Restaurant Review: Le Cézanne in Aix-en-Provence, A Hidden Gem
Aix-en-Provence is one of my favorite places to visit in France because when I am there, I feel like I can just be. Compared to cities like Paris and Nice, there are relatively few tourist attractions in Aix, which allows visitors to experience it like its residents do- visiting the bi-weekly marché (open-air market), perusing books in the Librairie de Provence bookshop, slipping in and out of quaint boutiques, and lunching in one of Aix’s great eateries. On our last trip to Aix, I had the good fortune to sit down for lunch at Le Cézanne, located just off of Aix’s main road, Cours Mirabeau, and right next to Place de la Rotonde.
When given the choice of where to eat on the Cours Mirabeau, most tourists opt for Deux Garçons, a brasserie that was frequented by the likes of Cézanne, Zola, and Hemmingway. I had already eaten here (and enjoyed it), so I was looking to try something a little less touristy, to lunch with the vrais aixois (residents of Aix). After spending a bit of time in France, brasseries- given the fact that most of them are pretty good (but rarely outstanding) and reasonably priced- blend together in my mind. This was definitely not the case with Le Cézanne, which combined all of the best qualities of a brasserie, resulting in a memorable midday meal.
The layout of Le Cézanne is similar to most brasseries in the south, with some tables inside and the majority of them outside under large umbrellas to protect clients from the intense Provençal sun. Without going overboard, Le Cézanne takes a cue from its namesake, and is decorated using warm colors and some tasteful art on the walls of the inner restaurant.
As we crossed the threshold from the street into the outside seating area, we were greeted by a friendly server who offered us a comfortable spot overlooking Place de la Rotonde. After ordering a regional rosé, I was tempted by one of the daily special’s, a reasonably priced tarte aux légumes (like a thick quiche with mixed vegetables. For 6 euros, it came accompanied by a generous salade verte (lettuce salad) and, of course, a basket of bread and butter. To end our lunch, my husband and I shared a cheese plate (the wedge of Roquefort was divine) and a large cup of fresh strawberries from the local market. My husband is still talking about the quality of these sweet, succulent berries even as I type this.
To top it off, our server was attentive, genuine, and treated us like locals (not like uncultivated tourists which is often the case in Parisian eateries). Though I communicated with him in French, he was very excited to try out his (perfect) English with my husband.
Neither my husband nor I are bothered by paying fairly for a quality dining experience, however, like most price-conscious travelers, we are always delighted when the bill comes in well under budget. Our essentially two-course meal with a 75 ml. pitcher of wine and 2 cafés came to just over 25 euros. Vive Le Cézanne!
50, Rue Espariat,
Tel. : +(33) 4 42 93 30 70
Written by Jen Westmoreland Bouchard for EuropeUpClose.com