Finally, as promised, a run-through of our two-star Michelin experience in France. As I mentioned, we had lunch in L’Oasis in La Napoule near Cannes while on our holliers a few weeks back.
Given that the set lunch menu is €72 a head, I did hmm and haw about booking a table. This was lunch, after all. After a phone call from my brother, in which he howled at the thought that we might not sample Michelin-starred food when it was so nearby, and a conversation with the husband, in which he reasonably pointed out that we had already (a few days earlier) spent €130 on a round of golf for him plus €60 for lunch in the clubhouse afterwards, I booked the table.
Of course, I then lived up to every stereotype of my sex and insisted I had nothing in my suitcase that I could possibly wear to a posh restaurant. Well, any excuse. One divine pair of chocolate linen trousers and a lovely cream top later, I was good to go.
The odd thing about L’Oasis is its location, down a non-descript little street off the main seafront throughfare. Once we were in the door, however, we realised it’s an aptly-named place. Given the choice of sitting inside or out, we chose “l’exterieur” and were led out into a stone-walled garden/courtyard, where linen-decked tables were nestled between flowerbeds bursting with orchids and birds of paradise.
We were guided to a table in the corner, from where we could keep tabs on all the comings and goings and size up our fellow diners (lunchers?). They all appeared to be at least twenty years older and many hundreds of thousands of euro better off than us. Elsewhere, this could have meant being horribly patronised by the staff but our legion of waiters (the maitre’d, a primary waiter, a bread waiter, a sommelier, a dessert waiter and a chap whose sole function appeared to be whisking away crumbs) were all sweet and friendly.
Having chosen our food and taken the sommelier’s recommendation of a Sylvaner wine from Alsace (which turned out to be lovely – dry and fruity and not noticeably sweet at all), we were given an amuse-bouche – some sort of smoked salmon dip – and a choice of breads from the restaurant’s own boulangerie/patisserie.
Much as I wanted to dispatch that with haste, I persevered with demurely dabbing it on little pieces of bread and nibbling away daintily. It was good – not spectacular – but very good.
The starters were a whole other story, however. The husband ordered scallops. He got three small, perfectly-cooked scallops, positioned precisely at one end of the dish, with the thinnest imaginable strips of asparagus fanning away from them. These were accompanied by quails’ eggs, bitter leaves and a flawless dressing.
My first course – a yin/yang of foie gras (yes, I know how it’s made) and artichoke was, if anything, even better. A thick triangle of foie gras held a thin triangular inset of artichoke heart. Alongside it was a scooped-out artichoke half, filled with foie gras. Accompanying the ol’ yin/yang were a few salad leaves, some edible flowers and a truffle oil dressing. I’m bereft of adjectives to do it justice but it was damn good.
The husband had sea bass to follow and I have to admit, the details of that dish escape me. (I did take notes but have mislaid my notebook in a tidying of the house since we got home. Where do tidied-up things get to?).
I had a duo of milk-fed veal – may as well be hung for a cow after the foie gras, I figured. The fillet was served in almost translucent, milkily tender slices while the second piece – belly, I think – was caramelised and fatty and explosively tasty.
Again, the details of whatever accompanied that have slipped my mind. To be honest, it was dessert that wowed us to such an extent that everything else rather paled in comparison.
Having let us digest our main courses, the dessert waiter wheeled over an enormous tiered trolley that was laden down with cakes and tarts and compotes and fruit concoctions and creamy things in little pots. When I say the trolley was enormous, I’m talking at least six foot high, if not more. It fairly loomed over the waiter. Had I had the neck, and the stomach, I could have sat there all afternoon sampling its delights – it was an all-you-can-eat affair.
We controlled ourselves, however, and chose just one dessert each – tiramisu for him and a coffee and chocolate tart for me. We would have had more, if it weren’t for the fact that all sorts of other sweet goodies arrived at the table, including a glass tub filled with sweets, a huge bulbous glass filled to the brim with pink, yellow and green macarons and a stand laden down with petits fours or mignardises, as L’Oasis calls them. I did my best to plough through as much of these as was humanly possible. I’m not sure any dessert course will ever live up to that array.
We lingered a while, stretching out double espressos as long as possible while trying to make room to squeeze in one more mignardise or macaron. Eventually, we called for the bill. Including coffee and a tip, it came to €180. “Good value, really, isn’t it?” said the husband. He wasn’t joking.
I detoured into the loo on the way out, more to inspect it than anything. While I was washing my hands, a portly Madame d’un certain age hove in the door. “Bonjour,” she boomed at me. I nodded, picked a mini hand-towel from the waiting pile, dried my hands and dropped the towel into the receptacle on the floor. Madame glared at me. It was only minutes later, as we strolled back to the seafront, that I realised I hadn’t really registered the wicker basket full of used hand towels and had instead dropped my towel into the rubbish bin. Oh well.
Afterwards, I diverted back to the little shop adjoining L’Oasis and bought some two-Michelin-star preserves and chocolates as presents to bring home and a two-Michelin-star baguette (€1.50) for our tea. You’ll have to visit to buy the bread but other treats are available from its online shop.