Le Jardin des Sens is a modernist glass cube set in beautiful Mediterranean gardens. It is not cheap: on the carte, even a single starter can cost up to €77, but the Menu Déjeuner is a more modest €49, and it includes a glass of wine chosen for you by the sommelier. Well, it’s a start, I thought.
We met Tom, his mother and step-father and two new chums Roz and Aidan in the gardens. A glass of champagne, a couple of pig’s trotter fritters and an anchoïade of tuna and tomato later, we were ready to ease ourselves into the spectacular glass dining room. It is a beautiful space, comfortably accommodating 80 covers (it was full on a Tuesday lunchtime). Our large round table was immaculately presented, as were the waiting staff and the sommelier, who introduced us to a delicious Minervois red, an English source for which I have already found. Que Sera Serra from Villa Serra is one of the new breed from this region: light, slightly spicy, but with real structure. It went extremely well with my starter of soup and my main course of slow cooked cod.
Soup and cod. The food doesn’t sound too exciting, does it? OK, here’s what these dishes really were.
The starter: La barigoule de petits artichauts et légumes de saison servie froide, sorbet tomate, croustillant de gambas, huile d’olive et basilic. The distilled essence of the south of France, every mouthful an intense and different experience.
The main: Le filet de petit cabillaud cuit longuement au four en croûte de tomate, côtes et verts de blettes à la niçoise et en rissoles, mousserons dans leur jus de cuisson en émulsion. Exquisite – and witty, too, because what at first sight was the skin of the fish was in fact a fine layer of tomato. I’m a meat-eater, but this piece of fish was a taste sensation which will stay with me for years.
The desserts, and les gourmandises. I seldom do desserts, but yesterday I stuffed myself on some of the most wonderful patisserie you can imagine. I met Jean-Christian, the chef patissier who created them, moments later because Tom had arranged for us to visit the kitchens and meet his colleagues after the meal.
It was a pleasure in so many respects. But principally, it was a pleasure to see the respect and affection of the French brigade for le rosbif. He has earned this respect by working hard to meet the exacting standards of a French Michelin-starred restaurant. He works long hours. He speaks French fluently. He is still recognisably the schoolboy who started at Wilde’s, but he is a young man who understands that great food is the result of hard work and meticulous attention to detail.
It made us proud to know him.
Today’s listening: The Airplane from The Matrix in ’68 as I walk into Uzès for the food market: "Fly Jefferson Airplane, gets you there on time ...".