Cannes Glamour: Checking in at the Spectacular Hôtel Barrière Le Majestic, Part II
Continued from Part I…
All this suite-seeing got us hungry/thirsty to try the epicurean offerings Le Majestic is also quite famous for. The restaurant, bar and terrace at Le Fouquet’s all underwent a makeover in 2017, with the veranda transforming into a massive terrace every April to September. Bathed in that most flattering, magical light of the French Riviera, done up in shades of red, gold and taupe, the inviting plushness is a sublime fusion of past and present, thanks again to the singular genius of interior designer Alexandre Danan.
So we started there, the renowned Parisian brasserie with its original location along Paris’ storied Champs-Elysees. This buoyant iteration, with a menu conceived by many-Michelin-starred chef Pierre Gagnaire, has a history of brilliant regulars. Writer Paul Valéry and Marlène Dietrich, Michèle Morgan even met Jean Gabin here for the first time (the legendary French actors even had a brief affair afterwards). The New Wave also gathered here, and just imagining being at a table with Truffaut, Godard and Claude Chabrol almost made us faint. These days, Le Fouquet’s continues to host the annual gala dinner on the night of the César Awards.
Executive Chef Pierrick Cizeron, now heading into his fourth festival season at Le Majestic, is a stickler for locally sourced produce and seafood, and planning for those festival menus starts three months ahead, to “bring some novelty and surprise to our guests.” Chef Cizeron accounts for an international palate, not only traditional French but also American, Indian, Asian, and Middle Eastern. Unexpected ingredients are uniquely incorporated throughout, like in the irresistible Sardinian Fregola with soft apricots, cumin, carrots and lemon.
We began that day’s gastronomic journey with Fouquet’s oysters of course, accompanied by an inventive horseradish whipped cream, tangy artichoke hearts and haddock rillettes, and then lobster salad (we’d worked up quite an appetite). That was followed by an entree of the tastiest amberjack (fish) poached in a dill court-bouillon (a heavenly broth) with leek fondue, and an obligatory side of “coin de rue” potatoes (otherwise known as french fries). The cheese and desserts are also not to be missed, so best to save a little room for some of each and go with what your server recommends, whatever is fresh that day.
Chef Cizeron admits to getting 28,000 steps in every day during festival season, revealing that “on market night, the 18th (May),” his team impressively commands “12 live stations with 24 different kinds of hot, cold and sweet canapés.” He excitedly shared a new dish he’ll be previewing, of white asparagus and rhubarb poached in chicken broth to remove the bitterness. He’s even raising the bar on chicken, a Le Majestic fan favorite, this version done with loomy (black dried lime) from Iran (a nod to his 18 years working in Dubai). Satisfying the most sophisticated of tastes, he recounts the story of a certain unnamed starlet “who just wanted comfort food.” Her request was fulfilled by a simple – though we have no doubt delicious – ham sandwich.
A little less formal but equally unforgettable is the hotel’s Paradiso Nicole & Pierre, with specialities from Nice, Italy and the Mediterranean. We savored dishes like the vitello tonnato, gambrel rosso (with local prawns), and frozen Amalfi lemon – all accompanied by an extensive wine list with both regional and award-winning selections from Italia. With its sun-drenched interior dining room by Italian architects Vudafieri-Saverino Partners, stretching along the Croisette (seaside promenade), we never tired of the view of the famous steps of Palais des Festivals et des Congrès. Running alongside Le Majestic’s swimming pool (heated of course), there’s also a three-floored terrace where on weekends an in-house DJ and live music keeps a very sexy all-year-round crowd moving.
But there was also newish news at the 96-year-old Le Majestic. Indeed, Dominique Desseigne, President of the Barriere Group, and Mauro Colagreco – voted Michelin’s World’s Best Chef for his Le Mirazur restaurant in Menton, France – combined talents to develop the Italo-Argentinian-inspired dining concept BFire, which updates its menu three times a year following the natural rhythm of the seasons. Again, local produce, as well as jumbo prawns, lamb skewers, redfish fillet, ojo de bife, etc. all get the wood-fired grill treatment for mouthwatering results. Really, anything on the “Indispensables de La Plage” menu is recommended.
We raised many an expertly-crafted glass during our stay at Le Majestic, all thanks to resident Bar Manager, glass blower, bee keeper and all around bon vivant Emanuele Balestra. Having worked around the world’s best luxury hotels in Brussels, Sydney, Marrakesh and Glasgow (even doing a stint in Chicago), he gave us a personal tour of the hotel’s herb garden, rooftop beehives, and…secret laboratory. Giving the overused term “mixology” a whole new significance, we spied extracting and crushing machines, and jars of dry and refrigerated ingredients imported from all over the world, that together produce the wholly unique flavors found throughout the Le Majestic cocktail menus.
Also completely renovated in early 2017, the sumptuous Bar Galerie du Fouquet’s Cannes is the place to be and be seen on the Croisette. Balestra’s menu is as enticing as it is surprising, showcasing those on-premise herbs, edible flowers (surprisingly yummy), artisanal jellies and homemade ingredients such as fruit juices, bitters, sodas, flavored sugars and ice cubes, and aromatic salts.
He’s even invented an edible perfume, that get sprayed on the glasses themselves as a playful finish. The most popular cocktails include Balestra’s Beetroot Gin Fizz – a delicious concoction of gin, icing sugar and lime juice, with homemade beetroot-flavoured soda – and his personal favorite, his sage-flavored Margarita. And what about those actual cocktail glasses? Balestra has been learning the art of glass blowing at La Verrerie de Biot (near Antibes), which was founded in 1956 as a competitor to Italy’s Murano – and he’s been creating specially shaped glasses to complement his uniquely inventive tipples.
After all the eating and imbibing, we most definitely needed to take advantage of the hotel’s wellness services at the Spa Diane Barrière, featuring Biologique Recherche skin care products. Our Soin Signature massage hit all the right spots, rejuvenating us in time for more meals, more bar hopping, more shopping, more private beach – the latter in association with Le Majestic’s sister hotel across the street, Hôtel Barrière Le Gray d’Albion. Reopened in winter of 2021 after a brief renovation, this four-star property is another excellent option when in Cannes.
As we discovered, Hôtel Barrière Le Majestic is a wonder within a wonder. Situated perfectly along the famous Croisette with stupendous ocean (and Palais) views, there’s an unforgettably warm vibe created by an expert staff that truly cares. And as for the 18,500 bottles of wine, more than half of which is champagne, that get opened during the Cannes Film Festival, Bastoni advises, “let’s live it and enjoy it.” After two years of on-and-off lockdowns, of course, we’re definitely ready to take his advice.