‘Chez Bob’ is a very famous restaurant in the Camargue – land of marshes, mosquitoes, pink flamingoes, bulls and white horses. This area is rather romantic and steeped in staunch fusion gypsy/Spanish culture. They have a particular style of cooking which is simple but strong, colourful and uncompromising in its nature. You’re not going to get anything subtle or sophisticated – you’re going to be drinking Pastis and sucking on dark salty/sweet olives. The restaurant was created in 1971 by Bob whose two passions in life were friendship and partying. When he died, Jean-Guy and his wife Josianne from Arles took it over and have continued in exactly the same tradition for the last thirty five years. Everyone has eaten and partied here from Picasso to royalty and everyone gets the same rapturous treatment. The wait staff are all women, they all look like gypsies and their tattoos are resplendent with flowers, virgins and poems.
You arrive for Sunday lunch with friends after you get lost few times in the middle of nowhere because as is entirely correct, the Chez Bob sign is the size of a mosquito. It’s 35 degrees, you’ve got your fan going and the rosé is served outdoors with marinated mussels and black olives. Whenever you feel the urge you move yourselves indoors for the feast. When I say indoors I mean two rooms filled to choking with wooden tables, sumptuous amounts of food already laid out, corrida, flamenco and music posters not only all over the walls but actually hanging from the ceiling. Signed photos of famous folk everywhere – I hope to join that list. The place looks like a party just waiting to happen.
We start with one of the most famous dips in the South - anchoiade with raw vegetables. Anchoiade is for the profoundly fearless - a purée of anchovies, garlic, vinegar and olive oil, it is the most heavenly thing next to aioli. Alongside this is brandade de morue (salt cod purée), tuna spread and charcuterie (bull salami). Then the gypsy music starts up as the generously proportioned Jean-Guy rocks over to take our orders for the main course. I chose Iberican pork shoulder. It was sensational. All the mains are simply grilled on the wood fire out front and served with watercress and roasted potatoes. You take what you are given for dessert and thank God you’re alive. It's now 3pm and the musicians are really hotting up with passionate renditions of Gypsy Kings, local folk songs... anything goes. Everyone sings along accessing their inner gypsy. I have no idea how we got home.