A few streets from the heart of Aix en Provence in a residential neighbourhood, I’ve found a little piece of paradise. The house and garden of Le Clos de la Violette. It’s a beautiful place and very romantic. I arrived late in the morning on Saturday 28 April outside the town, because I always wanted to try a ride with the rapid TGV. But going only 12 minutes from Marseilles, the train doesn’t reach the very high speed. However, I did experience to almost get my ears sucked out while going trough a tunnel. That TGV really was a ridicules choice, because all in all it would have been much faster and far more direct with the coach from Marseilles.
In Aix the sun was shining and it was a warm day. Jumping out of the bus I perceived the most wonderful odours. Lavender first of all, other flowers, too and strolling through the old centre struggling with my tight business skirt which crawled up my thighs each time I moved my feet, I took in the Saturday market senses full of colours of food, green artichokes and asparaguses, yellow lemons, red strawberries and scents of this local food, shining fish glowering at me disillusioned, the smell of fresh-baked bread, the sight of a beautiful bride dressed in white, sounds of music and a murmur of people everywhere.
I entered the garden of the pretty villa with the shuttered windows that hosts Le Clos de la Violette. A waiter welcomed me and said that I could select any table I wanted; I chose one in the middle with semi-shade and semi-sun.
Soon after, the appetizers and the carte arrived full of deliciously sounding courses, which made it very difficult for me to decide what to eat.
Half way through my glass of wonderful Moet et Chandon Brut Imperial I decided to kick off my unpossessed pinchpenny-ness and threw myself right into the tempting Menu Découverte, instead of the cheaper menu of the day that had been my reasonable excuse for signing up for lunch at this costly place.
Sipping my champagne, I hated myself for putting on more lip gloss the minute before I entered the restaurant, because the vile and peculiar taste of it almost drown the delectable, dry and full-bodied taste of the Champagne. I love champagne. Moet has the slight taste of bitterness combined with the earthy and full flavour, which I like a lot. I leaned back, breathed deeply and just took in this beautiful setting.
It was marvellous to sit alone in this quiet garden, the sun caressing my arm and my cheek, a slight breeze, birds singing, and now and again the sound of a car or a motorino passing in the street, a few fir needles on the table cloth, my chair with a nice soft pillow for my sensitive bottom, arms to rest my elbows, and this all the while the bubbles were intoxicating me and made me ready for this exciting eating experience.
The Menu Découverte
Green asparaguses served warm
Mashed chickpeas and tapenade
Fillets of red mullet from the Mediterranee
Grilled calamari and a bouillabaisse juice
Roasted fillet of duck
with honey and sweet spices, black olives
and barks of crystallized oranges
Marinade of strawberries with ginger and lemon
Strawberries sorbet with basilic
Moet et Chandon Brut Imperial
Cassis 2005, E. Bodin
Le Velette 2003, Chateaux de Côte de Provence
– but I am very uncertain about the name of this wine! Do you know it?
Each dish was perfect. I missed nothing at all. It was amazing how every single element served a purpose to the completeness of this stunning food. Even down to the rucola leaves. I was impressed. The decoration of the plates, well I think (I hope) that you agree with me looking at these photos that were shot with the new camera I got, a present, so I didn’t need to carry the big Canon 350D around. I like to (try and) look chic.
Four kind people, 2 of each sex, waited my table and the four other ones busy with guests this afternoon. Several times they came and asked me if the sun was too much on me. It was perfect, and my white skin licked all the sunbeam it could get.
I loved the wine. The scent of the white reminded me of something, but I couldn’t place what it was. The sommelier told me it was a mixture of Chardonnay and Viognier, which I’ve always been very keen on, so maybe that was what I thought of when sniffing the wine.
The green asparaguses were firm and yet tender, the biggest green ones I have ever had, and the two thin white leaves on the top were incredibly tasty and the aioli perhaps, something sour anyway, and the cream of chickpeas too.
The mullet fillets were very delectable, maybe this dish was the best, if I must underline one. Every piece of food ingredient on this plate had a function and suited a purpose for the grand-ness of it. Divine. Even down to the rocula that with the strong-ness and with their bitter and peppery taste gave some structure to the course that without it, risked to be to sweet end almost overwhelming. I must say, too that the grilled calamari with the green stuff, whatever that was, buttered on it was so good. Fresh like if they had just caught the fish minutes before cooking it.
I have a problem with the red wine, which accompanied the main course. I have a note in my Moleskin saying “Le Velette”, and seeing this I recall thinking “For once something nice and short that I can easily remember, just the e’s”. I also believe that it was a Chateaux Côte de Provence, but googling this, I cannot fine any one that matches the image I have in my mind. Why didn’t I shoot the photos of the labels on the bottles? I regret that.
However, the grape was a local one and mixed with a little bit of Syrah, the sommelier had informed me. He also mentioned the name of the local grape, but I’ve forgotten all about it. It was fantastic, exactly my kind of wine, fruit but not to much, good tannin, not too thick in texture and with a long full and dry after taste. Perfect for my food.
Another perfect dish, fried Berberie duck breast just as rose as I had requested, a very good and very intense juice, and the art decoration on the top of the plate added everything to the course in terms of flavour, which made it heavenly, not to mention the slice of orange.
You know, when I look at the photo of the dessert now, I can still sense the taste of the strawberries, the sweetness of them, the slight sourness and tiny seeds tickling my tongue and later in my teeth, the sorbet. Wauuw. Sweet summer.
This whole experience filled me with happiness. So much that I had to borrow the phone (my mobile had died in Munich airport, because I’d forgot my pin code) to ring home and express how wonderful this was, how I was living out one of the best days of my life. Silly, that food can egg on such a feeling, but it does, to me anyway. I was floating, afterwards, for the rest of the day, and actually the next day too, until I again had Danish earth under my feet.
‘Le Clos’ has two Michelin stars and it’s indeed worth both of them. Heavenly divine. Almost like being in love.