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“Do you know what you’ve ordered?” The amiable and perpetually smiling waiter asked.
“Err… no, not really. Something with lamb?”
Heads turned our way. Aux Deux Anges in Forcalquier is a small restaurant, as small as a decent-sized living room. Our poor French was exposed as we were identified as people who didn’t know what food they’d ordered. Everyone was listening to see what happened next.
“Paquets d’agneau are sheep trotters,” the waiter told us, pausing as though he expected us to put our hands to our mouths to muffle a shocked ‘Sacrebleu’.
Turned out a party of Brits had innocently ordered the paquets d’agneau a few days previously, only discovering what they were after they’d tucked in. They hadn’t been too pleased and our waiter didn’t want a repeat performance.
The owner appeared from the kitchen and place a steaming tray of the paquets d’agneau under my nose, just to confirm.
“That’s fine,” I nodded nonchalantly, depriving the other patrons of a squeamish Brit reaction. I’d eaten pig trotters in Catalonia last year, it was time I added more farm animal feet to my repertoire.
Restaurant Aux Deux Anges
Aux Deux Anges sits on a pretty little square behind the main street in Forcalquier. It has an appealing chocolate box frontage and an atmosphere of warm, cosiness spills onto the street drawing you in. Even in end of season September we had to book to get in.
Once inside it’s clear where the name comes from. There are a lot of angels. There are a lot of kitsch angels. It’s also quite pink. It could and should be a bit sickly sweet in the décor stakes… but it isn’t. It’s welcoming and comfortable. Tables are squeezed close together, something that might feel claustrophobic in some places. In Aux Deux Anges it just feels friendly… except when you’re making an ass of yourself ordering and everyone is listening.
The menu is traditional and small, with only three main courses. By the time we ordered at 8.15pm or so, that was down to two courses; both lamb based. I guess most of the other diners had avoided the sheep trotters and exhausted the restaurant’s chicken stocks.
The Food at Aux Deux Anges
Having only a limited menu, you don’t go to Aux Deux Anges for the choice. It has a reputation for good home-cooking of traditional Provence cuisine. It’s one of those places where you turn up and put yourself in their hands. Saying that, having lamb as two of the three main dishes on the menu is a bit too limiting, especially when they run out of the only other option.
We’d learnt Forcalquier and this part of Provence has a thing about lamb. This was the third time out of four nights that I’d eaten lamb and the second time because there was simply no other choice.
Everybody gets the same starter. On this occasion it was a light and fresh beetroot coulis with salty tapenade toasts – a good contrast.
Where I stayed with the sheep trotters, Andy changed her main course for the other option tian d’agneau – fried cubes of lamb in ratatouille with wild rice and creamy goats’ cheese.
The sheep trotters didn’t look like sheep trotters, they looked like little golden, filled skin parcels – hence the paquets. What they’re filled with is ground trotters and various other sheep parts, seasoned with garlic, herbs and spices.
In a way they’re a bit like haggis, although the wrapping has the sort of texture of a wet bandage. They taste a lot better than they sound and if you want to experience a really traditional dish I’d recommend giving them a go. They’re not always on the menu if the idea puts you off visiting the restaurant.
For dessert it was back to the wholesome familiarity of an apricot cream flan and a slice of apple crumble that woke nostalgic memories of childhood puddings.
And that’s where Aux Deux Anges really scores big time. It’s like eating with a big family in a happy homestead.
In a country where dining out can be pricey, it’s also incredibly good value. Our meal with a carafe of local wine came to €34.90.
Aux Deux Anges; Place St Michel, Forcalquier;+33 4 92 75 04 36; open midday to 1.30pm and 7.30 to 8.30pm; set meal is €14.70.
Jack is co-owner, writer and photographer for BuzzTrips and the Real Tenerife series of travel websites as well as a contributor to lots of other places. Follow Jack on Google+
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