After travelling and working in different places throughout the world and with more than 11 years of experience in restaurants, cooking for 200 patrons per day, Christian wanted to change radically due to the lack of personality in large restaurants. So, he decided to open a small restaurant that only served the food he liked personally, where he could work at his own rhythm and as he wished, offering the highest quality. He defines it as a “stress-free restaurant”.
Star product, the chef’s surprise menu
Average menu price: €20
Address: 7 Place Ramus, 13100 Aix-en-Provence, France.
Tel.: +33 4 42 27 46 46
Closed on Wednesday.
The restaurant is on a small, quite square without any traffic in the historic heart of Aix-en-Provence. At first glance, the first thing you can see is the sign with hand-painted letters which says “bio cooking”. And once we were nearby, we saw that there were literally only four tables, and the fantastic smell from the kitchen tempted us in to get chatting. Inside, Jean Pierre was working away in the kitchen –two square metres, entirely open and visible– cooking fast and hard, but at a calm, constant pace; you should really see it for yourself. After we were seated, he came over to the table, sat down with us proudly and showed us a small board explaining the specialities he had prepared that day in detail. We let him know what we liked, and we ended up following his recommendations. We were so happy that we ended up choosing the surprise dessert assortment.
Before he took it over, we were told, it was a vegetarian restaurant but it never took off. So when he decided to start his business there, he wanted to keep part of its legacy and keep half of its vegetarian dishes on the menu permanently, but he also wanted to introduce animal protein in moderation so that it could be a restaurant for everyone to enjoy. What he was clear about from the very start however was that all the products had to be local and organic to have the best quality and flavour. He commented that having bio products hasn’t made him raise prices too much, as he doesn’t have any staff and can therefore play around with the margins much more, making high-quality bio cuisine available to everyone.
La Cerise sur le Gâteau and its cooking is based on what’s available at the market, everything is local and linked to the seasons; just as the chef likes it. The style is imminently French, but sometimes he uses adapted versions of exotic dishes, coming from his own inspiration or experiences while travelling. It’s unpretentious homely cooking that stands out for quality and excellent preparation. The combinations of flavours, textures and meticulous presentation give a glimpse of his many years of experience in the kitchen, talent and the small personal stories and experiences behind each dish.
The menu, which comes at a good price bearing in mind that everything is organic –between twelve and fifteen euros per dish–, always has four vegetarian options and four non-vegetarian options. The portions are large and in general, you’ll be full after one dish. What’s more, there’s always a surprise menu which depends on what has been made or what the chef is dreaming up; you can even have two different surprise menus on the same table. If you find it difficult to choose, this is the perfect opportunity to let go and you can be sure of getting something delicious.
At La Cérise sur le Gâteau we had buckwheat and alga noodles with squid and tomato sauce, fresh prawns and a selection of green leaves with cumin; stuffed courgette and aubergines, baked with the chef’s own ratatouille accompanied with a mixed salad with fruits of the forest; leek and squash tart with sprout and seed salad and, finally, a surprise assortment of desserts: vegetarian blackberry soup, almond and bilberry sponge cake, and a nut, date and honey tart.
The restaurant is made to fit the chef’s personality exactly. It’s his life project that changes and flows as he does; it is fresh and independent. The love and passion coming from each dish makes this place unique and exceptional. It’s really one of the best we’ve visited.