Along with Mantel, L’Antidote is another restaurant which remains very popular but has fizzled out for my better half and me.

L’Antidote is owned by chef Christophe Ferré who won an award for best chef in Provence in 2004. It’s on display in the restaurant, but only where women can see it — in the loo. Ferré, originally from Mougins, has worked mostly in the Provence-Côte d’Azur region, although he was also a chef in a restaurant near Limoges, le Moulin de la Gorce.

(Photo credit: My Home in Cannes)

Ferré runs the restaurant with his family: wife Karin, sister Catherine and son Alexis.

Although he chose a location away from the restaurant nucleus, he is well placed. Anyone staying at the Novotel Montfleury will find that, outside of the hotel’s commendable restaurant, L’Antidote is the only other eating establishment nearby.

It is located at 60 Boulevard d’Alsace, next to the busy and noisy voie rapide. Fortunately, L’Antidote is in a large 19th century house and has a wall with plenty of shrubbery and other plants concealing its pleasant courtyard area from the pavement and vehicles. Generally speaking, the location works.

As with Mantel, it’s not just one thing in the dining experience that put us off L’Antidote but a combination of things, particularly service related.

The woman maître d’ — not sure which family member — is always right and not above disputing with a customer. The wait staff do not make eye contact with the customers, unless they happen to be very special. We noticed a two-tier system in operation in 2013 and arguing in 2015.

Plan for a long meal, because there is a considerable waiting time between courses. The maître d’ may make this out to be your fault for reserving at the wrong time: ‘We’re so busy right now, I can’t possibly send another order in’. Well, that isn’t the customer’s fault. Ferré needs to co-ordinate with her and the others how many orders his kitchen can handle at any one time. Reservations need to be scheduled accordingly. This is not a new restaurant, by the way, so all of this should have been resolved years ago.

This August 2014 Trip Advisor review by a London contributor sums things up very well, including disappointing food. Excerpts follow:

(2) The wine – they served us the wine we requested but from a different vintage to what was stated on the menu. When we picked them up on it (nicely), they simply told us that year was no longer available and we could take or leave the newer vintage – no apology. So far, only minor issues.
(3) The service was so slow it was ridiculous. 45mins for the starter to arrive, and not even any bread to keep us going (despite asking). Then 1h30 in and the main courses arrived. 2hrs 10mins into our ordeal, the desserts finally arrived.
(4) The champagne sorbet we were given before the main course hadn’t been cleared up so we had to help the waitress when she finally brought the main courses – I’ve genuinely never had to help clear up my own dishes in a restaurant!
(4) The fillet steak was excellent but didn’t come with the sides stated on the menu, and the braised veal was awful – tough and fatty. And it came with the same vegetables as the fillet steak, and indeed the seabass that the people sitting next to us had. It seems every main course came with the same vegetables regardless of what the menu stated. The veal also came with what was possibly the worst attempt at mac & cheese ever: horribly soggy and overcooked pasta in a barely cheesy sauce – and not a mention of the mac & cheese on the menu.
(6) Even the bill was a challenge and we had to ask for it twice and wait a century …

SpouseMouse and I first went to L’Antidote in June 2013. The day before we had walked all around Cannes and had a delightful menu dégustation at Maître Renard in Le Suquet, more about which next week. Suffice it to say that we were in the mood for somewhat lighter fare the following evening.

We chose L’Antidote’s Menu Petit Gourmet, now €31 but €29 at the time. They served us an amuse bouche, details of which I do not remember other than that it was a good introduction to the meal. We started with pichade de Menton, bready regional pizzas topped with pistou (sauce made from garlic, fresh basil and olive oil). We were then served thyme and lemon sherbet as a palate cleanser. Our main course was a highly memorable breast of guinea fowl breaded with fine hazelnut crumbs. This was served with a superb foamy sauce of mushrooms (lots of porcini!) with a touch of cream and Marsala. The mashed potatoes dressed in olive oil were the best I’ve ever eaten: creamy and smooth without being runny. I have since tried to recreate this at home with varying degrees of success, but it still doesn’t taste quite as marvellous as Ferré’s creation!

For dessert, I opted for a cheese plate and SpouseMouse had their chocolate ‘biscuit’, which is actually an excellent chocolate fondant filled with a raspberry sauce served with raspberry sherbet. After 15 minutes, the maître d’ arrived with the fondant but left me with nothing. ‘Oh, yes, the cheese. It’ll be right out.’ It was straight from the refrigerator and too cold to appreciate properly. Had she placed both orders simultaneously, the cheese would have been perfect.

We had Château Verez, a Côte de Provence, which I noted as being ‘one of the best rosés ever!’

So far, a very enjoyable evening and a gastronomic delight. Then the time came for the bill. We asked. Then a table of four tourists were seated, and they must have been important because all attention turned to them. The maître d’ was engaged in animated conversation as was one of the waitresses. We needed to get up early the next day and it was already after 9:30. We’d been there over two hours. It was now as if we didn’t even exist. After prompting twice, it was necessary to walk up one of the wait staff by the hostess station and ask again! It still took another ten minutes for the bill to arrive!

By the time we left our customer delight had faded a bit. Service was clearly lacking. Granted, we didn’t order the most expensive menu items, but we ordered what we had a taste for. That’s no need for the wait staff to ignore us for a group willing to spend many more times than we did!

In June 2015, we went again, this time as part of a larger party. We were guests.

The size of the group and the time we arrived posed a problem for the maître d’ — the same woman as before.

We all ordered off the Menu des Gourmets (€39) or the Menu Antidote (€49). To the maître d’s credit, she did allow us to substitute an item from one of the other menus. However, she had a problem keeping the orders straight. One woman ordered one type of foie gras and was given another. When she said that she’d received the wrong one, the maître d’ could not admit to a mistake and nearly started arguing with her!

Really, what’s wrong with saying straightaway, ‘I’m so sorry — I misunderstood’? Go back and get the lady what she wants! In the end, that’s what happened, but not until after a 15- to 20-minute wait.

Our host quietly asked the maître d’ if things could be sped up a bit as we all had a long day ahead of us. She said, ‘If you hadn’t reserved for the time you did, then, yes. But now we’ve got orders piling up in the back. We’re very busy. You should have booked an earlier time.’

Wow!

Our host also had to ask for more bread, which was understandable, given the long pauses between courses. The young lad who brought the bread out plonked it on the table by the host. No eye contact, no smile, no courtesy. How dare a table of 12 ask for more bread?

Surely, the maître d’ should have kept an eye on all the tables and instructed wait staff to ask if people needed anything while they were waiting for their next course. Restaurant 101 basics, in most customers’ minds!

Anyway, SpouseMouse and I had the same starters and main courses. We began with foie gras de canard (duck) which was pan seared with a touch of raspberry vinegar served with cherry compote. It was done to perfection and in just the right quantity — two pieces of the lobe, which is sufficient.

For our main course we had roasted fillet of bar — North Atlantic sea bass — with a shellfish sauce. It was very competently prepared.

SpouseMouse chose lemon tart made with Menton lemons. (Menton is further along the coast going towards Italy and is well known for its huge, flavoursome lemons.) I chose the cheese assortment, which was at a perfect temperature.

Over two and a half hours later, when, not surprisingly, people were starting to look at their watches, we’d finally finished. As was the case for us and the Trip Advisor reviewer, our host had a lengthy wait for the bill.

It is for service reasons that we will be unlikely to return to L’Antidote on our own steam.

Those who are staying at the Novotel Montfleury and small boutique hotels nearby should plan on a long wait when going to L’Antidote as well as a bit of lip from the maître d’. My commiserations.

In closing, the Menu Petit Gourmet has changed since we first had it two years ago. The Menton pizzas have been replaced by a salad. It is unclear whether the guinea fowl still comes with the heavenly sauce ours did, and the marvellous mash is gone, replaced by crushed potatoes.

I’m sure L’Antidote thinks it will always have a captive audience. Let’s hope it does, but service really does need to improve — dramatically.

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