Can someone take me back to warm sunshiney days where I can perch my bottom by a terrace overlooking the beach, sipping my favourite Perrier-Jouet and eating delicious food? Throw me back to Summer in Cannes, when I had a delicious lunch at the city’s lone two-star Michelin restaurant, La Palme D’Or.
La Palme d’Or at the luxurious Hôtel Martinez is one of Cannes most treasured gems. Created in 1985 by the late great chef (and city darling) Christian Willer, it had become a Cannes Film Festival favourite and eventually, the ultimate spot where you wanna be seen wining and dining in town.
In 2001 when Grand Hyatt took over ownership of the hotel, Chef Willer retired and let his protege, Christian Sincropi take over the kitchen. Keeping the restaurant’s vision, as well as its two Michelin stars, Chef Sinicropi continued to play on Chef Willer’s “light creative cuisine that resets standards on La Croisette”.
Chef Christian is also very passionate about the arts and philosophy. So much so that he has taken courses at the world famous Ecolé des Beaux-Arts. Throughout the restaurant, you can check out his artwork, from graphic paintings on the walls to the ceramic figurines and dishes where food is actually served.
But Sinicropi’s artistry and craftsmanship does not end there. There’s much creativity brought to his culinary offering that’s just as beautiful as the panoramic views of the restaurant itself.
An epic start of amuse bouche and bread
As MD and I enjoyed cold glasses of Perrier-Jouet, absolutely in awe of our luck for securing beach front seats, a few snacks were delivered to the table.
Crisped bread thins with sesame seeds, poppy seeds and herbs…
Fried ravioli filled with spinach and ricotta, and cheese encased in puffed rice…
Pineapple flavoured marshmallows and paprika-dusted meatballs.
Each bite-sized snack was an awakening of the palate. If it were any indication of what’s yet to come, then we had definitely hit the jackpot.
And then the bread came.
The bread offering was pretty picture-perfect. Shuffled booklets of crusty herbed and squid ink bread have a great fluff on the inside. And the brioche muffins were so delectable, too.
What’s even more impressive and flavoursome was the focaccia trolley. The bread itself had a density and a lightness to it, it’s almost schizophrenic. Served with an utterly delicious olive oil, I was in carb heaven!
La Palme d’Or menu in “movements”
The menu in La Palme d’Or comes in “movements”. For dinner, the movement focuses on an ingredient served three ways. Lunch on the other hand focuses more on themes. I like this option better, actually. And also, lunch at La Palme d’Or means you get a brighter view of Cannes Beach.
MD went for the Latin movement, which showcases beautiful Mediterranean ingredients. I, on the other hand, went for the Creative movement, which highlights Chef Christian’s inventive side.
Half-cooked, tangy swordfish neatly arranged checkerboard style with dollops of herbed creme fraiche, pomegranate, and crisped squid ink. The flavours marry well, but the distinct flavour of the fish was still star of the show.
My mortadella ham encased oysters oysters looked rather intimidating. My initial thoughts were 1) it’s too pretty and 2) boo, de-shelled oysters?! However, I fell in love at first bite. There was also some marinated beetroot in the rolls which gave a much needed acidity to the naturally salty shellfish, ham and crisped chorizo. And the beet puree was quite nice too.
Next up was a fillet of cod crumbed crusted with parmesan and topped (again) with chorizo.
The fish was cooked immaculately. Cod is my least favourite fish as I find it can be boring most of the time, but La Palme d’Or’s was refreshingly fresh so there was a lot of flavour.
The next dish was possibly my ultimate favourite of the day. Called “squid like carbonara”, strips of squid are cut like and served with squid ink tagliatelle.
Simply cooked in the most utterly buttery sauce, I was absolutely in heaven. I was also pleasantly surprised to see it served with bottarga. I love bottarga but can only eat so much of it for health and salt level reasons. It definitely lifted the subtlety of the squid and the pasta and totally gelled well with that buttery sauce. My only complain was that there wasn’t more of it!
The beef, cooked for 72 hours and served with some root veg, was taking it home to Southern French cooking. It was classically comforting as the beef was so tender – and light in texture. It was quite a good portion for lunch on a nice Summer day.
The sweetbread was the dish I was slightly dreading. What if I didn’t like it? What if I couldn’t take the texture?! But when I saw it served with a crispy crumb coating, I relaxed a bit. That’s so clever, making something with its texture palatable.
HOWEVER. I spotted an eyelash on the dish. And I was totally put off. I thought it was mine at first but I realised it wasn’t coated in mascara. So I called the maitre’d, pointed to the said eyelash. His face changed from panic to surprise to panic to strong to confused to friendly in such quick fashion. He then promptly took the plate before I could even say “hair”.
My fresh plate of sweetbread arrived a few minutes later, hairless like a bald uncle. As I finally held a forkful, I was really happy with the dish. The accompanying veg were cooked the way I like it – with a crunch that keeps its natural flavour. I finished the whole thing, and that lash was a bygone altogether.
For afters, you get to choose an ingredient served two ways. This time, MD was the more adventurous, opting for tomato whilst I, chocoholic at heart, went for the white chocolate and coffee option.
The first of MD’s tomato desserts came marinated in limoncello and served with white cheese ice cream and basil crisps. Essentially an insalata tricolore for afters. Light as it was, I thought it was clever but it was more of a palate cleanser than a desserts for me.
The second tomato dessert was absolutely phenomenal, though! Three variants and colours of tomato were served meticulously skinned and filled with beautiful fillings that complement each type. The citrusy sorbet and the crumbs and pine nuts also were a nice touch but the tomatoes themselves were just out of this world.
The plate itself was a work of art. I mean, look how gorgeous this was!
My first dessert was an impression of a latte. A very bold espresso and coffee cream sit on the base of the glass, topped with white chocolate espuma. I usually have my daily coffee black and avoid lattes as I’m not keen on milk… but this was a latte I loved. And it was light enough to give me space for my next plate of dessert.
As with MD’s second dessert, this was a work of art on a plate.
Selected white chocolate pieces lay on a plate of coffee textures – coffee bean crumbs, coffee ice cream, mocha merengues, etc. It was rich in parts and light in parts. Overall, such a great balanced dessert.
As if we’ve not sugared out ourselves yet, the petit fours came about. I particularly liked the chewy merengue, which tasted so well with my black coffee.
As if all that food weren’t enough, we were gifted a few truffles and caneles to take home. MD and I were absolutely happy bunnies with full piggy bellies and smiles off our faces.
Verdict for La Palme d’Or
I’m not going to lie. La Palme d’Or is one of the most ambient places I’ve dined at and I promise you the view on a pleasant Summer day is one of the best things in life. Service exuded typical French Riviera hospitality – everyone was polite, welcoming, and treats all your requests with great discretion. Bar that little hair on my shortbread, I thought the service was superb.
Was the food good? Well, it was absolutely pretty and unashamedly creative. There’s much thought and sophistication in the preparation and curation of the menu (Oh and frankly, I’m glad we went for the lunch option because I thought the menu had a bit more variety). Chef Sinicropi’s craft has finesse, and I’m not just talking about the ceramics and acrylics in the restaurant.
So if you’re planning a lil trip to the French Riviera, I hope you get to visit La Palme d’Or. It’s defo a gorgeous spot for people-watching whilst drinking champagne a la piscine!
Restaurant La Palme d’Or
Grand Hyatt Hotel Martinez
73 Boulevard de la Croisette
06400 Cannes, France
Ave spend pp: Lunch from €90, Dinner from €120
Have you been to La Palme d’Or? What did you think?