March 17 2011
Arles has long been one of my favourite places in southern France and, as well as the Roman Arena and the Van Gogh memorabilia, I particularly like the international photography exhibition that takes place there each summer (Les Rencontres d’Arles, this year from July 3-Sept 19). The town has a lot of frankly mediocre restaurants designed to ensnare tourists. But thanks to a tip from my friend and Arles resident Anne Igou, proprietor of the beautiful Grand Hôtel Nord Pinus, I recently discovered Le Galoubet, a stylish bistro situated down a narrow side street not far from the Rhone which is favoured by discerning locals. This airy and attractive restaurant is run by Céline and Franck Arribart, a friendly young couple who spent several years travelling around south-east Asia before moving to Arles 18 months ago.
The dishes prepared by Céline are all quintessentially French, fresh and of the moment, using ingredients from local markets. I first went there on a lively evening last September. Returning for lunch on a sunny but bitterly cold January day – and warmed by the open fire in the dining room – my wife and I had delicious smoked herring with potatoes and a vinaigrette dressing, and saddle of lapin roti with black olives and tomatoes. One of their desserts is the Arlésienne speciality, pompe à l’huile, which is a kind of sweet bread served with lemon marmalade and soft white cheese.
The place has a stylish but laid-back ambience, and when the warm weather returns you can eat outside on the shady terrace. There are also plans to turn the upstairs floors into a hotel, expected to open early next year.