aix cave dyves exteriorIf you're going out for a drink, a super way to enjoy fine but affordable wine is to visit one of France's numerous wine shops (caves à vins) which also double as brasseries. logoClick here to book a hotel in Aix en Provence

At these establishments you can buy a bottle or two, either to drink in the bar, at retail prices (plus a modest corkage charge), or to take home. Most such bars also serve simple but high-quality food, and La Cave d'Yves is one of them.

A tiny, cosy, informal spot, it sits on the corner of a side-street off the place des Prêcheurs and its lively street market on the edge of Aix's Old Town.

Soft music - classical, jazz and 20th century show tunes - was playing in the background when we visited, while the patron, Yves van Aert, worked quietly at the bar.

A native of south-west France, van Aert, pictured, worked for some years as manager of Riche, a popular Stockholm restaurant (he speaks English and Swedish), before coming to Aix en Provence to open La Cave d'Yves in 2009.

aix yves van aertHis hand-picked cellar of some four hundred bottles is naturally strong on west and south-west wines, but also roves all over France and has an international section.

You can browse for your bottle from a line-up arrayed on shelves in the corner, or buy wine by the glass from a very short list on a printed sheet taped to a plank from a wine crate: three whites, four reds (including an AOC Margaux), plus one rosé, champagne and a couple of dessert wines.

The choice changes every few days and is adjusted to match the current menu. Yves or his fellow-sommelier will give advice (if you want it) on what wine to order with your meal.

The food was uncommonly good. As well as the charcuterie, cheese and other cold plates usually on offer in French wine bars, there's a small range of hot dishes, including a special of the day.

aix cave dyves mealOn this occasion it was duck breast with pain d'épices (ginger cake) smeared with raspberry, plus mashed potato topped with a blob of intensely flavoured home-made foie gras. Pictured, it sounds a bit strange but this is in fact a classic French combination, and was excellent.

We - or rather one of us - also ordered andouillette, that French speciality sausage made with pork intestines, which some people adore and others find disgusting. Served in shallot or mustard sauce, this particular one was (at least, so I was told) a splendid example. If you like that sort of thing, the typical provençal dish pieds et paquets (sheep's tripe and trotters) is on the menu too, as is a rather safer beefsteak.

You can also sample a tasting plate of cheeses with different wines and there are a few home-made desserts. Portions were ample and - while this isn't a low-budget dining option - the prices very reasonable for food and wine of this calibre.

La Cave d'Yves can accommodate 26 covers, including five or six seats at the bar (plus in summer a handful of tables outside). While it wasn't busy on a cold Boxing Day lunchtime, you can imagine that this well-known local haunt quickly gets packed at peak times, and so it's advisable to book ahead.

Visited December 2014

Where: La Cave d'Yves, 10 rue Portalis, 13100 Aix en Provence. Tel: (+33) 4 42 93 75 80. Website for La Cave d'Yves


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