«We were in La Eateria, an achingly trendy new restaurant in Islington. Wooden garden furniture for tables and chairs, and walls lined with that perforated orange plastic stuff builders use to create instant fences. Menus pretentious, food barely adequate, staff surly. I was amazed it wasn't busier». Ian Banks, Dead Air.
Aren't you glad we live in Provence? Reading this made me think about how differently we eat down here - simple, real restaurants with no need for theme or artificiality. And the absolute antithesis to the above is 'Bernard', a tiny creek-side restaurant, hidden away in a bay before a bay before Toulon.
It's hard to find, but bear with me, it's worth the search. You need to park your car on a small lay-by beside the Avenue de Résistance, next to the Place Ernest Bougaret (look on the map east of Toulon, just before Le Pradet.)
From here you wend your way on foot down a small, shaded, winding path for a few hundred metres and descend some steep crooked steps, emerging at a stunning little creek - bluest of seas; sharpest and reddest of cliffs; and a small, curving, pebbly cove for sunbathers with tough hides...
And one small restaurant - open to this amazing backdrop, sea lapping at its blue and yellow feet...Pretty and gentle at lunchtime, buzzingly full of Toulonnais at starry midnight.
As you'd expect it serves fresh, well-chosen seafood - the modest menu is good value, but we've also been wooed off it to feast on the freshest sea bream ever (rather a shock to the carte bleu, though). The wine list is minimalist.The Impellizeri family have run this place with warmth and panache for years. And given its quiet, hidden location, its loyal clientèle make booking a necessity in full season (it's only open April-end October).
This is the most undiscovered, and certainly the loveliest of the 'pieds dans l'eau' restaurants down our coastline. For other, better known ones try “Le Lunch” at the Calanque de Sormiou, east of Marseille (04 91 25 05 37), the “Auberge de Mérou” in the Calanque de Niolon, Rove, west of Marseille (04 91 46 98 69), or the Calanque de Port d'Alon, just west of Bandol, (04 94 26 20 08). All great places to take guests this Easter (or, better still, for them to take you) if you enjoy great sea views with great seafood....
Revisited 05 & 06
This really is such a pretty place, the venue is everything. However, if you don’t stick to the menu, the prices soon mount up.