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A man called intrepid

Published 21 April 1996
Style Magazine
146th article



First rate: Michelle Bottier and Roger Moore (Arnold Crust)

Who is the heroic adventurer who brought you news of Guy's great pizza parlour in the back streets of Vence in the South of France? Me! And who gave you Le Raisin at Cully in Switzerland, the Auberge de la Mole, and the Napoli Bar at St Ouen in Paris? Me! I tell you, again and again, where the locals go. I know you listen because when I was in Vence the other day Monsieur Guy, who speaks no English, through one of his waiters, who speaks very little English, said: "Many British people come here saying name Michael Winner." Now I bring you another undiscovered gem. Charlot 1er on the boulevard de la Plage in Cagnes-sur-Mer, the sort of place you whiz by on the way from Nice airport to anywhere west. Cagnes is one of the least attractive towns on the coast. About in the centre stands this great fish restaurant. I went there with Roger Moore and composer Leslie Bricusse, both locals. It's a very non-touristy place and price-wise far below those restaurants, good as they are, that cater for visitors. It's owned by brother and sister Gilbert and Michelle Bottier. They run it, serve and generally do a great deal of everything.

There's a first-floor glass balcony which has a sliding back roof. Back in the hills in the 16th-century village Haut-de-Cagnes another superb restaurant, Le Cagnard, also has a roof that moves. On our day at Chariot the coast road was closed for a cycle race. Throughout three hours we'd see a lone cyclist going by now and then with an entourage of cars, spare bikes and other necessary things for bike races. Backs to the sea, a small crowd lined the route. The freebie starter was caviar and asparagus. Terrific. We had sea urchins with their outside spikes still moving! Some oysters and a loup de mer so fresh it tasted unlike any other I have ever eaten. Roger calls it the best seafood restaurant in France, and he's no pushover. I can also report the millefeuille was major! There's a laurel wreath on the menu and under it Grand Prix de la Gastronomique de la Foire de Paris - Toutes Categories. I have no idea what it means, but I agree.

Roger Moore is a rare creation: a generous actor. He took me to another place, more on the beaten track, Rampoldi in Monte Carlo. You go to the casino, tum left and it's on your left in a street called avenue des Spelugues. It's more up-market than Charlot 1er, but still has that crowded, cafe feel about it. Most of the tables were so close together that I said a silent prayer of thanks I was with a movie star so we got, at least, the most separated spot.

This is owned by an Italian called Luciano di Saro who's had it for 15 years, and, before that, worked with nightclub Queen Regine and had the honour of serving me at her short-lived Roof Garden Club in Kensington High Street!

The problem with me going to restaurants when I don't have my tape recorder is that I write everything down very carefully and then find my writing totally illegible. I do remember it was terribly chic and that I had the greatest, almost endless amount of freebie starters. There was some very soft saint danieli ham, oysters in champagne, fettucine verdi, escargots (unbelievable!), then scampi provencale, and some sort of risotto, but, try as I can, here my writing defeats me. To describe what the menu says you had is irrelevant, really. Menus say much the same things all over. But what a difference in taste! This was the very best. l was surprised to find that door-to-door from the Colombe d'Or, St-Paul-de-Vence, in the hills behind Antibes/Cagnes, it took only 30 minutes. Mind you, I held on to anything I could (I think Vanessa) for dear life.

The Colombe d'Or remains a unique, rustic experience. The Picassos, Braques and impressionist paintings remain unstolen on the walls. The artists used to go there and pay in work. The terrace is still as beautiful a place to eat as any in the world. The rooms, basic. If I don't complain when you need a magnifying glass to see the soap, here are no face flannels, the shampoo, conditioner and bath essence are in the same tiny bottle and the suite has no television in the bedroom, you'd better believe the Colombe is making up for it in overall character and stupendousness! Aren't I being kind this week? Don't worry. it won’t last.



Letters

Has Michael Winner been led astray by an Italian from Middlesbrough? Surely the cubed cheese that Mr Winner took to be parmesan was not provolone, as Chris Rea suggested, but pecorino? I always thought that provolone was a rather rubbery cheese that was put in sandwiches and on pizzas in Italy.
Barbara Butler, Winchester

Our waiter at Daphne's recently obviously had better things to do. Every item we requested off the menu had to be repeated while he looked over his shoulder. Okay only he came back to us with our paid bill and asked if we realised the "discretionary" service charge made the bill £86 not £74. At the other end of the scale, the Waterside Inn recently silver-served us, with fresh napkins with each course, and waiters escorted us to the loo door. What is happening to discerning, unobtrusive service in restaurants?
Helen Barnard, Bourne End, Bucks