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All going swimmingly down at the beach

Published 22 October 2006
News Review
692nd article

Michael with Corrine Cuzzupoli and Morgan Taillandier at Tetou (Geraldine Lynton-Edwards)

There are places that are so historic they define historic. One is a restaurant in a hut on the beach in the small Riviera town of Golfe-Juan.

I've eaten at Tetou for 60 years! It was opened by Ernest Cirio in 1920 and has been owned and run by the same family ever since. It specialises in fish.

I'm not sure they serve anything else. If they do I've never ordered it.

Just to the east of Cannes, on the coast road, there's a roundabout. Turn right and you get to the beachfront and Tetou. Keep going and you're on Route Nationale 7, which used to be quite lovely, but like so many things (including me!) has gone downhill.

At this road junction the French movie star Francoise Dorleac, sister of Catherine Deneuve, died, years ago, in a horrific road accident. She was burned to death. After that they put up the roundabout.

In 1963 I stayed in an incredible, old, run-down hotel overlooking the harbour of Golfe-Juan while visiting a friend who sailed with Thor Heyerdahl on the Kon Tiki, a bizarre balsa wood raft that went from Peru to Polynesia to prove the islands were inhabited from South America.

The centre of Golfe-Juan is still as it used to be. Nineteenth-century houses with wrought-iron balconies, typically French and charming. The port has been enlarged to accommodate the vulgar boats of the nouveau riche. Apartment blocks have sprung up. But Tetou remains a must for celebrities and even ordinary folk like you.

It's a bit smarter than it used to be. They have blue and white striped sun-loungers for those who want to lie on the beach outside the glass windows. There's a little restaurant-bar for the beach people. But inside the real restaurant the atmosphere remains the same. So does the extraordinary quality.

If you're planning to go, beware - they don't take credit cards. Tetou and San Lorenzo in Knightsbridge are the only places I know that abhor the use of plastic.

At Tetou ask for the bouillabaisse. It's far and away the best in the world.

There's an upstart place called Bacon a few miles along the coast which is a poor copy of Tetou. Their bouillabaisse is a disaster.

I started with orange juice. Not from a plastic bottle. Not squeezed hours earlier, but produced to order. What a difference that makes!

The bouillabaisse has John Dory, red mullet, rascasse and various other fish, mostly local, and for extra euros, lobster as well. The orange-coloured soup is of a taste and texture that cannot be bettered. A fair portion of it went on my shirt, so keen was I to gulp it down. This is a meal in itself.

But even though I'm on a diet - currently 3½ stone less than I used to be! - I couldn't resist the fried beignets with jams and fresh whipped cream.

Morgan Taillandier, the youngest family member working the room, brought six enormous jars of home-made jam - plum, apricot, grapefruit, tomato, watermelon and orange.

The beignets were fresh and hot having just come from the boiling fat. Normally I'd have eaten four. But being on a diet I restricted myself to two!

Geraldine dropped the spoon from the jam and then her own knife and spoon, making even more mess on the cloth.

"At least I only dirtied my own shirt," I observed smugly. When they cleared the table they took the jam but left the beignets. "They may think you want to dip one in the coffee," suggested Geraldine.

After paying the bill I had just enough left to give the parking attendant €5.

Our photo shows Corrine Cuzzupoli, mother of Morgan, who stands with her beside a copy of an oil painting of Tetou's founder, Corrine's father Ernest. She has the original at home.

Talking of home, and now switching to mine, we're having considerable angst testing out new cook-housekeepers. All come from very good agencies.

One candidate, asked to make an apple tart, said, "Do you have a recipe book? I can't do pastry!" Another produced thick, tough pastry you needed a pneumatic drill to break.

Currently ahead of the field is a cheerful Indian lady who smiles a lot. That's a considerable advantage.

When she said she couldn't do roast potatoes I gave her Sir Michael Caine's recipe - and she did very well. Her curries are amazing.

As I only drink freshly extracted vegetable or apple juice for dinner, the cook has an easy time. "Easy! Feeding Winner!" I hear you exclaim. That's my version and I'll stick to it.

Winner's letters

What have you done, losing all this weight? In last week's photo you looked like the head barman at the Notting Hill Brasserie. I've spent years modelling myself on you. Changed religion, changed Christian name, put on 3 stone. Can I have your job?
Michael Loewy, Devon

If the Demis Roussos of food writers lost 3.5 stone, why does he stand so far back in his photographs? Is he contracted to Hello! magazine to launch his new figure? Or will it be the Winner's Wonder Weight Losing DVD in full colour and Lycra. Sounds too horrible to think about.
Mike Clement, Suffolk

It's social suicide to let it be known one is an adherent of your column. But for all the tosh you write, keep going. There's nobody else remotely capable of causing so much mayhem with such modest talent.
Dennis Pallis, Kent

Your praise of the River Cafe's maitre d' (Winner's Dinners, October 8) is spot on. I found the service excellent, the cooking good. But at £30 for four scallops (this doth not a main course make), the crammed tables, the noise and the heat - you won't get me there again. And I live next door!
Richard Price, London