aix segond facadeYou'd expect a city like Aix to be jam-packed with tasty pâtisseries and salons de thé. Not so. You can buy cakes to take away easily enough. But somewhere to sit and chat over coffee and pastries: that's not so easy to find.

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Riederer, a venerable family pâtisserie based in Aix since the 18th century, finally closed its doors here in 2016 after several years of financial difficulties (it has since moved out of town, to Gardanne).

But now great news: Philippe Segond (of the Riederer family) has launched his own new business, a cake shop / tea room bearing his name.

It's right at the top of the Cours Mirabeau, beyond Les Deux Garçons and away from the crowds on the main boulevard. Along with my friend Aixcentric (click here to read her excellent blog), I felt duty bound to test it out.

Segond claims to be the only maître pâtissier in Aix to hold the title of Meilleur Ouvrier de France. This prestigious award is won in a fiercely contended national competition every four years and can be bestowed on a whole range of craft workers.

aix segond cakesWatch the brilliant, nail-biting documentary Kings of Pastry to see just what this gruelling contest involved for a pastry chef.

Meilleur Ouvrier or not, Segond's little tea room is surprisingly modest with simple bistro furniture (no tablecloths) and a slightly tacky shocking pink and chocolate colour scheme.

Outside are two tiny pink garden tables and folding chairs. There's no waitress service: you go to the counter to choose your cake from the tempting display.

But the most important thing, the pâtisserie, pictured, served on cute, square chocolate brown plates, was delicious.

The coffee-chocolate themed "Soprano" was described as a "sablé au café, panna cota au café caramélisé, nuage crème marscapone parfumé à l'Ameretto et chocolat au lait".

The tropical "Sumatra" was "coeur d'ananas rôti à la vanille bourbon et sucre Muscovado, croustillant coco et mousse ivoire citron vert": vanilla roasted pineapple, crunchy cocoanut and lime mousse. Yum!

If neither of those floats your boat, you have another couple of dozen concoctions to choose from, including, inevitably, something called a tarte Cézanne based on calisson ingredients (almonds, cream, apricots).

You can buy large and small cakes to take away too, of course, plus artisan chocolate, macaroons and, in summer, ice cream.

Like many Brits, we are wary of French-style thé, which usually arrives with a fancy label but needs helping out of the teapot.

So we didn't try any of the range of teas and infusions. But the coffee was good and strong and, what's more, the bill was very reasonable for cakes of this calibre.

Visited May 2016

Where: Philippe Segond, 67 cours Mirabeau, Aix en Provence. Tel: (+33) 4 42 38 19 69. Segond also has shops in nearby Venelles and Le Tholonet. Website for Philippe Segond.

Photo credits: both images © SJ for Marvellous Provence

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