Le Formal: One of the classier restaurants in Aix-en-Provence which I reviewed earlier in The Aix-Files. Named for the chef, Jean-Luc Le Formal, rather than the style of service, it is located in the old town, just off the famous Cours Mirabeau on rue Espariat, down a flight of stairs in an elegantly appointed cave. Choose from a variety of menus, depending on your budget and time available, including a truffle menu in winter. The creativity and imagination is astonishing, including a cubist masterpiece of foie gras squares and round macarons of spice bread, the plate generously painted with an onion jam.
Le Poivre d’Ane: Located in the spacious Place Forum des Cardeurs in the heart of Aix’s old town, it is a gem amongst a glut of mediocre eateries on the square. Open only in the evening, this tiny restaurant with a pretty terrace in season creates dishes based on local ingredients heightened to modern perfection, including fish and seafood, lamb and seasonal vegetables, many given a creative Provençale touch with additions like tapenade and local herbs.
L’Epicurien: Just across the way in the same square is L’Epicurien, especially welcoming at lunch on the terrace, where one can compose a pretty medley of small sharing plates based around market ingredients.
L’Epicerie: This little eatery and tearoom occupies – hands down – the loveliest little square in Aix, Place Trois Ormeaux, graced by one of the numerous glorious fountains in town, making it a favourite outdoor lunch spot. Food is casual and based around fresh salads.
Les Sarments: If you’re around Aix for more than a couple of days it’s definitely worth searching out this tiny hole-in-the-wall in the beautiful wine village of Puyloubier. The 30-minute meander down the windy road east of Aix takes you through glorious Cezanne country at the foot of the impressive Montagne Sainte Victoire which the French artist painted time and again. (Don’t forget to pick up bottles of Saint-Ser and Domaine Richeaume wines while you’re in the vicinity.) The menu at this unexpected hidden spot is decidedly Provençale with, for example, a tian of seasonal vegetables dressed a luscious pistou or fish like daurade royale, executed beautifully.