The high ceilings, greenhouse glass roof, reed fences and hanging foliage evoke the light, airy restaurants and verandas of the south of France, whilst the lavender-hued honeycomb fretwork and cream décor is easy on the eye. Plush booths and striped banquettes are suited to both business powwows and romantic tête-à-têtes, and the open kitchen imbues the 68 cover restaurant with bustle and life. In a typically humorous touch from the chef-patron, the chirping song of cicadas – a sound synonymous with Provence summers – plays as diners enter.
This is not a restaurant defined by gimmicks, though, but by its charm. Whilst the restaurant’s interior is designed to conjure up memories of the Mediterranean Sea there are no magic tricks turned with the cuisine, which is earthy, fresh and unembellished. The grill is an integral part of the kitchen, on a menu where fish features strongly alongside game, inexpensive cuts of meat (onglet, lamb neck) and pasta – this staple being no stranger to a region that borders Italy.
There is an abundance of herbs, citrus and olive oil in traditional Provençal cooking and the region’s sun-kissed produce and sea catches have long resulted in flavourful, well-seasoned dishes. Many feature on Cigalon’s menu in some capacity: tapenade, aioli, soup au pistou, salad Niçoise, barigoule, ratatouille and tarte aux figues appear in dishes alongside less familiar specialities such as poutargue – a small salted fish roe sausage similar to bottarga, that is sometimes referred to as caviar Provençal. Whilst remaining true to Provence, Cigalon also flies the flag for Corsican cuisine – goat’s cheese and charcuterie are both regulars on what is a fine menu of French classics.
As well as a varied à la carte menu fit for all appetites, Cigalon offers a lunch set menu of good value, given the quality of ingredients. Expect the likes of Linguine, green olives and mint pistou, and Grilled seabass fillet, broccoli, pastis and fennel sauce. Cigalon’s puddings: Bitter almond cake, strawberries and Mauresque; and Rosemary cream pot and morello cherry coulis to name two, are well-considered.
Cigalon won an AA rosette; the wine list and cocktails (including the all-too-rarely-seen Sazerac) won it Best Newcomer 2011 at the Harpers Drinking Out Excellence Awards; it featured in the Waitrose Good Food Guide 2013 as a wine champion; and is written about in the 2014 edition, where the food is described as “a roll call of gastro-nostalgia”.