La Table de Nans : The new kid on the block by Caren Trafford

la table de nans 1It was more than one hundred years ago, back in 1900 that the tyre manufacturers, André Michelin and his brother, published the first edition of a guide for French motorists. 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 the first edition, the brothers printed nearly 35,000 copies. This guide was given away free to the 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 list of restaurants and its star rating system, as establishments are classified according to the number of stars they deserve. To gain a starred distinction, each restaurant is initially nominated, and then reviewed a number of times by inspectors who remain incognito.

 

France currently counts 26 restaurants with *** stars (with a total of 111 in the world). We also have 80 ** star restaurants and a total of 503 with 37 new * star restaurants. On hearing that a one star honour had been newly bestowed on a restaurant merely a stone’s throw away from where we live, we 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 Saint Cyr. We checked their website and found that it was re-opening that very evening. Of course, in any other place, London, Sydney, New York, a newly acclaimed Michelin star restaurant would attract huge attention. It would book out immediately. "Oh no..." the very apologetic voice would inform you when you rang to make a booking. "You’ll have to call back in 6 months time. We can’t even put you on the waiting list at the moment for that is also full." But not here, in La Ciotat. "Of course we will gladly welcome you. Six people? No problem at all."

I had to laugh. Only here in the South of France – probably because it was still cold outside at the time of our booking, could it be this easy to get into a newly starred restaurant.

And we weren’t disappointed. The restaurant lies a mere 50 metres from the beach. In the spring and summer, eating out on the terrace, with the waves as background music is the norm, Nans the chef explained, as he proudly showed us around his restaurant kingdom.

 

The restaurant is a bastide with several rooms upstairs that will be turned one day into accommodation. For now, the chef Nans Gaillard is concentrating on his food and his reputation. The restaurant has only been open for two years. "We worked hard in the first 17 months to gain a Michelin Star," explains the Maître D, "and we will work hard for the next 17 months to keep it".

Our party decided to try the 3 course seasonal menu, which at a very reasonable €42 was well worth while. All the dishes arrived with a splash of colour and style. The food is beautifully presented; fresh, interesting and full of flavour. The wine list is extensive and the choices difficult owing to the lovely fusions of flavour. How to decide between a first course of fish soup presented with a pyramid of croutons, or a medallion of crab on a confit of lemon with Dubarry cream? I chose the Provencal vegetables instead, beautifully cooked in a small pot and served warm with black truffles.

These were placed 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 caviar of aubergine and capers, looked equally inviting.

And what was the opinion on our table? As a one star Michelin newcomer, this restaurant ticked all the boxes. Good service, beautifully presented food and delightfully intense flavours but if you are planning a visit, do try to come here in spring and summer, for if you are able to reserve a table on the terrace next to the sea, with the sound of waves in the background, there will be no place that you’d rather be.

The desserts were similarly delicious, particularly the Paris Brest, a yummy cake with cream or fresh fruits of the season, cooked in a spice infusion, with a sorbet of margarita.

 

la table de nans 2La Table de Nans
126 Corniche du Lioquet
13600 La Ciotat - 04 42 83 11 06
www.latabledenans.com