Ideally located two steps from the Rotonde in the heart of Aix-en-Provence, a door opens on to a long corridor which leads surprisingly to magnificent vaulted cellars dating from the 15th century. Pretty white tablecloths and dim lighting immediately makes you want to go with the flow in this intimate atmosphere.
Originally from Brittany, the grandson of a fisherman, the chef cut his teeth at the Martinez in Cannes, at Bruneau in Brussels (3 Michelin stars), and as second-in-command to Bernard La Funte at Thuriès in Cordes, considered to be one of the most important pastry chefs of his generation.
Today at 44, Jean-Luc Le Formal has his own business with 35 seats and a team of 14 people who for the last 12 years have been waiting hand and foot on a faithful clientele.
The chef chooses his produce with the greatest care by selecting only the best producers of the region. What counts above all else for him is the “quality of the raw materials,” “I go for the best because I’m buying”.
Try and enjoy his “delicious duck foie-gras terrine cooked at a low temperature; his tuna sashimi and truffle sandwich (see recipe); his succulent revisited ‘bouille-abaisse’: the tasty fillet of baby lamb from the Alps with a basil crust; his classic and melt-in-the-mouth Limousin beef stew served with beef marrow and truffle toast; his majestic wild pigeon breast pastilla; and his grilled scampi (see recipe).
The artist gets back in touch with his roots and mixes “surf and turf” with delicacy and precision; above all a creative person, Jean-Luc Le Formal presents his dishes with meticulous attention, like a Provençal painting: a gradation of green, with the Sicilian pistachio juice and the wasabi caviar; orange tones with the orange flavored hollandaise sauce; browns with the carrot and licorice juice, the pure Arabica with eucalyptus and the beetroot caramel; and also touches of black with the 100% cocoa juice and the fragrant and heady Perigord truffle…
The famous “black diamond” is also subtly present in the cake made of Brie de Meaux cheese, matured by Monsieur Mons, master cheese ripener; his platter “selected for you according to the season,” accompanied by warm house-made bread, is also a highlight.
And don’t forget to taste the “sweet delights” around the excellent olive oil from the Domaine Salvatore selected by Jean-Luc Le Formal, who is also a remarkable pastry chef…
Listen to the poet: “White Lady with a meringue shell flavored with roasted Corsican clementine, Armagnac baba, Corsican clementine sorbet, bitter orange shampoo, and panna-cotta, spiced pear tart tatin, marvelous deconstructed lemon tart (see recipe)…” then enjoy.
From the first page, the chef makes his intentions clear: “Generosity, sincerity, enthusiasm are the three ingredients that are found without fail in the dishes”. You are going to smile with pleasure as the menu, renewed each month, measures up to this lovely quote. Three fixed-price menus are on offer: “L’embarras du choix” at 39 euros, “Emotions” at 47 euros, “Hédoniste,” based around the truffle, at 76 euros.
For lunch, two extra menus with “excellent value for money:” a set menu at 24 euros, very popular with the regulars, with a choice of entrée and main or main and dessert, or the intriguing “menu surprise” in 5 stages at 35 euros.
Advice to our readers: Book well in advance. The word on the street is the talented chef Jean-Luc Le Formal transports you to the land of “stars”…
Restaurant Le Formal (Les caves Henri IV)32 rue Espariat13100 Aix en Provence+334 42 27 08 firstname.lastname@example.org