April 28, 2008
Èze-Bord-de-mer; 04 93 76 29 29
www.latableducapestel.com(April 5, 2008). Sometimes write-ups can change the nature of a restaurant or tax the service or otherwise take away from its charm. Such was our dilemma after enjoying a virtually private lunch on the terrace at Cap Estel. Should we or should we not write it up? Since our circulation is such that our write-up will probably not send hordes of people, we overcame our hesitation.
Reservations are a “must.” At the top of a serpentine drive is a locked gate, which the staff will open when you tell them your name.
The main entrance to this 19th century dacha built by a Russian prince is on the third of five floors, all rooms of which are perfectly positioned to take advantage of the spectacular sea-view. Descend one of the symmetrical, sweeping outdoor staircases or ride the elevator to the ground floor dining room and terrace.
The weather was just warm enough to sit on the terrace, where we were alone until somewhat later when another couple were seated near us. Because the menus (55€ for two courses, 75€ for three and 95€ for four) offers no choice other than meat or fish, we chose the more expensive, but more interesting, à la carte options.
The fabulous amuse bouche of a foie gras crème brûlée was an auspicious beginning. Both of us started with oysters, five of which were served out of the shell on a plate, topped with herbs (28€). They were fresh tasting and not overwhelmed by the herbs and balsamic caramel sauce. In fact, they were just superb.
Gary’s piece of veal (48€) was served with a small ris de veau and mashed potatoes. The filet of beef Simenthal (46€) that Varian ordered was roasted with Szechuan peppercorns and served with baby artichokes with a creamy foam inside them and a glass of asparagus foam. Both dishes were beautifully presented, perfectly cooked and very tasty.
Gary’s heavenly chestnut soufflé was a marvel–it never collapsed, even after digging into it. Varian’s cheese plate was the only disappointing note in an otherwise wonderful lunch, and disappointing only in that the selections were all cold.
The wine list has some reasonably-priced wines in among its stunners. We started with a half bottle of Sancerre Clos du Roy (35€) and finished with a Chateau Roubine Rouge (45€).
It was a lovely lunch in a magical setting–a place for special meals. The chef, Nicolas Vie, who moved there about a year ago from Beaulieu’s Metropole Hotel, has wisely chosen to offer a fairly limited menu. There were four entrées, five fish dishes, three meat and five dessert choices.
The menu must change often, although we forgot to ask, as the hotel guests probably dine there frequently in their stay. As we re-read this, the prices do seem to be over the top.
We had to remind ourselves that what one pays for the food and drink also has to cover real estate costs. Given the site, the building and the ambiance at Cap Estel, it is almost a bargain.