It’s been more than 100 years since the tyre manufacturers André Michelin and his brother published the first edition of a guide for French motorists in 1900. At the time there were fewer than 3,000 cars in France, and the Michelin Guide was intended to encourage the demand for cars and, in turn, for car tyres. For that first edition, the brothers printed nearly 35,000 copies.
These guides were given away free to car drivers and chauffeurs and contained useful information for motorists, including maps, instructions for repairing and changing tyres, as well as lists of car mechanics, hotels and petrol stations.
The Michelin Guide today is better known for its starred restaurants; each listing is initially nominated and then reviewed a number of times by inspectors who remain incognito.
The general definition nowadays is:
... One star. Very good cooking in its category.
... Two stars. Excellent cooking, worth the detour.
... Three stars. Exceptional cuisine, merits a special journey.
The 2015 Michelin Guide is now out and in France there are 26 restaurants with 3 stars. (There are a total of 111 in the world.) We also have 80 2-starred restaurants and a total of 503 one-stars, including 37 new listings.
And on hearing that a one-star honour had been newly bestowed on a restaurant merely a stone’s throw away from where I live, I decided that it had to be investigated.
La Table de Nans (also known as L’Auberge le Revestel) is on the coast road between La Ciotat and St-Cyr-sur-Mer. I went with a party of four, and we weren’t disappointed. The restaurant, a mere 50 metres from the beach, is a bastide with several rooms upstairs that will one day offer accommodation. For the time being, chef Nans Gaillard is concentrating on his food and reputation. The restaurant has only been open for 17 months. “We worked hard in the first 17 months to gain a Michelin Star,” the maître d’ told me, “and we will work hard for the next 17 months to keep it.”
We decided to try the 3-course Winter Menu, which at a very reasonable €42 is well worthwhile. All the dishes arrived with a splash of colour and the food is beautifully presented; fresh, appealing and full of flavour. Choosing is difficult. How does one decide between a starter of fish soup presented with a pyramid of croutons, or a medallion of crab on a lemon confit with Dubarry cream? I chose the first course of Provençal vegetables, beautifully cooked in a small pot with black truffles and served warm.
For the main course I enjoyed a dish of scallops, cooked till just golden and then encrusted in a fine hazelnut glaze. These were placed on a bed of spinach jus and apple pieces (pictured). The rest of the table enjoyed the tender beef cheeks, the signature dish of the restaurant, served in a rich red wine gravy that had everyone asking for more bread to mop up the succulent sauce. The third choice, lamb cutlets with a caviar of aubergine and capers, looked equally inviting.
The desserts were as delicious. Paris Brest, a yummy cake with cream or fresh fruits of the season, cooked in a spice infusion, with a sorbet of margarita.
So what was the consensus at our table? As a one-star Michelin newcomer, this restaurant ticked all the boxes. Good service, beautifully presented food and delightfully intense flavours. If you’re planning a visit, do try to come here in spring and summer to reserve a table on the terrace next to the sea. With the melodic waves accompanying your meal, there’s no place that you’d rather be.
La Table de Nans is at 126 Corniche du Lioquet, La Ciotat.
Tel. 04 42 83 11 06. See www.latabledenans.com
Photo of restaurant: Yumyum