Top Table

Lou Cigalon, Valbonne, France

Location

4 & 6 blvd Carnot, Valbonne, France (00 33 4 93 12 27 07)

View and clientele

Artisans' old stone dwellings in a Provencal village. Local celebs mingle with well-off Euro-foodies, who sniff out a new star chef faster than you can say Peter Mayle. 8/10

Design

Stone walls punctuated with cicadas ("lous cigalon"), the signature of Provence, antique culinary objects and black-and-white photos. 8/10

Romance factor

Guaranteed, when the private upstairs dining-room opens. At present it's discreet because no Brits seem to know about it. 7/10

Best table

By the window: pretend you're in a Claude Lelouch film, and watch petanque players outside. 8/10

Snoot factor

Lou Cigalon is where the region's top chefs dine on their nights off. 7/10

Menu

Impressive and original. Dishes based on Provencal cuisine but given a modern spin. 9/10

Wine list

Order the earthy Terrebrune from Bandol, when you book (F250), and it will be decanted, waiting when you arrive. 7/10

Price

Three courses and dessert F220, (pounds 22) or three courses, cheese and dessert F350 (pounds 35). For lunch count on F160 (pounds 16) plus wine. 9/10

Oh yeah, and the food

Eat here every day and you would never taste the same dish twice. Pity, since the tiny stuffed vegetables with free-range pigeon is a real winner. At dinner, roasted sea-bass came with a jus of artichokes, and a brochette of monkfish was rolled in wild blue poppy-seeds. For dessert, a circle of shortbread, coated with a cream of Menton lemons, topped with fresh raspberries and sorbet verveine. 10/10

Margaret Kemp

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