As we steamroll through March (I know, I don't understand how this has happened either), I imagine that some of my more meticulous friends are already deep into planning their upcoming vacations to the South of France this summer. And as we all know, that means food research, yes? One can always sleep on a cot but when it comes to la belle cuisine française, well, that is not to be taken lightly.
So today, I am offering up an address for your consideration but with a hanging clause attached to it (which makes me remember the "hanging chads" which forces me to say, "People of Florida, for the love of all that you hold dear, get out and vote today!" But I digress...).
Now, if you are at all like me - and something tells me that if you are reading along at Lost in Arles, there is a strong possibility that might be the case - each opportunity to eat out is epic, worthy of scrolling through reviews both informed (the France board at Chowhound) and uninformed (Tripadvisor's restaurant selections for pretty much any touristy town in Provence).
But what if we take it down a notch for a second? What if you just want say, a pretty space that is lively, where you can munch on a reliable standby such as...
...magret de canard with leeks and a gratin on the side? You know, Old School Stylee.
This is why I am suggesting L'Harmonie in Nimes (or Nîmes as it is normally written, to please my friend B who works for the city). Now, they call it a restaurant but it is definitely more of a bistro. Natasha runs the front of house and she doesn't moving stop for a minute. Because this joint is jumping. Why? It is a very good rapport qualité-prix or value for your money and I think that is especially true if you go for dinner, where the three-course menu (with ample choices) is set at 24 Euros, exactly as it is at lunch.
When I went, it was for a noonday reservation, 12:30 to be precise. I arrived with my dear friend L at 12:35 and every seat in the house was already taken save for one table in the back (a petit bémol - she had reserved ahead and yet a table had not been set aside for us *eyebrow raise*) where we settled in while listening to the contented murmur of our fellow diners.
While L chose the previously mentioned prix-fixe menu, I opted to go even more low-key with the menu du jour for well under 20 Euros. Honestly, I did not see an enormous difference in the presentation in our starters - both featuring gambas - although L's had a more upscale (and delicious) choice of encornet or squid as opposed to my mulet with ratatouille. Every single person at the surrounding tables had chosen the duck (perfectly cooked and brought out by the chef, no less) as I had and it was clear that many had come in just for that and a copious pour of red from the Languedoc before heading back to work.
L'Harmonie is that kind of place, buzzy and light, perfect for a day when you are lost wandering through Nimes and hangry after paying to visit the Maison Carrée only to discover that it is, indeed, an empty if perfect Roman monument. Certainly, L's order of a demi-baba for dessert could calm the most frayed of nerves. We stayed on, savoring it with the last of our wine until the room emptied and we too moved on into the bright light of a perfectly provençal afternoon.
29 rue de la Madeleine
Open Tuesday - Sunday for lunch and dinner
Tel.: +33 (0)4 66 67 21 91