One bay east from Cannes, Juan Les Pins poses a more local, sedate rendition of its bolshy neighbour. The town is not without a string of Dior and Villebrequin boutiques and firmly on the Côte d'Azur with an extensive harbour sheltering an armada of modest cruisers. We’re skirting around all this though and heading to the rocky outcrop on the bay’s far side. Here rests the Bond-esque Cap D’Antibes – hotel to the rich and beyond famous (Tom Cruise is a current guest) where a week's stay could buy a small house in Salford. Eden Roc, set into the coastline below the hotel, presents a jaw dropping venue. From here earth sea and sky seem as if physically arranged for maximum wow. Wait staff in pure white skirt across the boardwalk open-air balcony glancing silent instructions to each other. The warm sun cast an increasingly orange glow over the impeccably formal tables, deep blue sea and dazzling surrounds. It could be a painstakingly rendered CGI scene – crisp lines, all straight edges.
Menus are presented bound in white leather and detailed with gold leaf… only gentlemen have prices. The wine list looks like a wedding album and is almost as weighty (and intimidating). I opt for a Premier Cru Sancerre without daring discussion with the sommelier. I need more time with the food, genuinely stuck for choice between, well, every dish on offer.
I choose my luxury boulder, a terrine of fois gras which is as perfect as any I've had before and served uniquely with French toast. Around the table we're tucking (in the most refined way) into king prawns with mango dressing, truffle & chanterelle ravioli and wild asparagus – all moderately presented. Unfortunately it’s over far too quickly but that gives time to soak in the ambiance. Arriving earlier there were only guests at one or two other tables, now every place is occupied, chinks and chatter float up into the fresh air backed by the muted waves beating against the rocks below.
After a complete re-dress of the tableware an oversize chef with a handlebar moustache coving 40% of his smug face wheels over a grill and heats a knob of herbed butter in a shallow Crueset pan. This is for the steak Diane, cooked in simple perfection as we beam back at him enticed (No wonder he looks smug – its just a slice of steak). Whilst distracted the waiters have snuck in the other dishes and mine – Seabass Provoncale style, is again amongst the best I've had. This is in the rare professionally-fussy category of restaurants where watchful waiters attend silently; a dropped fork will not touch the floor before being replaced.
By now the sun has dipped behind the hill. Across the bay Juan Les Pins sparkles. Over the balcony, 50 feet below as the tide-less Mediterranean sloshes, a pair of black-suited men help a couple into their tender to return to their huge cruiser anchored 100 meters away. Just behind lurks the luxury ice-breaker belonging to the money-drenched Packer family who're here for a €6m wedding the next day.
Deserts, coffee and petit fours follow and before long the outside world has paled into insignificance. Eden-roc is a restaurant where staggering food is only the start and the rest will leave you legless. It’s difficult to imagine this being normality and in a way I’m happy to keep it like that. So good we returned for lunch two days later. If only we had a yacht to float out to instead of a cab ride back to the now far less appealing Croissette.
Hotel du Cap Eden Roc,
06601 Cap d'Antibes,