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Cannes’ restaurants provide a fascinating, sometimes glorious, sometimes extortionate, often maddening range of experiences.
Most long-time Cannes visitors have their well-established favourites, places where fine French cuisine can be found, across a variety of budgets to suit the occasion.
Others, as numerous complaints to the TFWA organisers down the years will testify, are not so good. The legendary (but not mythical) hiking of prices during TFWA World Exhibition week reaches extraordinary heights with some of the less ethical restaurateurs, where conversely the level of staff and management politeness often plunges to subterranean levels.
Historically, such establishments have benefited from the once-a-year nature of much of their custom during trade shows such as TFWA World Exhibition. These people won’t be around next week, the logic seems to run. And bills are after all, paid by companies, not individuals, so who’s counting?
And yet the power in this particular relationship should lie, as it usually does, with the consumer. What if delegates to TFWA World Exhibition could compare notes on the rip-off experiences – and the good ones?
Well they can. Send your comments to The Moodie Blog – and your rankings out of, say, 20. Tell us about the food, the ambience, the service.
We’ll start by making our own contribution. Last night I dined with a group of industry friends at Le Pistou, one of many restaurants on Rue Félix Faure, the lovely little street that leads to the old town (and another selection of restaurants).
Le Pistou is popular with locals, always a good sign one believes. Or is it? Do such establishments make the same effort with guests, especially those who don’t speak French well?
Le Pistou is a good restaurant but not half as good as its owner likes to think. I was part of a group of four, hosted by King Power’s Sunil Tuli, basking in the afterglow of his victory in that day’s ‘Pink Tee’ golf tournament hosted by WDF’s Mark Riches.
One of our party was Rakhita Jayawardena (above), one of the great servants of the inflight duty free industry, a Sri Lankan whose knowledge of the French language is somewhat less advanced than his awareness of the contents of an onboard trolley.
With a little help from his friends Rakhita ordered a steak, with mushrooms. “Can I have it with some chips?” he asked, flashing his trademark Sri Lankan film star’s smile, while trying to sound like an Asian gallic gourmand. The owner looked at him, predominantly in a down-the-nose fashion, but said nothing.
My colleague Dermot Davitt leapt to the rescue, requesting some pommes frites for our colleague in heavily Dublin-accented French.
Back came the abrupt retort that “we don’t normally do pommes frites but we will see if the chef will make some” or words to that effect. Clearly he was just about – at a stretch – prepared to do his consumer a favour.
Duly the steak – excellent and juicy I am told – arrived. So did the pommes frites.
“Er… excuse me Sir?” asked Rakhita gingerly. “Could I have some ketchup?”
The owner’s reaction was that of a mother experiencing the most profound social faux pas by a potential future son-on-law, or a Michelin-star chef spotting a cockroach in his kitchen.
He looked over his glasses at Rakhita, expounded a noise that sounded vaguely like the whoosh of air escaping a punctured tyre and shouted “Non!” in a voice that could be heard in Marseilles.
We all thought this was great sport of course, and gently chided Rakhita for daring to insult the man’s ego as well as his equally overblown, over-priced cuisine.
After we paid for the meal and went to leave, the said gentleman was sitting on the railings outside, having a cigarette – perhaps to calm down from the stress of one of his diners having asked for ketchup. Sacre bleu!
We joked to him about the culinary taste of our friend. The retort was just as dismissive as the one earlier – and even more revealing. Yes, he did have ketchup in the kitchen. And, yes, he would be prepared to offer it with a plain Entrecôte. But with steak and mushrooms? “Never!”
LE PISTOU RATING
General ambience (out of 4): 2
Service (out of 4): 0
Food (out of 5): 3
Wine list (out of 3): 2
Overall value for money (out of 4): 2
Score (out of 20): 9