A TALE OF TWO WAITERS

Les Deux Garçons, Cours Mirabeau, Aix 04 42 26 00 51

I always think it’s a good idea, for the first review of the rentrée, to think of our new members and start by introducing them to a “homebase” restaurant, which usually means one in Aix, and what could be more famous then the Deux Garçons, the glittering glory on the Cours Mirabeau?

It may seem odd that I’ve never reviewed “Les 2G” before. That was simply because, until it was taken over last year by the chef Michel Mehdi, it was an overpriced tourist trap with grumpy waiters and rotten food. You took guests there for its splendidly steeped-in-history be-mirrored, be-gilded Empire décor, and very definitely not for its warm welcome. But now a lot of that’s changed. The waiters are still slow, but at least they’re friendly — chatty, even (slowing the service down even more!) The food has been seriously upgraded, and the prices are extremely reasonable. BUT…I can’t find it in me to get unreservedly enthusiastic about it. Yet.

Let’s start at the very beginning. Not of “Les 2G” (we all know that it was founded in 1790, and bought in 1840 by those eponymous waiters — imagine what they charged in tips those days for a couple of waiters to be able buy their place of work — and that, yawn yawn, Cézanne and his artistic and literary chums all met up there etc etc…) No, let’s look at the background of its new owner.

Michel Mehdi is an excellent chef. He came from Paris, via Bandol, before getting established, with his wife Colette, in the Luberon, in the country inn opposite the church in Tour d’Aigues — Auberge de la Tour. It’s a really good value restaurant, buzzing with local gossip, where you spend all the meal wiping golden olive oil off your chin with a napkin, and your plate always needs one more last swipe of bread, because you can’t bear to waste a drop of its tasty wholesome juices. (See March 04 review on the AAGP website for more details). From there he progressed upmarket, and found a patroness to get him established at La Petite Maison in Cucuron, which soon earned him a Michelin star. And rightly so — it was a superb place, one of the prettiest restaurants in Provence, and it provided elegant haute cuisine that wasn’t extortionate. I say “was”, because when he left last year, all mention of the restaurant dropped out of Michelin, along with all the other guides.

Mehdi’s good value policy has accompanied him to the Deux Garçons. Besides the carte and platters of coquillages there is a generously portioned dish of the day for around 15 euros, and a menu — 3 courses for €27.80, 2 courses for €19.50. And, for an excellent value wine try St André de Figuière’s “Ma Couleur” in all three colours at €18.

I’ve been there three times since it opened, and, though the standard of cooking was laudable I was disappointed with the similarity of menu each time. Other comments fed through to me have also been mixed. Great tasting hot food, but served on cold plates. A fabulous gaspacho, but arriving in a tall, narrow (pretty) glass, which was totally impractical for its short, chubby soup spoon. And everyone agrees on the slow service.

The guide books are expectant and enthusiastic. I’m keen for it to be a success, too — but for the moment this jury’s still out. I believe Mehdi’s cooking, anyway, is more suited to autumnal dishes than summer ones — deep rich flavours, rather than light, delicate ones — so, perhaps now is the season to give it another try. And, maybe, to speed up the service, this busy brasserie should consider employing yet another deux garçons…

Juliet Young

Not revisited personally but had plenty of reports…
All negative, I’m afraid — especially re the poor service. It’s a pretty enough place, but even the food has caused disappointment. Not recommended till they pull up their socks a bit!

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