Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Food in Arles

The trip ended up being a foodie's delight. It wasn't supposed to be that way. However on the first night, we didn't make reservations and everywhere seemed to be booked out.
In desperation, I went into the L'Atelier de Jean-Luc Rabanel, thinking that someone might have cancelled at the last moment. Jean-Luc was manning reception and asked me if I knew how to use a telephone. He was very charming and offered to ask at his place next door. We had already tried there...unfortunately. His face fell and he seemed genuinely upset that he couldn't help.
We managed to find dinner at Le Gabolet -- the tuna was melt in your mouth. The menu was prix fixee and seemed to change daily. They served things because they were fresh and they liked them.
The next day, we went out birdwatching and missed lunch. Breakfast had been continental When we returned to the hotel, my husband who doesn't speak French suggest that I call Jean Luc's bistro but I only had the number of the Atelier. Anyway, I ended up blurting out a mispronunciation of Pinus and we ended up with a reservation for the L'Atlier.
It is like entering another world when you go to L'Atlier. Very relaxing and calming with water flowing everywhere. You start in the lounge where  we had five courses. There is no menu, you simply come and eat what is on offer. There is the lovely surprise element.
There are at least 13 courses for dinner. We had 17.
So we started with baked baby carrots with 3 dipping sauces, then deep fried courgettes with a dipping sauce, then a biscuit covered with vegetables, followed by a herbal soup with tomato sorbet and the last starter was Camargue toasted rice with vegetables. We also had a glass of champagne.
Every dish was immaculately presented and the flavours sang in my mouth.
We moved to the restaurant proper to continue with the meal. (You need to remember that at this stage I was thinking 13 courses).
We moved on to the white wine.
The mains started with sea bream wrapped about green beans, and then it was mushroom and onion parcels (I think the onions were done as a soubrise). Next it was vegetables with fish roe and then octopus with mushrooms. Those courses starting with the last starter were absolute perfection.
Because I was thinking -- 13 courses, I did have some bread.  the bread basket was full of tempting treats -- peanut bread, pistacchio bread, tomato bread, olive puree (they looked like cinnamon rolls), 3 types of bread sticks and tomato and anchovy filled bread. It would have been a crime not to eat some. And I figured that it would be fine as there were only 13 courses.
I was starting to get a bit full but thought I would do it as it was a once in the lifetime experience.
The next course was a tuna surprise -- and not as good as the tuna I had had the night before but still excellent. I am not sure why it just missed or perhaps because the other courses had been so good, I was thinking -- it would be superlative. Or perhaps I was just getting full. Then it was the lamb (I had not realised how special this lamb was until we went to le Crau -- it must have been some of the earliest lamb). It looked like 2 slices of bacon and had a sprinkling of pine nuts. My husband wasn't as fond of the lamb but then he likes his meat very well done and the lamb was lightly seared.
We moved on to the red wine here.
We then had the vodka jelly and lemon to clear our palates. Thank goodness.
Next came the desserts. And I had counted so I thought -- one dessert. Maybe I could do it.
The first dessert was very good. The second was a beet root flower and excellent. The first time my husband had actually liked beet root. Then they laid out the spoons and forks again . My heart sunk. even though the dishes had been tiny, I was very full. It was a toasted rice with sour cherries and olives which was surprisingly good. Then it was white chocolate and FINALLY it was a raspberry concoction.  My heart kept sinking each time new cutlery  appeared. We then had coffee.
My big take away was how much flavour and colour plays. Each course was a picture.  Also little portions can add up. You don't really need to eat a lot to be satisfied. I also understood why you need to make a reservation. And why Michelin rates his food so highly.
The next evening we went to his Bistro where the service was a little haphazard and you knew what you were getting. The portions were bigger but the food was delicious.  I started with a tomato/feta cheese tart and moved on to the grilled fish. Dessert was a chocolate fondant. We had some excellent red wine. When I bought a bottle of it at a little food shop, the woman waxed lyrical about it and told me that I must allow it an hour to breathe. It was totally organic and so would not keep but should be drunk soonish. we are having a bottle for Christmas lunch...
And then because I discovered where it was, we had dinner at Le Cilantro -- the 1 star Michelin restaurant. The food was excellent and the service great. I started with a tomato salad and then had salmon.Dessert was a pain perdu with fresh plums. There was several other little courses. And again the wine was excellent.
The next night we went back to the bistro as several of the other restaurants were fully booked out. Again the food was good. I started with the saussicon. My husband had the lamb which he enjoyed very much as it was medium.
Anyway I ate and drank far too much but I really enjoyed myself. I also now understand why French food does have its reputation. In recent years, I have cooked far more Mexican or Italian or Indian than French but I shall go back to French food as when it is done well, it is fantastic.
I did not do my Tracy Anderson while I was away BUT since returning I have gone back to healthy eating and working out. It is the knowing that I do workout that allowed me to indulge.


Judy Jarvie said...

Wow what an amazing experience - I've enjoyed just reading about it! Thanks, Michelle.Glad you had such a fabulous time.

Michelle Styles said...

It was utterly amazing Judy. I still am fizzing from it. Really refreshing.