In the sunshine, the Hotel Majestic Barrière in Cannes looks like the grandest of iced wedding cakes, a vision of the purest white and a symbol of happy celebration. The Majestic is well named, for it is one of the splendours of the French Riviera, both imposing and chic – just like Cannes itself. It presides over its end of famous promenade, La Croisette, with an easy elegance, entirely confident of its position in the Pantheon of the world’s great hotels. When you arrive at the Majestic, you have indeed arrived.
I am not, of course, the first person to fall for the Majestic’s charms. Since 1923, when the architect Théo Petit built the main part of this palace hotel and added another Art Déco masterpiece to France’s Mediterranean coastline, the rich and famous have flocked here. I could mention a few of their names, but it would be pointless. Just think of any film star or fun-loving potentate since the 1920s, and they will have stayed at the Majestic. There are some of its facilities which would be new to them – like the cinema and the swish new spa. But they would all still recognise the grandeur and the unashamed confection of marble, gilt and shimmering silk.
Another crucial aspect of the Majestic has remained unchanged – the level of service. It is exceptionally high. Each member of staff I encountered – at the Reception, at the Concierge desk, at the porters’ station and in the Housekeeping department – was unfailingly courteous, friendly and efficient. Clearly, the charming General Manager, Pierre-Louis Renou (pictured, with your correspondent) knows how to inspire his team to great heights.
The one thing you must have in Cannes is a marvellous view. At the Majestic this is pas de problème, for most of the hotel’s 305 rooms possess exactly that. Indeed, the panorama they share – of the glistening sea, of the palm trees and of the white yachts gently swaying to the rhythm of the waves – was there for me, too, from the window of my Sea View Junior Suite (from 639€ a night for two, according to season, breakfast extra).
Apartment 324 was on the third floor. Inviting, comfortable and well-planned, this was accommodation which I liked. It had been newly renovated, but – unlike so much hotel renovation nowadays – the work had been done with care for the style of the building and for the comfort of its occupants. The colour scheme was striking, but restful: black, silver and grey. In my sitting room was plenty of space for a sofa and two fauteuils, as well as for the fitted wardrobes (wherein was a safe). Sliding doors opened into the bedroom, which was full of light from the two windows, both of which had ‘Juliet’ balconies. The bed had been made wonderfully soft for me, and this, together with the efficient and quiet air-conditioning, enabled me to sleep the sleep of the righteous. Off the hall were the compact bathroom and the separate loo.
The Majestic has two restaurants: La Petite Maison de Nicole and Fouquet’s. I ate in the latter, which opens each day from 7.00 a.m. to 10.30 p.m. This is an off-shoot of the famous Parisian brasserie on the Champs-Elysées. For dinner, I sat in a supportive armchair at a table next to the swimming pool, and was looked after by one of the lovely waitresses, Maurane. The view, with palm trees silhouetted against the darkening sky, was entrancing. The napery was white and the glasses were good (by Lehmann). I had no doubt that this was a place for a good meal.
And I was right. Head Chef Yohan Fatela and Pastry Chef Nicolas Maugard – producing a menu “created in collaboration with Pierre Gagnaire” – sent out dishes which were generously sized, were based upon top class ingredients and were a delight to both the eye and the palate. This direct and honest cuisine was exactly right for the context. I began with a Caesar salad, skillfully balanced and replete with many pieces of tender and tasty lobster. (This, on its own, would have been adequate for a decent lunch.) Then it was on to a magnificent piece of fillet of beef, all pink within, which caused this carnivore to purr with contentment. The accompanying mashed potatoes were just right. And so, too, were the green beans, topped with slivers of foie gras. I ended with another example of rapturous simplicity: stewed rhubarb and strawberries. (Allow 130€ for three such courses.)
The wine list has around 200 offerings and is entirely French, except for one Italian (2014 Sassicaia – 490€). Prices run from 35€ for a muscadet from the Loire to 6,980€ for the 2006 vintage of Pétrus. The list is strong in clarets. If the pennies permit, you might like to compare the 1998 Latour (1,970€) with the 2001 Lafite (2,450€). Lovers of ancient Sauternes might be tempted by the 1940 Yquem (1,500€), while the Burgundian party can quaff the 2007 DRC Romanée St Vivant (3,060€). My own drinking included a fruit-laden Provençal red, its earthiness full of warm sunshine (Côtes de Provence, Rouge & Or, Minuty – 70€).
I returned to the terrace of Fouquet’s for breakfast (44€) – but this time I was careful to be shaded from the early sun’s powerful rays. Here I must pay tribute to the members of the waiting staff, who worked so hard every morning that, despite the large numbers of guests seeking sustenance, the atmosphere remained both pleasant and relaxing. I certainly enjoyed my breakfasts at the Majestic.
All the food I consumed from the buffet – bacon, sausages, scrambled eggs, croissants, crusty breads of different sorts, madeira cake, melon, strawberries, pineapple, cheeses and hams – was of very high quality. Also laid out on the buffet table were bars of chocolate, of both the milk and the dark variety. They constituted a temptation to which I succumbed. There was canned music, but it was of the superior kind – I think I recognised the voice of Sammy Davis Junior at one point – so I did not complain.
The Hotel Majestic Barrière is the French Riviera at its best. If you are going to Cannes, do say ‘Hello’ to her for me.
10 La Croisette, 06408 Cannes, France.
Telephone +33 (0)4 92 98 77 22
Fax +33 (0)4 92 98 77 66
Double rooms are 223€ and upwards, according to season, breakfast extra.
Check on the hotel website for the rates for specific dates and for special offers.
Various packages are offered