Christian Etienne presents himself as the doyen of Provencal chefs, and our dinner at his restaurant was supposed to be the high point of our short break in Avignon. Alas, it wasn't.
When we spend this kind of money [100 euros per person], we expect, at least, consistent pleasure occasionally interrupted by ecstasy. The ecstasy was there -- the fish couse I had with the autumn set meal was stupendous and my wife was delighted with her orange-y dessert -- but too infrequent for my liking. And the consistency was not there at all. The signature dish my menu sounded fascinated: pig's trotter stuffed with marinated artichokes -- but it was utterly bland, as was the foie gras starter on the other menu. Other dishes were interesting in concept, but the result was never thrilling. The wine was as expensive as one would expect, but equally without character.
Worst of all was the service -- when I find myself reaching for the bread basket between courses of a five-course meal, I think the service is too slow. When my water and wine glasses are being ostentatiously refilled every time I take a sip, but my food is not arriving, I suspect that something is wrong in the kitchen. When the chef spends more time gladhanding the customers than he does in the kitchen -- and there is something wrong in the kitchen -- I conclude that he now thinks of himself more as a celebrity than as a craftsman.