St Remy de Provençe
As restaurants in Provençe go, Bistrot Des Alpilles Is markedly different from the others – forget the traditional, old world settings that are generally the norm here – this light, airy and spacious venue, with glass windows on three sides, is a stylish new build with a decidedly contemporary feel. The effect is rather like eating in a large and luxuriously appointed conservatory. We’re the first diners to arrive but are soon followed by other Friday night customers, all in search of some fine dining. The good news is, they’ve come to the right place. The service here is prompt and the staff are friendly.
There are four of us and we decide to choose from the 24 euro menu, which offers a selection of four dishes in each section. The starters include a memorable duck confit, served on a puy lentil salad. The warm fowl has a superb smokey flavour and is perfectly set off by the delightfully chewy lentils and the piquancy of the dressed salad. There’s also a charolais au boeuf served with al dente vegetables, and flavoured with pesto and parmesan; one of our party goes for an ouef joliet, a lightly boiled egg in a brioche bun, served with porcini mushrooms. All the starters are note perfect, which bodes well for the main courses.
I opt for the mitonné de jour de boeuf (a chunky stew of ox cheeks in a succulent red wine sauce) which comes accompanied by a small dish of potatoes, mushrooms and crispy smoked bacon. The stew is delicious enough to require mopping up with chunks of freshly baked bread. Susan has the concigglionni aux moules safranées (saffron flavoured mussels on fresh pasta shells, served with slivers of smoked salmon). The pasta is clearly made in-house and its cooked to perfection. Again, there’s very little here to criticise and plenty to enjoy.
In our experience, if things are going to go wrong in France, it will be with the desserts – but I’m delighted to report that there are no problems here. There’s a fondant au chocolate, which is everything it ought to be – a deliciously light exterior which when broken into with a spoon gives up its rich, chocolate filing in an aromatic puddle. It comes with a pool of pistachio custard and a generous dollop of pecan nut ice cream. It doesn’t hang around on my plate for long. Susan’s soufflé gourmet glacé au caramel is every bit as delightful as the title suggests – perfectly set and deliciously flavoured.
As ever, we drink a bottle of the local rosé wine and after some discussion, we decide that we really can’t fault anything we’ve had here tonight. So it gets full marks. The sad thing is, we’re heading home tomorrow, but it concludes our week’s visit to Provençe in winning style.