A taste of rural France in the heart of Edinburgh

La Garrigue has proved to be one of Edinburgh's most popular restaurants.
La Garrigue has proved to be one of Edinburgh's most popular restaurants.

Think of rural southern France and you’re likely to imagine sun-drenched fields, crystal blue skies and rustic villages - the type of place Van Gogh liked to spend his afternoons painting when he was in one of his better moods.

Not that it’s a vision I’ve ever seen for myself. I’ve yet to visit anywhere in the country south of Paris.

But one man who knows the region better than most is Jean Michel Gauffre, a chef who hails from Languedoc, a south-western province of France famed for its wine.

Jean Michel has called Scotland home for more than two decades, and since 2001 he’s run a restaurant in Edinburgh’s Jeffrey Street named La Garrigue.

The menu is inspired by the family-style country cooking he grew up with in his home village of Combret.

The restaurant is located a two minute walk from Waverley station and offers superb views of Calton Hill from its simple but stylish dining room.

I was meeting my dad for lunch on a typically cold and grey Edinburgh afternoon.

Both of us were keen to warm up, so we started with the soup of the day; a rich tomato variety with garlic. It was strong flavoured and filling, and came with excellent home-baked bread.

La Garrigue was doing brisk business - always a welcome sign in a restaurant you’re visiting for the first time - but the service was still attentive, with Jean Michel himself serving many of the tables and making friendly conversation with the diners.

My dad asked if he was still cooking himself, and he said that he still liked to help out, and make certain dishes, but that he employed a team of talented young chefs who didn’t need him interfering, so he left them to “get on with it”.

Jean Michel’s faith in his staff is obviously being repaid - our main courses were superb.

I opted for pork belly with flageolet beans and parsley tomatoes. The meat was so tender that I could cut it with my fork.

My faither opted for veal, which he rated as “historic”. He certainly enjoyed it, but I reckoned he borrowed the phrase from Michael Winner.

Wine aficionados will be more than chuffed with the range on offer at La Garrigue, but I opted instead for a bottle of Mont Blanc Rousse, a delicious French wheat beer that is a perfect accompaniment for meat dishes.

This was a memorable meal at a restaurant I thoroughly recommend you visit. Vive la France.

La Garrigue

31 Jeffrey Street, Edinburgh

0131 557 3032 / www.lagarrigue.co.uk