HOTEL MAJESTIC BARRIÈRE & RESTAURANT LA PETITE MAISON DE NICOLE
It always gives me a thrill when I find that an hotel I have known for many years is now performing at the top of its form. Thus I had a delicious frisson of delight upon my arrival at the Hotel Makestic Barrière in Cannes. In the sunshine it looked like the grandest of iced wedding cakes, ready and eager for the ceremony to begin. Truly, in all my decades of going to the French Riviera, I have never seen the Majestic in better shape. As before, it presides over its end of the Croisette with an easy insouciance, but now I detected a spring in its step. And the excellence continued inside.
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 (with its wing chairs in twinkly gold leather) 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. I do not know how the Manager, Pierre-Louis Renou, inspires his team, but he is clearly doing something very right.
The one thing you must demand of your hotel in Cannes is a marvellous view. At the Majestic this is pas de problème, for many 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 Junior Suite (714€-2,359€ a night for two, according to season, breakfast extra).
Room 424 was on the fourth floor. Elegant, comfortable and well-planned, this was accommodation which I can recommend without qualification. Like the rest of the hotel, 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 the comfort of the occupants. (The dentilled cornice, I observed, had been carefully preserved.) The colour scheme was striking, but restful: black (for the carpet), cream (for the silk on the walls) and gold (for the stripes in the silk). 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.
I dined in the hotel’s smaller restaurant, La Petite Maison de Nicole, which opens each day for dinner. This is the young relative of Nicole Ruby’s restaurant in Nice. Here the Restaurant Manager is Geoffrey Tanguy and the Chef is Brice Morvent. I settled myself into a comfortable armchair on the terrace by the swimming pool and the palm trees and noted the good white napery and the sparkling glassware (by Degrenne). As the band struck up, all around my fellow diners seemed to be having a good time.
The menu is straightforward and attractive, two characteristics I admire in a menu. Into most of the dishes I could happily have tucked. Two set meals are offered at 46€ and 78€.The meal I chose comprised three courses from the carte – brought to me by waiters in white shirts. It displayed a kitchen which handles first class ingredients with confidence and skill. I began with maccaroni with truffles, as tasty and enjoyable a rendering of this classic as I have encountered – the pasta soft and luscious, with the flavour and aroma of the divine fungus fully present. My meat was chicken – really good corn-fed country chicken, roasted and served with foie gras. I have loved this combination ever since I first tasted it, at the Restaurant Hiély in Avignon – so many years ago that I dare not calculate the date. Here the fowl was superb – indeed, so superb that I over-indulged and found that I could only face a dish of ice cream for my pudding. (Still, it was coconut ice cream, a flavour of which I am particularly fond.)
The wine list has 166 offerings, all French. 13 wines are available by the glass. Prices run from 49€ for a Provençal rosé to 3,960€ for a magnum of 2001 Mouton Rothschild. Other bottles to catch my eye were: 1978 Yquem (1,950€), 2001 Palmer (950€), 1994 Cheval Blanc (2,450€), 2007 Cos d’Estournel (580€) and Krug Grande Cuveé (1,650€, magnum). The affable sommelier, Guerrick Baray, recommended a red from the Languedoc, full of dense black fruit and spice (Domaine de l’Hortus, 2013). In five years time it will be a star.
For breakfast I went to the larger dining room, which is an off-shoot of a famous Parisian brasserie on the Champs-Elysées. Like its parent, it is called Fouquet’s. Also like its parent, it buzzes with movement and activity. Its black and gold interior resounds to canned music. I therefore returned to the quietness of the same table outside I had occupied at dinner. (The terrace is taken over by Fouquet’s in the mornings.) All the food I consumed from the buffet – bacon, sausages, scrambled eggs, croissants, 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. Again, I was struck by the excellence of the staff. The waiters and waitresses had to work hard, but they kept their good humour and were properly attentive, despite the pressure of numbers. And they made valiant efforts, pushing the red shades this way and that, to protect me from the sun’s glare.
It was wonderful to see the Majestic in such good form. When you next go to Cannes, do give her my regards.
HOTEL MAJESTIC BARRIÈRE
10 La Croisette, 06408 Cannes, France.
Telephone +33 (0)4 92 98 77 22
Fax +33 (0)4 92 98 77 66
Double rooms from 220€ to 1.064€, according to season, breakfast extra (42€ per person)
Check on the hotel website for specific dates and for special offers .
A number of packages are offered, including ‘A palace hotel and the sea’, ‘A palace hotel and families’ and ‘Studio by Petit VIP’.