My follower on these pages (thank you mum) will realise that I am on something of a personal quest to fine the perfect French bistro in London. Cigalon, whilst far from perfect, is an excellent addition to the mini-revival of the French bistro in London.
Not so much French, as Provençal, this small restaurant sits atop a fun little wine bar. The room is lovely light and airy, with a big skylight running most of the length of the room, although was half empty when we went. The kitchen is at one end of the room, open to the world. Down the middle are a series of semi-circular banquettes, and these are the nice ones to go for. Service is friendly and warm, although when we were there, the atmosphere was a little thin: we had been moved away from a table of nine, as the staff were worried about the noise that should eminate from such a large group. Maybe they were all accountants from the nearby Deloittes office, but even they couldn't raise the buzz above the piped-in sound of cicadas that, I assume, is supposed to remind you of a sunny day in the hills above Aix.
We started with a lovely fresh vegetable soup with pistou and a slowly braised beef in cannelloni. The former was light and fresh, the latter unctuous and satisfying, a lovely treat on a cold, miserable November day. Mains too held up well – the pied et paquettes (tripe and trotters), was the finest example that I have ever had: far, far better than many actually tried in the heart of Provence. The loin of pork too was well cooked, coming with a smear of green and an artichoke. OK, this doesn't strike me as a “smear” kind of restaurant, but what the heck, they can have their one nod to a modern trend.
The wine list is, as you would expect, heavy on Provence and prices are good. We had a lovely white from Chateau Carnogue: a very picturesque vineyard that featured heavily in Ridley Scott's A Good Year. Truly dreadful film; truly lovely wines.
And just to prove that every day is a school day, I found out that the grouse on offer had not been shot by some be-tweeded toff on the heather of bonny Jockland, but had instead been shot by some Gauloises smoking aristo in Haut Provence. Now I didn't know that they had grouse in France (and wikipedia is no help whatsover on the subject), but my trusty RSPB guide to European birds does indeed confirm that the Black Grouse lives (and dies) in South Eastern France too.
I will be back, but be warned: if you decide to repair to the downstairs bar afterwards, there is a boule range (field/court or whatever it is called – again, wikipedia, where are you when you are really needed?). This may sound like a lot of fun, but after a long lunch and a snifter or two, it is utter madness to allow people to throw two pound steel balls around. I should just like to apologise in advance for everyone I am going to annoy in the coming months.