Cannes croisette euro trek eu305_blogspot_comMy better half and I are still talking about the marvellous dinners we had in Cannes recently.

Being serious foodies, our trips there revolve around reading restaurant menus on our daily walks.

I started keeping a food diary a few trips ago. It’s been worthwhile for reviewing what we had where.

This post provides general advice for fellow tourists in Cannes.

Appetite control

Regulating one’s appetite in Cannes isn’t the easiest thing, however, it can be done!

I used to fill up on hotel breakfasts which were half carb / half protein. By mid-afternoon I was starving.

As my regular readers know, I started the ketogenic diet over a year ago. This is a very low carb / high fat / moderate protein — LCHF — way of eating. Consequently, my selections from the breakfast buffet at the hotel changed accordingly.

Over the course of a fortnight, I had half a croissant. Yes, it was delicious, flaky and buttery, but all I needed was a taste! My breakfasts were comprised of scrambled egg, sausage, bacon, smoked salmon and, occasionally, cheese. Note — no carbs but plenty of fat with some protein. I had the energy and alertness necessary for the day and, outside of a handful of nuts or piece of chocolate late in the afternoon, could last until dinner.

Follow an LCHF way of eating, enjoy breakfast or lunch and keep your appetite primed for dinner. You will notice that your clothes still fit well even after generous breakfasts and multi-course evening meals!

Menu reading

Cannes is an ideal place to visit because tourists can walk to most places. Daily walks provide a great opportunity to read restaurant menus! And you can’t walk in Cannes without seeing restaurants!

The best are along rue Félix Faure, which overlooking the Croisette, and Le Suquet, a few minutes’ walk away in the older part of town.

When deciding where to go for dinner at night, it is a good idea to read menus earlier in the day rather than later for the following reasons. First, you can make a more informed decision. Secondly, if the restaurant in question is open for lunch and you want to have dinner there at a busy time — weekends, peak holiday period — you can reserve a table.

Look for the prix fixe menus rather than the à la carte offerings. Prix fixe denotes two or three courses for a set price. These are great value and work out cheaper than ordering a main course and dessert separately.

Reservations and seating

Depending on what time you go out for dinner, you might find that reservations are necessary.

The same holds true for popular restaurants.

We went to eat around 7:30, so didn’t have any issues with being seated right away. However, we did make reservations for Friday and Saturday nights, which are always busy.

Some restaurateurs will tell you that the only tables they have are out in front on the terrace. During the summer, the atmosphere is often better outdoors than indoors, so take advantage of it. On the other hand, some French people prefer to eat indoors. For that, they need reservations.

Also, be warned that a few establishments feature musical entertainment after 9 p.m. That’s a signal for the oldies to pile out and let the young people in! All the better to eat and digest earlier in the evening.

Street entertainment

Speaking of music, there are three or four groups who entertain — I use the word advisedly — on the street.

They’ve been doing this for years and are touting for money. Please do not give to them unless you feel it’s absolutely necessary.

Remember that France has a very generous welfare state. Cannes has a family assistance office in the heart of town. People are well looked after.

There are the travellers who play movie theme tunes. The lead man has an old model of the Roland Micro Cube amplifier. (It’s done him excellent service over time.) They are very good, but the woman with them strolls among tables on restaurant terraces crying out, ‘Merci beaucoup! Bon appetit!’ She or one of her male family members has a cap in hand.

On the side streets, rue Meynadier for one, a little traveller girl sells flowers. In Le Suquet, it’s a woman.

There is also a quartet of young Brazilian men with drums who dance. They came close to assaulting an elderly man in 2011 because he applauded their performance but didn’t give them any money. One barked at him, ‘You liked it, now pay for it!’ Afraid, he reached in his pocket for some small change: ‘I’m sorry, that’s all I have.’ They walk all over the centre of town at night. You’ll be back from dinner and hear them from your hotel.

Ignore all of them. Certainly avoid making eye contact.

Appearances can be deceiving

Some restaurants look a bit tired. Don’t let that deter you from a great dining experience. It’s all about the taste, not whether the place needs redecorating!

For those who value atmosphere, there are the hotels along the Croisette. Each one is listed in the Guide Michelin. We read one menu from one of the great hotels on which the chef discussed his ‘philosophy’ of food. Hmm. For the prices he was charging, I’d say his perspective was more about money than food. We don’t eat at those places.

Price ranges

For those travelling on a budget, there are many family-owned restaurants which offer omelettes, pasta dishes and pizza at highly affordable prices.

For those who are able to spend more, the mid-range dining field is open.

My next few posts will look at some of what we consider to be Cannes’s finest restaurants.

For now, our best value dinners in June 2015 — including a bottle of rosé — were as follows for two people:

Le Pistou, 53 rue Félix Faure: €79 with the €22.50 menu du marché.

Aux Bons Enfants, 80 rue Meynadier: €90 with the €28 set menu.

Maître Renard, 4 rue St Antoine, Le Suquet: €100 with the €34 menu dégustation.

It’s all about rosé

When it comes to wine, most of what is on offer is rosé.

For men who do not live in this corner of France, rosé sounds a bit girly. Yet, it is the principal wine of the region and, surprisingly, goes well with everything. It also has a lower alcohol content, which keeps one sober in the heat.

Rosés we particularly enjoyed were the Château du Galoupet, a Cru Classé from Provence; Château Ste Béatrice, a Côte de Provence; and Chateau la Calisse (Cuvée Patricia Ortelli), an AOP Côteaux Varois en Provence.

I would encourage people to drink rosé when they are in the Provence – Côte d’Azur region. It is excellent wine which offers amazing variety.

Complimentary digestif

Occasionally, the maître d’ or owner might give you a complimentary after-dinner drink.

Generally, they quietly deem you pleasant customers or you helped them out of a difficult situation.

The first time we were given one was at Le Pistou in 2009. The maître d’ found the English-speaking couple next to us a bit of a chore on a busy evening. Although they’d visited the Côte d’Azur more often than we had, they asked him endless questions about the menu. We translated the menu for them and made recommendations. By the time we had dessert, they’d finished their dinner and had left. At that point, the maître d’ came over with two glasses of limoncello by way of thanks.

The second time was this year when a young restaurant owner enjoyed SpouseMouse’s interest in his wine selection. A glass of vintage Calvados duly arrived at the table after dinner.

Languages spoken

Most front of house staff speak English. Most menus have an English translation along with Italian and, often, Russian.

Attire

Looking presentable and clean earns a customer better service. Polo shirts and trousers are recommended for men and nice clothes for women. Looking at the French and Italians dining around us, I did not see anyone wearing denim or shorts at dinner.

Children welcome

Small children, including babies, are welcome. The maître d’ often adopts an avuncular air with them, which is quite charming to see. They especially like children who eat with gusto and try more adult offerings off the menu — traditional fish soup and mussels, to name but two.

Of the French and Italian children we saw, all were exceptionally well behaved and knew how to use forks and knives. They ranged in age from three to nine. There were also a couple of babies who slept quietly in their strollers whilst their parents had a relaxed dinner.

What’s gone

A few things have changed since we started visiting Cannes in 1999. I made my first trip in 1978 with fellow students, and quite a bit has changed if we go back that far!

Not so long ago, a few restaurants offered the local fish stew, bourride. Now, however, it is all ‘traditional fish soup’, which is more like a bisque with no chunks of fish. If you see bourride on a menu, order it. It should come with a healthy portion of fish along with the customary croutons, grated cheese and rouille, the aioli of the region. These customary items are now served with the traditional fish soup, which, depending on the restaurant, really needs them. Today’s fish soup can be extraordinarily bland on its own.

One restaurant I went to in 1978, Au Bec Fin, closed around 2003. That’s where I had bourride and frogs legs. It was our go-to restaurant and we still lament its passing into gastronomic history.

Another which closed in 2013 was Pierrot le 1er on rue Félix Faure. That was a great destination for frogs legs and gambas (huge prawns). A pasta restaurant, Bella Storia, is there now. We did not eat there.

We hope that the old school Cannes restaurants thrive and that newer traditional restaurants come along. There are enough pasta restaurants in town and elsewhere in the region; what is needed are more traditional establishments which still prepare local specialities.

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Restaurants in Cannes have much to offer everyone, regardless of budget or taste.

More tomorrow on specific restaurants and dinners!

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