Film Scouts on the Riviera 2000

2000 Cannes Film Festival Diaries
May Gourmet: More Cannes Restaurants, Old and New

by Jim Byerley

Film Scouts on the Riviera 2000 is presented by:

The restaurant La Mediterranée at the Hotel Sofitel is best remembered for its view. The harbor lies at your feet and the bay, lined with twinkling lights, stretches off towards Antibes. During the occasional mistral, when the wind whips in off the water like Hurricane Bridgette, the canvas ceiling can flap wildly. So much for conversation. Moguls, put down those cell phones. You might want to check the weather forecast, instead of the menu, before reserving here. Anything would taste good with this view and the food is pretty decent (especially the fish). The tariff isn't too steep, either. Some artistic effort is put into the prix-fixe dinner which will set you back about 250FFR. In this town, that passes for reasonable. The swimming pool is also up on the roof, but remember to wait for an hour after dinner before diving in.

A new vegetarian place, Montagard, can be found on Rue Mar. Joffre, just north of the Splendid Hotel and rue d'Antibes. It is a congenial spot where no beef gets past the door. Festival security guards are banned, no doubt. Fish was mentioned briefly on the menu, but was not in evidence (by sight or smell) the night we dined here. The ladies that run the place seemed harried, as the late, after-screening crowd drifted in, and could have used a couple of extra hands. They did manage to get the job done, serving with a smile. Don't be impatient, your bill will come eventually. Portions are notably healthy here and ample too. Salad to start was super. Crisp-fried parmesan polenta-on-a-stick was served alongside warm haricot vertes in a tangy vinaigrette with mixed greens on the side. A densely packed mushroom gateau (four kinds of mushrooms) in a creamy sauce, with various chopped vegetables as garnie, was marvelous as a main course. The large-sized, vegetable-stuffed ravioli, which pretty much covered the entire plate, got an approving nod from my eating companion. Also listed were a couscous aux legumes, tartare de legumes and bavarois d'asperges. Desserts were tempting, not being of the tofu and sawdust variety one encounters in health food restaurants back home. Sugar does get past the door at Montagard. The Charlotte Montmorency consisted of sabayon ice cream with fresh cherries sauced on top, and it was sweet, sweet, sweet. The hot chocolate soufflé (called moelleux de chocolate), with vanilla ice cream in its own fluted pastry cup, was suitably dense. The three course (appetizer, main course, dessert) prix-fixe dinner was 170 FFR, while 128 FFR buys two courses. You won't leave hungry.

An old standby that changes little from year to year is Le Maschou located on the narrow rue St-Antoine in the old town. "Petit" is putting it mildly. If you don't get your neighbor's elbow in your plate or his hand in your lap, feel lucky. Sangria to start is a tradition at Maschou. The house wine, a simple local rose, is just fine and in keeping with the surroundings. One certainly doesn't need to spend a fortune on a pricey Bordeaux. The only choice you have to make here is between chicken, beef and lamb for the main course. The rest just keeps coming. Thinly sliced Parma ham and melon go nicely with the thickly sliced bread, just toasted over an open fire. A huge basket (could we have a bigger table?) of crudités follows…giant stalks of celery, raw artichokes, juicy tomatoes, endive, radishes, boiled eggs, scallions, etc. The grilled main courses are simple and hearty. Ice cream or chocolate mousse are the best alternatives for dessert. Be glad the smart owners haven't messed with the successful formula. No frothy broth here. Nada nouveau.

On the narrow back street rue Meynadier are two other reliable old timers. Aux Bon Enfants is a tiny spot at # 80. Grilled sardines, soup de poisson and mussels keep festival goers coming back year in year out. The 96 FFR tab doesn't hurt either. Still no phone, so make the scene early. Lou Cantou d'Or is at #92. It specializes in dishes from the great Southwest, especially varieties of cassoulet. Save this place for those chilly rainy nights which do seem to happen periodically every May. Prix-fixe menus are 109 and 160 FFR.

Another grand old dame is La Brouettte de Grand-mere on the rue de Oran just north of the rue d'Antibes. Years back, when the Palais was located where the Noga Hilton now sits, the crowds were much more often in this part of town. Now it is eerily quiet (how refreshing), even at the height of festival frenzy. Everyone gravitates towards the west end. This traditional east-end bistro has some charm, albeit slightly faded. The reddish walls are covered with old posters, granny's lace curtains are at the windows and the hanging lamps are hanky-draped. Tables are small and relatively close together, but the place was far from full the night we booked. Only one decision is necessary at Brouette de Grand-mere and that concerns the main course. In the Maschou fashion, the rest of the meal (even the wine) is preordained. Pickled mushrooms and a country salami appear first. Wish the bread were better. Next comes the house baked potato served with a mysterious creamy sauce that may or may not have something to do with red caviar. A nice spinach salad, with mushrooms and bacon, was sensibly dressed. Crudites, with an eerily green dipping sauce, were next. A generous, big-chunk portion of beef stew was tender, though a bit short of stew. Simple boiled potatoes were the side dish. The other choices were pot au feu (which looked good going by to another table), quail, steak and a sausage dish that the waiter described in discouraging detail. Let's just say we were not encouraged to go for the andouille (cold smoked tripe) with a "strange" taste. Thanks, garcon. Desserts kept things simple. Chocolate cake, chocolate mousse and Grand-mere's bread pudding. The pudding was decent, but could have been sauced up a bit. Speaking of sauced, complimentary champagne, a shot of vodka and a drink-all-you-want bottle of Cuvee Maison are brought to the table. The food may not be gourmet, but with all those spirits Grand-mere starts looking like a spry spring chicken.

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