Mas Provencal, or the closest you'll get to Wonderland
I was accompanying Kaprice around the South of France to help out with business meetings (i.e. suitcase carrying logistics) and we were lucky enough to be driven around by this one dude called Riley, a slick modern day Indiana Jones complete with aviators, an easy swagger and an unruly mess of hair. My debilitating crush aside (I never was able to properly make eye contact with him), we asked if he could drive us to our hotel in Eze Village and it turned out he actually lived there. The whole way down, he talked about a lot of things in Eze Village – pronounced ezz villahhhge, dahlings – but he kept coming back to ‘that flower restaurant’. He would not stop talking about it. He knew literally everything about this restaurant except what it was called, which was a little frustrating for all of us because we were all getting so hyped about it. Luckily for us, we pulled up at our hotel and Riley pointed out at the window wildly, telling us that we were literally across the street from it.
After we ditched our bags, we went across to see if we could dip into that flower restaurant, which we then learned was called Mas Provencal. The exterior is literally just a mess of ivy, it’s hard to see where the door even is. There was actually a sign up that said it was shut for the day and we were all massively disappointed, until I made eye contact with one of the most inspirational strangers I will probably never see again. Beyond the grill gate, there was a middle-aged German man holding a box of cigarettes and a lighter. He spotted me and paused. Then he quickly waved me in and god, was I glad I met this guy.
The first few steps into Mas Provencal are just overwhelming. I’m not ashamed to say that I nearly cried, it was like the opening to The Lion King on Broadway overwhelming. The smells, colours, atmosphere – everything was just so serene and ethereal. I felt like I was trespassing.
I ended up chatting to the guy who let us in for ages in horrifically broken German and I found out he was actually the brother of the owner. Mas Provencal was started by a man who gave up a career in finance to pursue his real passion – gourmet food and floral design. The restaurant’s had the same set menu for years (priced at a steep 72 Euros) and is pretty impressive, with dishes like risotto baked inside a massive wheel of parmesan. They’ve even got live music, I was beckoned over to a tiny piano in the corner of the room where a musician tinkers all night.
The restaurant’s split into a Spring/Summer room and an Autumn/Winter room in the back. They’re obviously completely different: the brighter front room is more like a greenhouse with vibrant flowers, carnivorous plants and nude statues hidden amongst the foliage. I asked how they water everything, it turns out they just cover all of their adorably mismatched vintage furniture with tarp and hose down it all.
It’s pretty obvious that the crowning glory of the front room is the insanely impressive floral chandelier, built up of hundreds of yellow lily-like flowers and crimson vine tomatoes. It was so big that I couldn’t actually get a good picture of it. There are also a number of beautiful porcelain pillars littered about the area.
While the front room feels like the crazy, whimsical entrance to Wonderland, the warmer back room has a completely different feel to it. It was actually supposed to be closed, but my new friend let me sneak in. There weren’t as many flowers back here and it felt a lot more like a lovely chateau, with deep mahogany walls and a rich archway of autumn leaves that was absolutely to die for. It was a lot cosier and understated than the almost gaudy front room, I could see myself settling down for a warm cider in the back in a snowy January.
Unfortunately, all amazing things come to an end and we all had to leave to get ready for our next meeting. I ended up chatting to the owner’s brother a little while longer and he made a point of introducing me to his nephew, a stocky man in his early 30s and ‘the next owner of the restaurant’. He then mentioned he was going back home to Berlin the next day, and when I told him I’d always wanted to go, he immediately scowled.
“Don’t go to Berlin. I always tell my nephews and nieces, get out of Berlin,” he told me.
Behind him, his nephew began to mind his own business.
“Why?” I asked, in a terrible German accent.
He shrugged. “It’s changed now. Nobody has any dreams there anymore. All the kids I know there are content to be lazy and accept what’s right in front of them, rather than to be ambitious and create something, or even travel beyond Germany. Don’t go to Berlin. Go out and see the world, it’s your apple and it’s waiting for you to take a bite. I can’t do it anymore – I’m old – but you still can.”
And long story short, that’s why I decided to start this blog.
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