On the road – Cannes at Easter

Picture of Richard Juhlin

Richard Juhlin

Easter Holliday & Richard Juhlin’s went to Cannes. [read the full champagne story] 

Estimated reading time: 11 minutes

I love Easter. It certainly has almost only the eggs as its own attribute. No Christmas presents or midsummer bar. No ghost costume, pumpkin, ham or herring and nubbe (spirit shot). But there is a joyful expectation of the time to come, an approaching metamorphosis from dreary times to something new with a rosy shimmer and bursting youthful legs. I have almost always spent Easter at our country house outside Östhammar, but since dad sold our family oasis this summer, we have to rethink.

A trip to Cannes this Easter ?

Doesn’t that sound absolutely wonderful? Away from the last sigh of winter here at home in Scandinavia and down to the Mediterranean sun. I gave our eminent travel organizer Per at Go in Style [explore Go-in-Style] the anything but enviable task of finding an Easter trip for four with a shared room and only a little over a week’s notice. We are not easy to please, it must be admitted. It should not be spring but at least early summer heat at the destination. Direct flight, 5-star hotel of course, but not too plastic and modern, no heritage and classic it should be. The outdoor pool must be open and have at least 28 degrees, stay centrally, but not too busy. Urban environment, but not a big city, but a reasonable size with pedestrian streets, nice shops and good nature and, of course, the attractive location by the sea. A proper gym, safe outdoor environment with minimal crime. Free from odd diseases and with star restaurants within easy reach.

Sicily ?

We aimed for Sicily and had time to decide on both Palermo, Malta, Kotor, Halkidiki, Andalucia before Marrakesh was booked for a day. It lasted until both Leo and Ragni googled that one were not that popular as as a Swede right now, even if one took a stand against burning holy books and that they would prefer to have a vaccination against rabies in Morocco. Poor Per, only to cancel. After looking at over 100 hotels and 15 destinations, he suggested the old luxury Hôtel Martinez in Cannes. The number one hotel during the film festival even trumped the even more luxurious Hôtel Carlton, not least thanks to its 2-star tavern with the appropriate name Palme d’Or. We couldn’t resist that offer. Direct flight at early 8 in the morning to Nice, a private driver and before long we were checked in and ready before lunch in a bubbling, lively paradise quite unlike our hometown at this time of year.

Dressed in light clothing, we strolled past Bentleys, Rolls Royces and Lamborghinis before crossing the World Famous Croisette for lunch at the Martinez Beach Club. The sun was shining so intensely that the skin got that delicious smell of creamy orange caramel and lightly grilled beef I had almost forgotten, but the whipping wind was a surprise. I’ve never seen such big waves in the Mediterranean before and the beach was equipped with breaking sandbanks and heavy bags to protect us from flooding. However, we found shelter and harmony with the help of the last breath of fresh Vaucluse truffle stuffed under the skin of a Bresse chicken to a spring-scented glass of Billecart-Salmon Rosé.

We had a bit of bad luck with the weather, as it was more often 16 than 20 degrees, but at the heated pool there was comfort and joie de vivre. Me and the still small and unfortunately sometimes rather rowdy children usually spent the time before lunch there and in the adjacent gym when Ragni was out shopping on the Rue d’Antibes or in the haute couture shops of the Croisette.

Fanatical gourmet and connoisseur of life

Being such a fanatical gourmet and connoisseur of life and loving my job so passionately, I find it very difficult to pass up top restaurants if I happen to be near them even if the occasion is not ideal. The occasion is never perfect for such activities if you are traveling with small children. When Melker was a baby, it was certainly very painless to take him to star restaurants in a pram, but the older he got, the more demanding he became. I remember a 500-mile car holiday with 8-star restaurants and the more I think about the madness, the closer it is to reporting myself to the Children’s Caretaker Department afterwards. Luckily, I’ve got a real gourmet in little old Leo. He is a fact freak and statistician who even makes the undersigned fade. After visiting the 2-star Dani Maison on Ischia a couple of years ago, he is found salvation and knows all about Guide Michelin and how to behave in these gastronomic strongholds. Unfortunately, this does not apply at all here at home or when he and Nora accompany him to slightly simpler places. No, then it’s push and shove so that salt shakers and olive oils go all over the place. Ragni and I are on edge and it is simply no fun at all to go out to eat with them under such circumstances.

Villa Archange


Therefore, on Good Friday itself, it was with nerves as tight as Björn Borg’s famous Donnay racket model 1980 that we got into the taxi towards Le Cannet and the main restaurant between Saint-Tropez and Nice, the 2-star Villa Archange. Imagine my surprise when the children sat blissfully and were together throughout the four-hour restaurant visit. 8 servings and a never-ending stream of new non-alcoholic drinks probably also played their part, but how these picky creatures who never eat anything that looks foreign suddenly enjoyed both duck liver, red mullet and bloody duck is beyond me. As you can see in Champagne Friday film no 99, the dishes were extremely beautiful and stylistically elegant. So were the flavors. Extra luxury was that we were only joined by two other tables of Brazilians and Mauritians with whom we bonded at the end of the evening. Good Friday is not a big restaurant day, something I already knew by the way since my meal in 2014 at the three-star Victors in Perl, Germany. There the evening ended with the restaurant’s sommelier settling down at my table and drinking a glass of Clos Saint Hune with me because we were alone in the restaurant all evening. I had 10 chefs, 8 waiters and a sommelier to myself for five hours!

My strongest memory from Villa Archange will not be the two absolutely excellent prestige wines from Billecart-Salmon (see tasting library) but the fish dish which tasted like an almost exact taste copy of Selosse Substance. Yes, I have never before eaten a dish that had such a wine-identical flavor impression. Bar de Ligne, Acquerello à la Coriandre, Pignons de Sicile et Chayottes, this establishment was called sea bass, but in all fairness it should have been called “Sea bass a la Selosse Substance”. Considering that Domaine Selosse, as the only producer, actually had its own title in the abundant and sensibly priced wine list, one can guess that a splash of leftover Selosse, together with sesame oil, must have enhanced the arrangement. It’s worth a trip there just to eat Selosse. A surreal experience.

Alain Llorca – La Colle-sur-Loup

The very next day it was time to check out the next gastronomic greatness. Alain Llorca, now located in La Colle-sur-Loup with a magnificent view of the artistic metropolis of Saint-Paul de Vence. Alain Llorca is a real living legend trained and shaped by Paul Bocuse together with Alain Ducasse. Trained and ready, he became the heir to Roger Vergé at the Moulin de Mougins, who in turn shaped our Swedish food master Tore Wretman, who famously shaped the Swedish gourmet kitchen with the Operakällaren as its base. So it was truly a treat to have a long conversation with Alain just as the cold chocolate and nougat Easter egg was cracked open by the boiling hot chocolate sauce poured on top of the egg. The food here too was fantastic and the little 10-year Michelin expert kept the Provençal mountain inn ahead of the elegance of Le Cannet, while I had a certain preference for the beauty and balance of Villa Archange. The flavor intensity was actually even higher and the sauces even tastier with Alain Llorca.

The other days we thought of holding back and almost only eating salad, but do you think it worked? No. We couldn’t resist the new Turkish luxury restaurant Rüya in the Hôtel Carlton. Nor a visit to a pub in the charming slopes of the old town. And Hôtel Martinez’s famous and incomparably abundant breakfast then? No, not that one either. Thousands and thousands of calories were consumed during the five days we spent enjoying ourselves, but when I got on the scale when I got home I had lost two kilos. There you can see what long walks and good discipline in the gym can do to the body of a champagne expert. Or is it the case that “fine dining” and the champagne diet are useful? One can always hope.

It sounds like everything was great. Was it really that or is it an afterthought? As a critic, it is my duty to also find negative phenomena to highlight in order to give credibility to the praise, but apart from a rainy day, some dog shits on the pavement and a sour Gauloise-smoking elderly lady at the breakfast table, almost everything was a trip floating on little pink clouds.

Tourist trap in Cannes ?

Well now I remember! The bottom line was the Italian restaurant that our otherwise brilliant and friendly helpful and well-educated concierge at the Hôtel Martinez unfortunately recommended. He doesn’t do that anymore! Restaurant Le Vesuvio in the middle of the Croisette was nothing more than a classic tourist trap. So crowded with tables for hungry tourists that you could barely walk between the tables. Italian crazy lighting and sturdy food. But worst of all was that, in true Neapolitan fashion, they make an art of deceiving their guests. I ordered a glass of 2020 Tignanello when they pulled their usual trick and instead served a simple Chianti without showing the bottle. They served the wrong person! Of course they were exposed when I demanded a new glass straight from the bottle which of course was completely different. One can only guess how often such fraud goes unnoticed. I’ve actually witnessed this trick once before in Cannes on the same street. Extremely embarrassing actually at Carlton’s outdoor seating 20 years ago. Then they did the same trick with Moët & Chandon Brut Imperial and Moët & Chandon Grand Vintage. Even that time to the wrong person. Then it became a quite a mess, this time I couldn’t bear to argue. That time ended in major harmony though when the super hot tennis princess Anna Kournikova came up to me and asked if I was the new James Bond actor?

But that’s another story that I’ll tell another time. Now I’m going to set tonight’s vegetable-based spring dinner and uncork a bottle of 2013 Michel Genet Chouilly Blanc de Blancs while looking out at the stray snowflakes that have once again returned with one last failed attempt to keep us in winter’s grip. It may be winter outside but in my heart it’s spring.

My top hotel and restaurant experiences in the Côte d’Azur over the years.

(The first number is its position globally on my ranking).

(The second number is its score on my 100 point scale)

3 Mirazur, Menton99France
4 Le Louis XV, Monte-Carlo99Monaco
10 Le Vague d´Or, Saint-Tropez98France
11 Château de la Chèvre d´Or, Eze-Village98France
45 Villa Archange, Le Cannet96France
73 Roger Vergé Moulin de Mougins, Mougins *95France
77 Alain Llorca, La Colle-sur-Loup95France
88 Alain Llorca Moulin de Mougins, Mougins 94France
112 Club de Cavalière, Cavalière94France
116 Le Blue Bay, Monte Carlo94Monaco
159 Flaveur, Nice93France
183 Château Eza, Eze-Village92France
209 Signature, Marseille92France
331 Le Cap, Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat90France
374 JAN, Nice90France
395 Neat, Cannes90France
442 Le Candille, Mougins90France
470 Rüya Carlton, Cannes90France
485 La Terrasse Carlton, Cannes89France
500 Les Palmiers, Saint Tropez89France
517 Miramar Beach Hotel, Theoule-sur-Mer89France
626 La Guérite, Sainte Marguerite87France
628 Riviera Carlton, Cannes87France
687 Le Nid d´Aigle, Eze87France
711 Miramar, Marseille86France
721 Le Mascou, Cannes86France
722 Al Brunello, Cannes86France
730 La Plage Du Martinez, Cannes86France
771 L´Amandine de Mougins, Mougins86France
808 La Pergola Mas Candille, Mougins86France
809 La Calanque, Cavalière-sur-Mer86France
811 Le Clos Saint-Basile, Mougins85France
879 La Villa Douce, Rayol85France
890 Le Park, Mougins85France
901 Anna, Cannes85France
905 Le Sud, Cannes85France
6 Chèvre d´Or, Eze-Village99France
18 Carlton, Cannes98France
48 Negresco, Nice96France
58 Le Mas Candille, Mougins96France
64 La Calanque, Cavalière-sur-Mer95France
78 Martinez, Cannes95France
137 Miramar, Cannes92France
152 Majestic, Cannes91France
190 Miramar Beach Hotel, Theoule-sur-Mer90France
226 Le Relais d`Agay, Agay88France
268 Le Meridien, Monte Carlo86Monaco
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