Saturday, December 14, 2013

Visit to Fontaine de Vaucluse and lunch at Restaurant Philip

We have driven past the sign to Fontaine de Vaucluse many times on our way to L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue and other Luberon villages but we never turned off until one day this fall we went to déjeuner (lunch) at Restaurant Philip which got a Bib Gourmand award from Michelin Guide this year.

We had not visited Fontaine de Vaucluse because the village has a reputation for being overrun with tourists and Chowhounders advised visitors not to go because it is Disney-like and there are no good restaurants.

As I have told you before, we generally eat very well in Bib Gourmand designated restaurants so we decided to eat at Restaurant Philip and see Fontaine de Vaucluse for ourselves with friends Steve and Mary in tow.

The village of Fontaine de Vaucluse is squeezed into the end of a narrow valley and takes its name from the mysterious spring at the foot of the Vaucluse Mountains that feeds the Sorgue River not far from L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue.

We arrived in the village a few minutes before our noon reservations and found parking near the center of town. Did I mention that I hate to pay to park in Provencal villages but that's the case here. All parking, anywhere, including the dirt lots on the roads out of town, will cost you.

I try to get to restaurants at the reserved time even though I know that in France we won't be turned away if we are late. So off we went toward the restaurant. Souvenir stands and refreshment stalls line the path along the Sorgue river. Restaurant Philip is the last restaurant before you reach the falls.

Trees shade the path along the Sorgue River

Restaurant Philip has been operated in this location by the same family since 1926. Chef Philip is assisted in the kitchen by his daughter Camille.

Restaurant Philip

Shortly after we were seated, our server set a plate with olives and crispy puff pastry bites on the table to nibble while we enjoyed the bright emerald green Sorgue river and decided about lunch.

Amuse bouche

We all chose the 3 course menu for 27 Euros which offered an amuse bouche, 2 choices for first course, 2 choices for main course and a dessert.

Restaurant Philip

The amuse bouche offered by Chef Philip that day was a snail in a garlic cream sauce, truthfully a little bite not universally enjoyed by our group.

Our table alongside the Sorgue River

The plates of food brought out after the amuse bouche were seemingly licked clean; everything was delicious.

Spelt risotto with mushroom cream and butternut squash, topped with Parmesan chip and crispy bacon.

Shredded beef cheeks with red wine reduction topped with potato puree.

Trout fillet with coco beans

Gormandise consisting of meringue with red berries and cream, chocolate tart, blood orange ice cream and crème brulee.

Terrace dining alongside Sorgue River at Restaurant Philip

Sorgue River

The ruins on the high cliff with the view over Fontaine de Vaucluse seen below are the remains of the castle built by Philippe de Cabassole (1305–1372), the Bishop of Cavaillon, Seigneur of Vaucluse, and the great protector of Renaissance poet Francesco Petrarch.

Ruins of the Bishop of Cavaillon's castle

The source of the Sorgue river is fed by collective rainfall throughout the Plateau de Vaucluse. If there is a dry spell, there isn't much water, but at maximum, this source produces water at an amazing 200 cubic meters a second, making it one of the most powerful resurgent springs in the world! Speleologists (experts who study caves) have searched unsuccessfully for the source of the spring.

In 1878 a descent of 75 feet was made into the pool. As late as 1985, a small robot submarine went down 1000 feet and still no bottom. More recently, colored dye has been used to prove that the source originates somewhere high up on the Plateau de Vaucluse, flowing 12 to 18 miles thorough rocky underground passages before it arrived at the still-looking pool.

Sorgue River

One of the attractions in Fontaine de Vaucluse is a paper mill, now a site for tourists to visit, the paper mill was a driving industrial force starting in the 15th century.

Paper mill

Sorgue River

View toward the source for the Sorgue River in Fontaine de Vaucluse

Another view of the ruins of the Bishop of Cavaillon's castle

There are seven museums in Fontaine de Vaucluse including the Petrarch Museum in the center of the village for the 14th-century Italian poet Francesco de Petrarca (1304-1374), who lived in a house at this same site.

Petrarch Museum

Houses line the Sorgue River in Fontaine de Vaucluse

Center of Fontaine de Vaucluse

The commemorative column below in the center of Fontaine de Vaucluse was erected to honor the 5th century of Petrarch's birth.

Monument at Place de la Colonne in the center of Fontaine de Vaucluse

Ruins of the Bishop of Cavaillon's castle

The Aqueduct de Galas is a 469 foot long bridge with 9 arches across the Sorgue River that was built in 1855.

Aqueduct de Galas

It is true, Fontaine de Vaucluse is full of tourists, but I am glad we went so we could walk-up the tree-shaded path toward the source of the Sorgue river. The emerald color of the Sorgue river will probably shock you. Lunch at Restaurant Philip was most enjoyable, first for the food and company, but also because of the pretty setting along the Sorgue river.

The timing for our visit to Fontaine de Vaucluse and lunch at Restaurant Philip was perfect as we found out the restaurant would be closing in a few days for the season. Restaurant Philip is open from April 1 to September 30.

Restaurant Philip
Chemin de la fontaine
84800 Fontaine de Vaucluse
Tél: 04 90 20 31 81


  1. How beautiful! Travelling in France with you is so much fun! Thank you.

  2. Thanks again for another little journey through the Luberon.But next time stop to visit Fred, the Giant Snack. Maybe you didn't need one of Fred's dogs on the way to that fine meal but you missed the wonderful and amazing Fred who acknowledges no words in English or any other language for that matter except French. No Fran-anglais when speaking to Fred. or any of his other friendly buddies who hang around there...true local color. I agree this place can be crowded and junkie but the river is lovely. It's sort of like putting up with a trip to Carmel because it is so quaint when it is also junkie and crowded.

  3. I thought the risotto looked delicious but then I saw the beef cheeks... WOW!
    Michel, you should really turn all of these posts into a Provence restaurant guidebook. I for one know I'd love to have it stashed in my purse for reference :)

  4. Jo-Anne - Thank you! How sweet of you to say. Thanks for stopping by and visiting my blog and leaving a comment. I appreciate this very much.

    Kathryn - Your comparison of the Fontaine de Vaucluse to Carmel is quite apt. I guess in my hurry to get to Philips, that I missed Fred and his dogs.

    Sara - Thanks for the sweet feedback. I will have to think about your suggestion. It would be something I would enjoy doing. I hope you are enjoying the holidays in Le Petit Village.

  5. I love these shots! The atmosphere - lonely, but beautiful - is incredible. Wow! Happy New Year 2014

  6. My father-in-law keeps relling us we should go there. Maybe one day...

  7. Mandy Indonesia - Thanks for stopping in to leave a comment on my blog. I appreciate this very much. Happy New Year to you too.

    Megan - If you ever get close to Fontaine de Vaucluse, you should go. The River is amazing to see, that super bright emerald color is like nothing you have ever seen before.