It's a shame Cigalon is in the City of London, and therefore - at least at the moment - only opens Monday to Friday, and closes at 10pm. It's in a long, narrow room in a former book auctioneers on Chancery Lane, but a skylight in the lofty ceiling, the open-plan grill kitchen, and mirrors covered by rush matting somehow give the sense of being in an outdoor pavilion somewhere warm. Provence, to be specific: chefs Julien Carlon and Maxime de Van are passionate about the cuisine - and wine - of the region and the restaurant takes its name from the titular Provencal chef of Marcel Pagnol's film.
Pagnol himself gives his name to a winning aperitif embracing pastis, vodka and elderflower liqueur: a Thyme Daquiri was enhanced rather than overpowered by its herby component. The menu offers regional specialities, ranging from the alluringly simple (Soupe au pistou) to the daunting (Pieds et Paquets, aka lamb tripe and trotter stew). We started off with pickled sardine in citrus and spices, which was fresh and firm and clean, and braised Camargue beef cannelloni, which was the highlight of my week: the meat melting into an unctuous sauce of shallots, red wine and bone marrow.
My main course of steamed cod was quite the firmest, freshest piece of fish I've eaten in a long while, though it didn't - and couldn't - live up to the starter in terms of taste. But my companion's roast belly of pork fell apart as if begging to be consumed. Rib of veal with Mentonaise sauce is a speciality, as are plainly grilled fish offered with a choice of sauces, including sauce vierge and fennel and pastis.
Side dishes change according to what's fresh and available. On a cold night, our bewhiskered waiter rightly suggested that we should try a hearty dish of chestnuts and bacon alongside the sautéed greens with anchovy and lemon confit that we'd ordered. Wines by the glass rotate too - the ones we tried were off the menu at time of writing - but are reasonably priced and robust, mostly from Provence or Corsica. I hope, for your sakes, that the pudding of caramelized oranges we shared is still present and correct when you visit, because it's wonderful.
Cigalon, 115 Chancery Lane, London WC2A 1PP (+44 (0)20 7242 8373; cigalon.co.uk)