From the rather dreary, cold late-autumn Chancery Lane the narrow door to Cigalon leads to a room of total contrast. Unexpectedly doubled height, light, fresh and airy. As piped cicadas chirped we – that’s moi and Cooksister – sat in one of the plush banquettes that alternate down the centre of the (rather narrow) restaurant.
Actually there are not banquettes as the definition is an upholstered bench along a wall… and these are more than a bench…
So piped in cicadas, which might have been a bit naff but here rather set the mood – all southern French terrace overlooking a sparkly sea. And this mood continued with a ‘Provencal grill’ type menu, which, although having just a few options under starter and mains kept us both deliberating for far longer than is healthy. A superbly tasty tapenade and a glass of something bubbly managed to see us through the indecision.
“Cigalon brings Provence cuisine to London.
The restaurant, named after the 1935 Marcel Pagnol film, is housed in a magnificent former auction house on Chancery Lane. Its green house glass-ceiling, double height dining room, reed fences and singing cicada, transport you effortlessly to Cannes or St Tropez without the excess baggage.” Cigalon
An exclusively French wine list with a refreshing emphasis on Corsican and Provencal wines. Like the menu it is not a huge list but with so many unusual wines – i.e. ones I’ve never heard of – it is all rather tempting. As Jeanne states in her review “we put our wine choices in the hands of the sommelier, asking him to match a glass to each course”
The first two wines selected were not, sadly, from Corsica but for me a Cote de Ventoux, La Ferme Julien 2010, to accompany the bountiful array of meats (superbly tasty ham, chorizo, saucisson plus cornichons and little onions) on the Provencal and Corsican Charcuterie Platter (£9.50). The wine was nice if a little unadventurous.
A sweet wine, 2011 Tariquet “Premières Grives” (Côtes de Gascogne) to match with Jeannes Foie Gras Terrine with Pink Grapefruit Jelly (£13.50); a near perfect choice (yep, I nicked a little) with the meltingly rich terrine gilded by the wine.
A far more exciting wine for my main course. Matched with Grilled Beef Onglet, Gnocchi, Baby Onions and Red Wine Jus (£18.50) was a gently spicy red from Corsica Clos Culombu ‘Domaine Culombu” 2010. A moist, perfectly cooked and flavoursome chunk of Onglet with a streak of pinkness in the middle. A nod to Italy in the shape of those Gnocchi, and quite lovely they were too with an edge of sage mirrored in the wine.
A French wine for the Wild Rabbit Saddle and Leg with Jerusalem Artichokes and Chestnuts (£19); the square of Jerusalem Artichoke dauphinoise declared ‘Sublime’ by Jeanne (eventually after the rapturous ooo’s and aaah’s subsided). The wine being a Provencal Domaine Triennes “Les Auréliens”, Côteaux Varois, 2008.
Dessert – a Selection of Goats and Ewe Cheese for Jeanne (£8) and a selection of small desserts with coffee ‘Café Gourmand” for moi (£6). Delightful little sweet surprises but not really that great a match with a re-appearance of the Tariquet Premieres Grives 2011. A sip on the ‘wine-for-cheese-match’, Domaine des Demoiselles Solera NV Rivesaltes Ambre would have been a hugely better choice.
Slightly disappointing wine matches aside; the meal at Cigalon was superb. From the airy décor, through the friendly service to the presentation of the food to the food quality itself the evening ranks as one of my favourite meals… the company helped too of course.
Not a single duff note in all the dishes and in fact, some dishes that I will carry in my memory for a very long time – which to me is the mark of a great meal. The price of our meal with wine would have been in the vicinity of £60-£70 per head – not cheap but oh what memorable meal it buys. Cooksister
Cigalon Provençal Restaurant & Grill, 115 Chancery Lane, London, WC2A 1PP
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