Bar Le Pablo, Céret
Like many bars and restaurants, Le Pablo has used the Covid hiatus to its advantage, investing heavily in a brand-new look, new menu, new everything, and it is paying off already as customers are flocking to this modern, vibrant Catalan Trattoria which now has a bright new future to add to its artistic pedigree past (writes STEVE BRADY).
Famous for being the haunt of Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali who allegedly (no-one who was there at the time can remember a single thing for some reason) swapped paint brushes, opinions and a variety of hallucinogenic eats, smokes and drinks in a back room, Le Pablo has always been a must-see for visitors to Céret whose conversations on cubism and surrealism were elevated by the arrival of cubes of chewy canard and salads of surreal simplicity – even Dali couldn’t make half a tomato and a slice of lettuce look interesting.
It's safe to say that the Pablo was more famous for its art than its food, but its latest renaissance has painted a colourful new future for the busy little bar beneath the towering plane trees and ancient arches of the old town walls.
The most creative and artistic of us couldn’t conjure up a more scenic spot than yesterday lunchtime with the low-angled autumn sunshine illuminating golden leaves which were spiralling from above and landing gracefully into our pre-lunch drinks.
Le Pablo is now a ‘Restobar’ which might illicit shudders from anyone with ghastly memories of English ‘Gastropubs’ but beyond the trite terminology you will find fantastic food, genuine friendly service and the most satisfying of dining experiences.
There is an Italian feel to the menu, with pizzas and pastas married with Catalan cuisine, Tapas, Iberican hams, Manchego cheeses and the obligatory entrecote, a real mixed palette. No fish to be seen apart from the odd anchovy seasoning the salads.
We went for a double-decker pastry mille-feuille of cream cheese and Granny Smith’s apples (yes, really) and moules gratinées for starters, both as pretty as a picture and fantastic on flavour, texture and taste.
Our mains were Lasagnes de Canard and pork cheeks in a Banyuls sauce, both served in frying pans and sizzling with satisfaction.
We were wary of our debut for duck with pasta but the softness of the sheets bedded in brilliantly with the subtlety of the poultry which was lean, loose and soft as duck down. As such a fatty meat, our concerns over its combination with glutenous pasta melted away with each mouthful.
The pork had been slow-cooked for 12 hours so it had a similar texture to the duck and the crispy roast potatoes, mushroom and seasonal vegetable compote provided a perfect earth for the electricity of the sweet, sticky and shiny sauce made from the local vin doux.
We needed a good half-hour to summon up any remaining appetite, so satisfying were the first two courses, and early ambitions of tackling the Pablo’s signature dessert, a banana, caramel and cream pizza (yes, really - again) and plumped for sharing a chocolate mousse with chantilly cream, candied peanuts and caramel popcorn.
So far, so very good, but what elevated this meal above others was the modern presentation, pleasant youthful service and happy ambience at the new Pablo. It really is a revelation for a bar that could have sat on its artistic laurels forever but has chosen to reinvent itself.
It’s one thing investing tens of thousands in giant pizza ovens, jazzy bar fittings and cutting-edge cutlery and crockery, you have to have a philosophy behind the project.
It’s clear that patron Flavien Casellas has ploughed in as much thought as he has cash because the attention to detail at every level, inside and out, is incredible. He and his staff have all bought into a bold and bright new era for this famous little corner of Céret.
The real joy is that it hasn’t abandoned its heritage either. The rumour that an original Picasso still hangs on the walls of the restaurant among the glorious new murals is encouraged and enhanced by the friendly chatter of the staff.
Restobar, Trattoria, whatever you want to call it, this is still Le Pablo and it will always draw in many visitors sheerly because of its name. The difference now is that instead of a quick selfie at the door, people will sit down and enjoy some terrific modern food.
We each had two and a half courses of great grub, a couple of beers and a demi-litre of house red at a total cost of 59 euros which we thought was good value for this standard of dining.
Of course, there is a ‘formule’ price where you can have two courses and a drink for 19 euros (with additional costs for certain dishes) or the pizza special at 12 euros, details daily on the terrace chalkboard.
Or you could just go into the back room with a bottle of absinthe and some herbal cigarettes, a la mode de Dali et Picasso, either way you are in for a stimulating experience at the new-look Pablo.
We cannot recommend it ‘highly’ enough, bon appetit!
Always a warm welcome at Le Pablo from staff (l-r) Christal, Guillaume (spot the basketball player!), Florian, Matthieu, Pierre and patron Flavien Casellas
Follow Dali and Picasso into a place where art meets food
Bella Pizza, 13 Avenue Michel Aribaud, 66400 Ceret. Tel 04 68 87 70 26
Review by Steven and Denise Brady, Reynes
Ceret has more than its fair share of cafes and restaurants but a relative newcomer on the scene is attracting rave reviews from both locals and visitors.
Bella Pizza is your typical French street-corner eatery. A small terrace opposite the music museum and Salle De L’Union complex contains modern metal tables and chairs, and there is space indoors if the weather is unpleasant.
Of course, pizzas dominate the menu but they have recently added other dishes in response to demand from customers.
Alongside the Vesuvios, Romanas and Margaritas, there are now fabulous salads, steaks, desserts and even sweet pizzas for the seriously sweet-toothed. Noticably absent from the menu is a starters’ section, but who needs an entrée when the portions are so generous?
Having exhausted the extensive list of pizzas on our numerous visits to this restaurant we both opted for Entrecote this time. The steaks were seasoned to perfection, trimmed a little more than others we have tried locally, tender and delicious.
Along with a healthy portion or crispy, fluffy fries and dressed greens it tasted as good as it looked - delicious. And all for 14 euros.
With tummies full we probably shouldn’t have gone for dessert but we were glad we did. Chocolate fondant was gooey and gorgeous and the patisserie of the day was a fruit roulade which was fresh, light and crisp.
We opted for beer with the meal, and the Catalan favourite Cap D’Ona is on tap here for three euros (25cl) and a half pichet of juicy rouge which cost six euros.
Bella Pizza also has a selection of aperitifs, soft drinks and other wines.
We couldn’t finish this review without passing on our opinion of the restaurant’s long list of pizzas. We are steadily working our way through the list (there are 50 to choose from!) and we can safely say they are the best pizzas we have eaten in the south of France – ever! Light and crispy bases, made from dough mixed on site in front of your eyes, the toppings are imaginative and varied with a selection of crème freche pizzas for those who like cream with their crunch.
Seriously delicious, and with sit-down prices averaging ten euros (cheaper for takeaway) they are a bargain lunch for two if you decide to share because they are a good size at around 12 inches.
All in all, it is no surprise that the queues regularly stretch from Bella Pizza’s doors for lunch and dinner (open every day apart from Thursday) as takeaway customers swarm for their boxes.
We cannot recommend this restaurant enough to anyone who hasn’t already been (word is spreading fast). It’s not the biggest restaurant in town so it would be advised to reserve a table.
Bella bella… the little restaurant with a
TOP - Denise with the steaks, middle, chocolate fondant, bottom, summer fruit roulade
Madness in the heart of Perpignan
RIGHT IN THE CENTRE of Perpignan, among the cathedrals and cloisters, is a place where music fans can dance the night away to their favourite artists.
Campo Santo is a live music venue set in a 14th century funerary cloister.
Just the kind of place you would expect to see Suggs and the Nutty Boys belting out their hits from the glory years of Madness!!!
The UK band played a fantastic set as part of the Live au Campo series of open air concerts, all in the shadow of the majestic Cathedral Saint-Jean-Baptiste.
Live au Campo 2018 has also seen international superstar Norah Jones performing along with French artists Julien Dore, Julien Clerc, Selah Sue, Brigitte, Easy Skanking, Gabriel M, Kilembe and the Lisa Jazz Threesome
This year's festival has been extended from two days to five to accommodate the growing number of music lovers who want to see their favourite acts perform in such a unique, beautiful and historic setting.