L'Atelier de Jean Luc Rabanel | Restaurant in Arles, France | Natural wine

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L'Atelier de Jean Luc Rabanel Heart
Restaurants and bars
Location: 43.676051,4.627127
Price: Moderate

Reviewed By

Sue Dyson and Roger McShane
Phone Number: +33 4 90 91 07 69
Address: 7 rue des Carmes
Country: France
Food Style: International

L'Atelier de Jean Luc Rabanel is a restaurant that is worth a visit in this ancient town of Arles. It is tucked away discreetly down a small lane in the centre of the old town.
The restaurant is small, but it needs to be, given the cavalcade of dishes served up to lucky diners. The kitchen is also open to view providing incentive to opt for a table inside rather than one of the favoured outside alternatives.
The food here manages to push the boundaries of presentation while remaining firmly rooted in good, fresh produce and traditional cooking techniques.
The first dish presented on a long white plate was flavourful tuna rillettes with good bread rolls. This was followed by a tomato and basil gazpacho with a tomato and parmesan mini-baguette. The gazpacho was presented in a cross between a chemistry 'beaker' and a carafe and you drank it through a straw. A sprig of thyme added perfume.
Stemless Riedel glasses were used to serve water.
We had just finished this dish when a guinea fowl encased in a salt crust was paraded through the restaurant prior to being rested for a later course.
A breaded pigs feet confit followed and then an avocado mousse with apple jelly. Both dishes were topped with the trademark flowers and herbs from the garden visited by the chef every day.
The next dish, however made us really sit up and take notice. A white cup of pumpkin and chestnut 'stew' topped with a thick and ethereal mushroom espuma was a perfect expression of autumn. Rich, flavourful and luscious this dish flew into contention as one of our best dishes in a very good year of eating.
Next was a traditional course of zucchini flowers stuffed with brandade and surrounded by another great autumn vegetable of parsnip espuma/puree. This was also a memorable dish.
The guinea fowl was served with two swords of tempura salsify and more parsnip. A small salad of fresh leaves, herbs and flowers was served on the side.
The other revelation at this stage of the meal was a steely Carignan that we were served called Le Chant de Marjolaine. It tasted of the schist in which the vines eke out their lives. We immediately made a note to try to find more of the Domaine Rimbert wines because they are made with such precision and evoke the terroir so fully that they are wines to watch.
Desserts were many. Lemon 'pie' topping pieces of banana, verbena ice topped with a crostade, squash beignets, chocolate fondant with a chocolate crisp all added sweetness at the end of the meal. Further floral notes were added with a glass of Terre des Chardons Clairette de Bellegarde. This little known wine based on the Clairette grape is organically grown and has Muscat-like overtones.
We thoroughly enjoyed our meal and are pleased that M. Rabanel is once again at the stoves.

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