Perestrello Geller searches out the best value lunches in Aix en Provence
It’s that time of year again. The days are cold and damp, and my arthritic hands begin to throb. My specialist is based in Aix en Provence and I spend many an hour in his drearily-lit waiting room, dreaming of lunch. Many of you will know that arthritis is an inflammatory disease. Sod’s law dictates that all the good things in life, like red wine, red meat, foie gras, cheese etc..cause inflammation of the joints. If my specialist had his way I’d munch lettuce leaves and drink water for the rest of my life. But this is France, the land of the lunch, I might as well not be alive, as forsake the bounty that God has provided.
I have however made one concession. For the winter months, when my hands are prone to hurt, I’ll eat just one course, the plat du jour (which tends to be a little smaller than a la carte mains) and drink just one glass of wine. Here then is my little guide to the best Aix en Provence restaurants to do just that:
Le Chastel, 2 Rue Portalis, Aix en Provence.
Located on the Place de Precheurs near the justice courts, this small restaurant has to be one of the best brasseries in Aix en Provence. The menu has an Italian twist, with plenty of pastas and classics such as Veal Milanaise. All the dishes are consistently excellent and priced between 20 and 30 euros. The plat du jour is priced at €15,90 and is so good that I keep coming back. I’ve eaten, Italian meatballs with linguine, slow cooked melt in your mouth lamb and an entrecote with a gorgonzola sauce. To the dismay of my specialist I’ve cleaned my plate on each occasion. The accompanying red wine by the glass is excellent. The choice changes frequently, but is usually between a southern French red, and an Italian red. The service is so cheerful and upbeat it reminds me of America (pre Trump!).
Cost for Plat du jour and a glass of wine – €20
La Bouche D’Oreille, just off Place Ramus
Now here’s the thing I’ve walked past this place plenty of times without taking note. Place Ramus is a pleasant little pedestrian square tucked away to the west of the Cours Mirabeau. It’s filled with little restaurants, all of them with blackboards out on the street, and twitchy proprietors hoping to entice you in. La Bouche D’Oreille doesn’t bother with a menu outside. Instead it stays true to its name, meaning literally translated in French, the mouth of the ear, or as anglophones say, word of mouth. And it seems to work entirely like this, La Bouche D’Orielle, is a restaurant that you hear good things about. You enter entirely oblivious to what you might be eating. There’s not even an indication of the Plat du Jour. From outside you also have no idea of the price.
Inside the menu is chalked up on a black board. The tables are wooden with red and white checkered table cloths. The room is small and conversation bubbles. The plat du jour on the day of my visit was Duck confit with mashed potatoes. The red wine was a Cote du Rhone village, which was hearty and heavy. Even with my arthritic joints the food and the wine put a smile on my face. As did the price, €15 for the plat du jour and wine.
The Forum, 6 Rue Peyresc
Another great little bistrot near the Place des Precheurs. The place bustles at lunchtime. Once again the menu is chalked up on a blackboard, there’s crowd-pleasers like steak and burgers and less run-off-the mill dishes like duck breast in a chocolate sauce. The plat-du-jour on the day of my visit was a Coq au Vin. The sauce was thick, unctuous and warming, the chicken, gamey like an old bird should be. The wine by the glass is a decent local red, but nothing to get excited about.
Price for plat du jour plus a glass of red €20.