THE LAST DITCH An Englishman returned after twenty years abroad blogs about liberty in Britain
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Jaunts & Errands

Heaven is on the Bay of Angels

Gourmet restaurant in Antibes, on the Côte d'Azur (French Riviera). Specialized in Fish. Michelin-starred. Restaurant de Bacon..

I spent a quiet yesterday anticipating my visit to my favourite restaurant in the world. I did pause to worry that I might have oversold it to my friends who were about to experience it for the first time. I need not have troubled myself.

It is a family business and that shows. There is a simple, loving attention to a project they built that goes beyond — well beyond — just making a living. It's the least pretentious Michelin-starred restaurant I know. The decor is elegant, restrained and with a little dash of quirky. Lots of fishy objects blown by local glass makers. The views of the Mediterranean are so stunning that I could have wished we were lunching not dining.

The service is polite and a little formal in the French style — none of that irritating "hey guys" mateyness you get in London now — but there are friendly smiles and an evident warmth and concern for your enjoyment. There is an excellent wine list too and our group of Bon viveurs enjoyed a superb Pouilly Fuisse (though as Speranza's pilot I was sadly limited to one glass)

And then there's the food. If you're not a fish fan you might think it's not for you but you'd be wrong. Anywhere else neither am I. Great cuisine is not about tricks and elaboration. It's about the best ingredients prepared carefully in the way that suits them best. Ideally, as here, by a chef who takes the work — but not himself — very seriously. The polar opposite of Jamie Oliver. Talented, self-effacing and diligent.

Bacon's menu features a diagram that begins with the choice of fish, goes on to the methods of preparation (grilled, steamed, en papillote etc) and ends with variations. They tell you what fish they have and offer recommendations. It's all fresh from the sea outside their windows. I have such confidence in them that I just let them choose for me. Less time studying the menu. More time talking with my friends and drinking in the scenery, the surroundings and the quiet elegance of the mostly local diners. 

Before leaving table there's also the best millefeuille in France to enjoy. Diet or no, I was having it and will deduct it from today's calories without any sense of regret.

The voiturier knows Speranza by name. I consign her to his tender care without a backward glance. He has never seen me not smiling, either in anticipation as I arrive or in satisfaction as I leave. I can be grumpy and moody at times so I rather wish all my friends and acquaintances had the impression of me he does!

If when I die there is a heaven after all and I am lucky enough to be admitted, my home will be in Cap d'Antibes, my "local" will be the Bacon and Speranza and I will spend the time between meals on the rocky, winding coastal roads of the Côte d'Azur. Except in Heaven there will be the occasional straight and there will be neither speed limits nor daydreaming locals in 2CVs. 

Did nothing else happen yesterday? Nothing of consequence. A day that involves the Bacon in the company of friends is, for me, complete.

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