It's becoming quite a demographic trend, French people who have come to the Scottish capital, fallen in love with it, stayed, and set up food businesses.
Last year, rapturous enthusiasm for Edinbourg came from the Bordeaux-born patronne of the charming crèperie, Marie Delice. Michael, the co-proprietor of Bistro Provence, expresses similar sentiments - a native of Marseille, after stints in Devon and London, he has set up in Leith.
Now, if you've been brought up with the hot sun of the Vieux Port, it must take some acclimatising to any Scottish port, even on the hottest of our summer days. But the weather here doesn't seem to dent their enthusiasm, bless them.
Loading article content
Of course, France and Scotland have a strong historic bond, not least in Leith, with its trade in claret from Bordeaux, and this Auld Alliance shows no sign of weakening. The number of restaurants run by French natives in Edinburgh is definitely growing - but why aren't we witnessing the same phenomenon in Glasgow, where to my knowledge, only one establishment fits the bill?
It's not as if there's no French presence in Glasgow; it has its own Alliance Française running language classes and cultural events, but Glasgow seems more enthralled by what happens across the Atlantic than it does by Europe. Perhaps it's time for the city council to send a cultural mission to France to sell the city's considerable virtues there. Strike when the iron is hot: the satirical Oldie magazine has lately sunk its amusingly grumpy boot into the capital and nominated Glasgow as a far better city than Edinburgh.
The key thing, however, is that it's great to have the French (and every other nationality for that matter) cooking in Scotland. Especially when they refuse to conform to the old worn-out Franglais formula and synthesise their in-the-blood feel for cooking with the best ingredients we have here. So at Bistro Provence, they don't have bouillabaisse on the menu. That would be an impossibly tall order because that recipe relies on a long list of Mediterranean fish for which we have no suitable substitute. But they do a fish soup that comes with rouille and croutons - and I expect it's pretty good, judging from everything else we ate.
The French are particularly strong in the salad department, in particular, those salades composées that juxtapose contrasting flavours, textures and temperatures: sweet and salty, soft and crunchy, warm and cool. My seasonally appropriate salad that teamed up blushing blood orange with blue cheese, walnuts and warm braised chicory, was exceptionally good; I'm still thinking about it fondly.
Across the table were rings of engagingly sticky pig's trotter, stuffed with their meat and nicely seasoned (with juniper amongst other herbs), topped with suitably firm Le Puy-type lentils; this meaty richness was capped with an enlivening "herbs sauce", which to my mind, was like a proper Italian salsa verde.
Saddle of roasted rabbit, which I took to be wild since it had a mildly gamey flavour, came bathed in a creamy mustard sauce, and it has to be said that the French know exactly what to do with mustard, cream and rabbit. It came with expertly made noodles, coloured and flavoured robustly with saffron. A marriage made in heaven.
An adaption of the chickpea flour crèpe for which the city of Nice is renowned, socca, didn't quite come off. It had become too dry and thick, and unfortunately, aubergines and peppers from Dutch greenhouses just don't taste like those grown in southern Europe. But the addition of ricotta (Nice was originally Italian), and a pleasingly fresh basil pesto, rich with the oiliness of pine nuts and the umami of parmesan, saved the day. I guess most veggie diners would be delighted with it.
To finish, an impeccable orange and almond tart with pastry of the highest quality outshone an arid olive oil and Sauterne cake that tasted about as interesting as your average trifle sponge.
Doubtless, the excellent value represented by the two-course lunch (£12.50) has not gone unremarked across the quay at the Scottish Government. But Bistro Provence deserves to be more than a work canteen.