Camembert loaded with lardons and onions; ash-coated goats’ cheese; and a potent, noble Roquefort. We washed it all down with a bottle of red from the same Domaine as the white wine we had started with. The cheeses were a veritable feat of gastronomy.
To end the meal, we had a selection of desserts, including pears poached in red wine and laced with vanilla, frozen soufflés and a pear Sabayon (a kind of light, fluffy egg-based sweet).
La Pierre à Four is undoubtedly one of the finest restaurants to be found in this area of the South of France, and is extremely reasonably priced for the standard of food that is offered. The food is typically French, and is created with love, care and imagination. The service is attentive, friendly and informed.
I highly recommend this restaurant in the heart of Biot village.
La Pierre à Four
15 Route de Valbonne, 06410 Biot, France
+33 (0)4 93 65 60 00