Friday, December 4, 2015

The Factory Republique Café - Arles



Now, you all know how much I love Arles. Remi and I both still consider it "our town" even though we now live in a tiny village in the countryside. But...I have said it before and I will sans doute say it again...Arles is a very tricky destination as far as eating is concerned.



Now if you have money to spare? Fabulous. There are several really strong possibilities, even if the owners of these restaurants seem to have made a tacit agreement to keep raising their prices so that lunch can easily top 50 Euros per person...

So, let's say that is not what interests you. Visitors ask me all the time, "Where can I go to just get...you know, a salad?" Does that mean that you have to fall victim to the frozen food hawkers on the Place du Forum? And what if you really don't want to be treated like a tourist at all but rather welcomed as a friend?


Meet Gilles. 

He is the owner of the Factory Republique and has quickly become one of my favorite new people in Arles. 


Before giving one of my guided walks this past summer, I had spied a just-opened café right on the rue de la République, one of Arles' main shopping streets (and right across from the insanely chic boutique Actuel B, which sells the likes of Lanvin and Comme des Garçons, a-hem). My food radar went off (thank you, Mom for that gift) and I popped in to get a card but had to hurry on my way.


Well, two weeks ago I had a bit of extra time in Arles before meeting Remi. "Fifteen minutes," he had promised. It was a chilly, rainy day and all I wanted was a spot of tea but it was almost 12:30 and I have been flat out turned away for wanting just a drink during "meal time" in the past (I actually saw a waiter kick out a table of people lingering over their coffees to make way for eating customers at a well-known place on the boulevard des Lices - this despite the fact that of the lingerers, one was in a wheelchair and the other severely handicapped but I digress). 


I walked towards the cute café that I had seen in the summer. Oh dear, it was nearly already full but still  I pressed inside, grateful for the warmth. "I am so sorry, I know it is lunchtime but do you think it would be possible if I..." and by the time I had finished my question, I had already been helped out of my jacket and was seated with an "of course, of course" plus...a smile. A real one. I ordered my Earl Grey and a big carafe of water appeared along with it. Quelle surprise, Remi was far later than fifteen minutes and as I shifted impatiently on my tabouret, Gilles wordlessly slipped that day's edition of the La Provence newspaper on my table. We started to chat.

It turns out that he had already developed quite a following at his previous restaurant in Fontvieille - the Cuisine du Planet whose reputation was always stellar - but decided to open up shop in Arles to be closer to his son's schooling (because that is how they roll in France, folks). Hence the café, which he had utterly transformed from a soulless discount shoe store into a tiny but fun space, filled with great music to boot. When I left that day, Gilles gave me "les bis" or kisses on my cheek - after just my first visit! As we walked away, I saw lots of passerby pausing to wave a coucou at the cafés friendly owner and I knew that I would be back.


However, the pleasant part is that I had no idea that it would be so soon. While in-between running errands in Nîmes and Arles the other day, Remi completely stunned me when he suggested, "Why don't we go see Gilles?" Now, this is highly unusual. I understand it - Remi is a far better cook than where we eat out unless it is Michelin-star fodder, so why go? Well, to spend time in a nice place where you feel instantly that you belong...and oh, to eat simply but really well in the process.


And I could see that it wasn't just me who was treated warmly whether they were stopping by for an espresso (and see that machine in the background? The FR is one of the very few places where you can get a serious coffee in Arles) or to eat the daily special of, say, entrecôte et frîtes (I opted for the roasted salmon with mustard vinaigrette instead - it was perfectly seasoned and tender, the fries delish) for only 15 Euros. Everyone was. Every. Single. One.

Remi enjoyed his maxi salade and the next time that I go I will try the smoked salmon sandwich that the woman had at the table behind us, which, while only costing 5 Euros was copious and looked tempting. Our muffin au chocolat avec crème anglaise was quite good too. Husky blues played in the background while we ate and at one point Remi pointed out that I was talking too loudly. Yep, that can happen when I am content. I think that French word for that feeling is bonhomie. :)


But honestly, just go to meet Gilles. He is fluent in English and German and will not treat you badly if you don't speak French. Something else that I noticed on both occasions? There were tables of women who felt completely comfortable eating there on their own - really, far more of a rarity than you would think in France. Gilles told me that he is going to scale back the menu a bit for the winter months as he would rather have fewer items that are local and in-season, just as he also knows that if he had more options available then he would have to be back in the kitchen cooking as well when what he really wants is to be out front. That says a lot. And if you do go and spy a red-head hunched over her book in a corner or people-watching out on the terrace, then by all means say hello as it may well be me! Hopefully you will enjoy as much as I do the spirit of this new old-school café.*

Café Factory Republique
35 rue de la Republique
13200 - Arles
Tel.: 04 90 54 52 53 (dialing locally)
Open: 8am to 7pm, until 8:30pm on Saturday
Free Wi-Fi
A good idea? Ditch your hotel's over-priced breakfast and come here instead.

Don't believe me? Ok, now truly DON'T trust TripAdvisor for eating out in Arles. Except, sauf, in this case as this sweet little café has risen to the number one spot in a matter of just a few months for one reason primarily...and now you know his name!

Bon Appétit...

* As always, just to clarify that in no way is this a sponsored post, just me spreading the word about a much-needed new address in Arles...

...et Bon Weekend!




23 comments:

Ellie said...

Looks delicious!

Heather Robinson said...

And the boutique across the street that I mentioned is where you can buy Cire Trudon candles! :)

Judith Ross said...

I am working on my own mug of Earl Gray as I write this. Yum. You should include Gilles and FR when you pitch your "36 hours in Arles" to the New York Times!

Bill Facker said...

Heather .. "les bis" is the most telling portion of this tale .. a wonderful "looking in the mirror" moment for you .. you get what you give and "les bis" was the difinitive indicator. Congratulations on being that deserving person!

Aloha et Au revoir,
Bill

www.kauai-to-paris.com

robin said...

Screeeeeeeech!!!!!!! Hold everything! Pitching a "36 hours in Arles" story to the New York Times is the best idea I've heard in a LONG time!!! Thank you, Judith Ross, for planting this idea, and here's hoping I don't become too pesky to Heather about it! But back to the article - hooray for a friendly, affordable cafe in Arles! It look/sounds wonderful, and I can't wait to go the next time I'm in town! Add this to the amazing exhibit that I read about in Ellie's blog - what? what? - why haven't we gone there?! Just kidding as I could just sit in your garden with you my entire visit and be happy. Also, to anyone of Heather's readers who wished me Happy Birthday, thank you so much! Very sweet!

Karena Albert said...

Heather, This is just the kind of spot that I like to stop in and that Giles is such a gent, what a dream!!

xoxo
Karena
The Arts by Karena
Books for the Holidays!

La Contessa said...

Hop on that idea above dear one!!!Who can HELP here please DO!What a Fabulous idea Judith Ross has had!!!!😍
So thrilled you have found a SPOT!!!!
You will take me there when I arrive I assume!!
Xoxo

simpleimages2 said...

Very comforting to know that the staff or especially the owner of the restaurant is friendly. If in addition it has a good service and good food the place will not be difficult to be a favorite for gathering.

The food looks delicious.

Lee I said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lee I said...

Sounds wonderful. I must put this address somewhere that I won't lose it, (Made a typo in my first effort,)

Heather Robinson said...

Ah, you are lovely to say so, Bill. Waving to you on the other side of the world in Hawaii!

Heather Robinson said...

Now that is quite an idea you have there, Madame Ross...

PS. to fellow friends here. Judith has a beautiful piece up on Talking Writing, you can find it via the link in her profile to her blog.

Heather Robinson said...

Sister, I am so sorry we didn't go to the Carrieres - Mom and Leonard didn't get to go either it was on the top of the list of places that I wanted them to see but it just didn't work out. :( Next time, ok? :)

Heather Robinson said...

A "gent" is just the perfect word, Karena. Have a great weekend!

Heather Robinson said...

I will be proud to take you around wherever you wish to go, beautiful Contessa!

Heather Robinson said...

It was! And the wine was good too...and only 2. 5O the glass - can you imagine that in Napa? ;)

Heather Robinson said...

I loved that typo Lee. ;) But yes, it is a keeper...

Michel said...

Thanks for sharing the new address. We kept saying we were going to go to Arles for the day when we were in Sablet back in October but time ran out. Next time as we say. Hope you are enjoying the holidays.

Loree said...

You've made me hungry all over again. All I need is to hear the word salmon. What a wonderful little place you have discovered.

l'Arlesienne said...

I agree. It's a cool place.

Heather Robinson said...

And let me know if you do! :)

Heather Robinson said...

Yes for the salmon - it was excellent but wow was it good to have some fries...it had been ages! :)

Heather Robinson said...

Aha! So I am not alone...good to know...