Provence Guru guide to the best Aix en Provence restaurants:
Le Millefeuille , Aix en Provence restaurant, 8 Rue Rifle Rafle, 04 42 96 55 17
It really is a ridiculously easy business running a restaurant.
First, the premises, make sure you’re not paying top dollar rent, because it all feeds through to the bottom line and the quality of ingredients you can purchase.
Secondly, cook everything fresh, nobody wants sauces slopped from jars.
Thirdly, get your hands dirty. Meeting and greeting is all very well, but somebody’s got to do the waiting on tables, and you’d better not be paying them if you don’t have to.
These simple golden rules are what every aspiring restaurateur should have painted on their bedroom walls. Of course they are frequently ignored, hence the catastrophic number of places that go bust every year and the proliferation of TV series about hospitality gurus helping incompetent would-be restaurateurs.
Which brings us to the Millefeuille restaurant, Aix en Provence. Anyone wanting to open a restaurant should be made to come and eat here. The place is spot on. Imagine the problems of opening a restaurant in Aix – sky high rents second only Paris, an already saturated market, and locals who are notorious for being more concerned about how they look, rather than what they eat. And yet it is possible.
Aix specialises in the hidden gastronomic restaurant (see Drole d’Endroit review) because it’s impossible to achieve the holy trinity of a central location, pedestrian flow, and good food. Insist on the first two criteria and you’re in pizzeria territory: dirt cheap ingredients churned out to an uncaring clientele. The compromise for the serious restauranteur is kerb appeal. If the food is good, word of mouth conquers a hidden but central location. The Millefeuille is concealed between a Kebab shop and a Greek taverner and accessed through an uninviting passageway between two pharmacies on the Place de Precheurs. It’s impossible to just happen upon, unless perhaps you are drunk and sniffing out a Donner kebab washed down by some retsina.
Next let’s take the mission statement of the Millefeuille owners, which is very 2015 : only the freshest ingredients from the market and a menu changed every service. Such is the commitment to cuisine of the moment, you can imagine the chef switching menus mid-service if a plump rabbit happened to hop through the door. Two courses cost 28 euros, and three 32 euros. So far so good.
My waiter, Nicolas, it turns out is one of the owners and the pastry chef, hence the unusual choice of naming a restaurant after a dessert. By 12.30 the 15 or so tables are full, and the pastry chef, come waiter is dashing around at full speed. I’ve watched many an over-worked waiter, shrug his or her shoulders, and slow to crawling pace, as the reality that there will always be more customers than time, dawns. But not Nicolas, somehow the adrenalin rush of seeing a full restaurant gets him through.
Onto the food. It is quite simply delicious, which shouldn’t be a surprise because Nicolas used to work at the three Michelin starred L’Oustau de Baumaniere, in Les Baux. A starter of smoke salmon, crunchy asparagus and goat’s cheese, was arranged with meticulous attention. A dish so pretty that it was a shame to eat. A main of line caught bream served on a white risotto accompanied by a courgette crème, melted in the mouth. A buttery white wine by the glass from Visan, was the perfect compliment. And then the dessert. What else but a millefeuille? The pastry was perfect, crunchy to the bite, and not overdosed with sugar, the vanilla cream, delectable, and the accompanying strawberry coulis added just the right edge. I licked my plate clean as I’d done with both the starter and the main.
The Millefeuille is so popular and successful that it doesn’t need this glowing review. For quality and price the food is the best I have eaten in Aix. All restaurants should be like this.
Top tips from Provenceguru:
Looking for a provence villa rental in and around Aix en Provence then check out our unrivaled selection of vacation rentals in Provence. Staying for a couple of days then see the Guru guide to Aix en Provence hotels. We recommend Pavillon de La Torse for its central location and grounds. If you are wine tasting in Provence then be sure to check out Chateau Simone, the vineyard with a welcome to match its reputation. Need some more Aix en Provence restaurant reviews, look no further than the Guru 2014 guide.
Aix-en-Provence is a great destination for anyone travelling to southern France.