Restaurant 'La Gaudinade' reopens in Mougins
After several months of closure, this enchanting Provençal restaurant in Mougins has reopened for takeaway!
La Gaudinade is a lovely restaurant in the centre of old Mougins, a true French gourmet experience. After staying closed for an extended period of time during the confinement, this gastronomic jewel has re-opened for takeaway. Riviera Insider visited long before the pandemic but we bring you our article to discover or rediscover this treasure just north of Cannes.
Maria and Thierry Caïdominici are the fabulously welcoming and enthusiastic owners of La Gaudinade restaurant in the picturesque village of Mougins. Your culinary experience begins with them, a couple whose personalities are opposite enough to attract each other and congruent enough to compliment. Maria is a tall, elegant woman who created the whimsical and delightful interior. From botanic prints lining the walls to topiaries on the tables and ceiling, it feels somewhere between a fairy-tale greenhouse and a garden wedding reception.
Thierry discusses the menu, a warm and jovial man who is very passionate about food. “Everything we make, we make ourselves!” he exclaims with arms wide open. “Well, I don’t fish and I don’t hunt--” he adds, gesturing a fishing pole and a hunting rifle, “so not that. But everything we can make we do.”
La Gaudinade’s menu changes every three months, making sure the plates on offer are of the freshest seasonality. Thierry’s passion for food and the quality of his ingredients is expressed like only someone with Italian grandparents can. But he is a true Frenchman and even though their young chefs create a very contemporary menu, Thierry always demands one or two traditional dishes--especially those rapidly disappearing from French restaurants: tripe, sweetbreads and escargots.
Our first course arrives, a slate platter with mixed greens, brioches toasts and “mi-cuit foie gras” marinated in cognac and served with a dollop of fig and apricot chutney. No question of the quality of ingredients, as the foie gras was smooth and decadent. However, ‘half-cooked’ liver is not for the faint of heart.
The next course blows me away: ‘Noix de Saint Jacques au chou-fleur et noisettes’. A black plate serves as contrast to white scallops in a foamed cream sauce with nibs of roasted cauliflower and toasted hazelnuts. I would have thought it an unlikely pairing had it not been placed before me, but the combination is to die for.
The hazelnuts, easily considered decoration to a plate of scallops, are nothing of the sort-- “la cazette” is a speciality hazelnut from the Bourgogne region. Utilising the ‘fleur de cazette’, the best of the crop and still fresh (not dried), hazelnut brings an intense flavour that blends beautifully with roasted cauliflower. The chef has managed a complete balance between three strong flavours, each holding its own without overpowering the others. It is truly an exceptional dish.
When dining with other people, especially in a work setting, one must control the urge to lick the plate clean. Shame. Although, I’m sure such a manoeuvre would bring nothing but pride from Thierry.
On to the main course: ‘Tournedos grillé, purée d’oignons brulées, pomme duchesse, jus de bœuf.’ Just like the scallops, the beef is cooked to perfection, properly 'à point' without being rare. Drizzled with its own juice, it is more tender than the average filet mignon and bursts with flavour. Crunchy baby carrots and potato croquettes add variety but the dollops of browned onion purée take the dish to a new level.
Another round of empty plates is taken away, our stomachs well-filled and our brains telling us to stop there. This is when we are joined by the husband and wife duo, to discuss food and other important things in life. There is a complete synergy between the two of them and it adds to the harmony of the environment. We learn Maria is Portuguese and the couple lived in Portugal for many years before returning to France to run this restaurant. Portugal is a wonderful country for Thierry's boisterous personality and passion for food and he very much enjoyed their years there.
For the dessert course, Maria describes the dishes: a millefeuille with pistachio mousse and fresh raspberries and a special Pavlova, filled with rhubarb and verbena mousse, served as a flower on a bed of thinly sliced persimmon. Suddenly our brains discover more room in our stomachs!
The description of the Pavlova speaks for itself - it is as wonderful and delicate as it sounds, not too sour or sweet and brightened by the touch of verbena. Again, the dish strikes the perfect balance.
We visited just at the end of the winter menu. The spring menu will still feature the scallops with cauliflower, plus asparagus, sweetbreads, escargots, a lemon tart and a chocolate and banana tart.