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Flavours of Provence in Pirie Street

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Willunga restaurateurs Tarik Marco and Sandrine Maltret have brought their flair for French cuisine to the city with the opening of La Provence in Pirie Street.

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The husband-and-wife team, who have operated Le Mistral in Willunga since early last year, quietly opened their new venture a few weeks ago on the site of the former From Orient restaurant and will host an official launch event tomorrow.

Chris Matuhina, formerly of restaurants such as Magill Estate and Chloe’s, is head chef at La Provence, which can seat up to 250 diners over two levels.

Its name and menu reflects the background of Marco, who is originally from Provence and moved to Australia around four years ago with Maltret.

“Lots of classic flavours from the south of France – a bit of garlic here, olive oil, tarragon, that kind of thing,” he says of the food.

The Bouillabaisse-Inspired Provencale Fish ‘Soup’. Photo: Gary Pore

“Usually, when people think French, they think fancy maybe, expensive, small portions … but what I would like to do and develop, as we did in Le Mistral, is what I call simple, healthy and tasty.

“It’s just simple food that respects the produce. I know everyone is trying to do that, but we do it in a French way.”

The menu will emphasise seasonal produce and use mainly South Australian ingredients, with set-price lunch and dinner menus available.

Dishes on the autumn menu include Burgundy Snails with Braised Oxtail, a Bouillabaisse-Inspired Provencale Fish ‘Soup’ of local seafood, Grilled Duck Breast with Carrot, Ginger Puree, Golden Beetroots cooked in Cointreau and an Orange Reduction, and Chocolate and Chestnut Parfait with Tea-Soaked Prunes.

The wine list features an extensive selection of both Australian and French wines, including several Champagnes.

The restaurant offers a selection of decadent desserts. Photo: Gary Pore

While Marco describes the style of Le Mistral as “French regional rustic”, La Provence is a little more contemporary and refined – although he insists it is not at all pretentious in either food or decor.

“We wanted a relaxed, casual feeling.”

As with their Willunga restaurant, Marco and Maltret are keen to share the French concept of la pause repas (the meal break), where people don’t just stop to eat, but to enjoy and share a meal with family or friends. However, they also understand that La Provence’s location means many customers will be dining in their lunch hour.

“Because we are in Pirie Street, we have all these business lunches and people sometimes have only 45 minutes to eat rather than two or three hours … all our meals are designed to be prepped and sent and eaten in 45 minutes,” Marco says.

Inside La Provence in Pirie Street. Photo: Gary Pore

La Provence, at 125 Pirie Street, is open from Monday to Saturday for lunch and dinner.

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