La Colombe D’or is a restaurant you should eat at, at least once in your lifetime. Nestled in the hills above Nice in the medieval town of Saint Paul de Vence, the hotel and restaurant is a place where the jet set come to have rosé wine fuelled lunches while topping up their tan in the courtyard. As you may have guessed, it is more about the ambience than the food.
A last minute invite on Friday found me making my way down Chancery Lane, the legal heart land of London, in the late summer sunshine to have lunch at Cigalon. Walking through the reception, which reminded me of Estée Lauder’s house in New York, I spotted the unmistakable trimmed beard and cycling style specs of general manager, Yann Osouf. Remembering each other from the Wolseley, he led me to one of the four circular banquets arranged down the centre of the rectangular dining room.
The restaurant is Provencal with a Corsican influence. The upholstery and waiters knitted ties in shades of lavender represent Provence while bleached drift wood that of rustic Corsica. The light fittings look like something you may see on Ladies Day at Royal Ascot and the decor is what I imagine Nicole Farhi’s beach house to look like. Most restaurants look better at night, but this room is stunning in daylight.
Unlike La Colombe D’or, Cigalon is both about food and ambience. I find it a relief when I open a menu and see a handful of dishes. We already have too many choices in our lives so I like it when a restaurant takes a bit of control.
A starter of Bagna Cauda crudites with a hot anchovy dip consisted of raw orange cauliflower heads, chicory, artichoke and radishes that came carefully balanced on a plate with a ramekin of salty, oily anchovy dip to immerse in. A fisherman’s Angel Delight. I never order a Nicoise salad as most places butcher them by adding gloopy out of the bottle dressing. At Cigalon, their Nicoise is a thing of beauty with their albacore tuna preserved on the premises, homemade canned tuna if you will, and a perfectly boiled egg that is just on the runny side. And best of all, not a bloody black olive in sight.
Fried fillet of hake with carmague black rice and shellfish bisque brought a glow to our booth with the intense colour from the bisque against a backdrop of the dark rice. Service was good although the starters were a little slow from the kitchen. The clever addition of the booths alternating in direction, like a stationary teacup amusement park ride, gave that feeling of added privacy. The weekday set course lunch is £19.50 for two courses and £23.50 for three and the wine list is accessible with house wine starting at £12.00 for a carafe and £18.00 for a bottle.
La Colombe D’Or translates in to English as the golden dove, Ciglaon means cricket. When Jiminy Cricket sung ‘When you wish upon a star’, I wonder if he had Cigalon in mind?
115 Chancery Lane
London WC2A 1PP
Tel: 020 7242 8373
Please note, we were guests of Cigalon. My dining companion was Zeren Wilson of @bittenwritten.