L’Anse de Port Cros: drop the anchor in Mediterranean paradise to eat locally and hike with the humming cigales

Natural gem in the French Mediterranean waters, L’Anse de Port Cros requires a sea-bound journey worth the trip. From the Michelin Guide perspective the effort to travel to this sparsely inhabited protected island just for the meal would spark a star, yet at this leisurely set restaurant it is all about authenticity, not pomp, personality and wild creativity. Only the best local ingredients served at their most delectable flavours are served comfortably al fresco overlooking the charming port of Port Cros.

South of France

Yacht owners, moor at L’Anse de Port Cros to eat authentically and well, then hike the shaded rolling trails in the lush, well preserved National Park, to honour a free day well spent. Wear whatever is most comfortable, keep the glitz for La Gueritte, here the food is better and the space vast. We have been returning for years, our little secret we kept hidden from curious foodies in the virtual sphere. But, I feel like being generous this summer. Still strained by the dire global situation of increasing violence and death within our reach, we shall all savour every day, each precious holiday, and every meal out with a grand appetite before change swipes it all into the deep waters of unpredictability.

secret MediterraneanSouthern fried seafood

The name of the restaurant L’Anse de Port Cros means ‘Anchor of the Crossing Port’. Its location at the crossroads between the busy, car-free Porquerolles, the French military outpost and nudist enclave of Levant and the coastal towns and cities from Hyeres, Toulon, east to St Tropez, naturally lends itself to something appealing, luring the boats in for something simple but worth stopping by.

L’Anse de Port Cros offers nothing complicated, just delicious local bounty delivered every morning by the fishermen passing by the protected port of this lush Mediterranean island.

To start, ideally to share, my recommendations are: the fresh sea bream carpaccio sprinkled over with diced pickled onions and peppers; the marinated red pepper with roasted pepper dip and bread coins typically served in the south with rouille or aioli sauce next to a bouillabaisse; as well as the more substantial hot, fried baby squids (known in French as calamars, chipirons, encornets), here served au nature, not breaded, but instead with mixed greens and herbs.
Summer Mediterranean starters
Don’t eat much of the bread, get Baba (au rhum) instead! Well, later if you can wait. The baguette served at L’Anse de Port Cros  used to be superb, sourced from the mainland artisan baker, but around Covid the source changed to a lesser provider. With a positive attitude this means more space for the dessert après.
With your aperitif or alcoholic drink such as bottle of local wine, you get a bowl of delicious minuscule dark provencal olives. We usually order a half bottle of rosé or white by Château Margilliere that we once visited, but once we also enjoyed a full blush bottle of Clos Réal grown and made biodynamically in Provence. More punchy and not as cheap as most of the wine card.
French rose wineChâteau Margilliere
We always get the whole grilled fresh fish, usually white fleshed sea bream or bass. I recommend 800 g to one kilo for two people if you get large starters as we do. Presented to the table before being deboned perfectly, the filleted fish is accompanied by purple, Cabernet Franc scented salt and with herbs infused (thyme grows all over the island) olive oil on the table. Swishes in a complimentary duet of a sublime creamy risotto (as hedonistic as Joel Robuchon’s legendary mashed potatoes when the proportion of buttery fat far exceeds the carbs) and southern, grilled vegetable tian. The later usually an eggplant, tomato, courgette or red pepper generously doused in greenish herbal olive oil. Everything is just every single time cooked perfect!
Mediterranean fish at L'Anse de Port CrosMediterranean fishMediterranean fishauthentic food
Spiny lobsters parade in the live aquariums at L’Anse de Port Cros, but we dream about this perfection of a Mediterranean fish plate for the entire year before revisiting our beloved South of France, so we never switch to other mains. Côte de beauf glances at the frequenting locals, who do not mind the summer heat to eat as if there was nothing to do in the afternoon. Diving, snorkelling, kayaking, swimming, hiking, trail running if you desire, I have seen it all on and around the island. I keep the beef before the bed!

Mediterranean gemsRadka Beach

I wrote a poem inspired by Port-Cros:

All I see is blue joy

The clear sky of promises 

Of undisturbed simplicity 

Calm, straightforward reality 

Turbulence far gone from my awareness 

 

Fly, you and me in a liberated company

Set free the native imagination that was bound

By the complex constructs of culture in the rear

Of the mind seeking pain, restlessness and irrational fear

All I want is simplicity, what was lost in a city, here is found

~RB

iles du Levant

L’Anse de Port Cros: Nothing complicated, just delicious local bounty delivered every morning by the fishermen passing by the protected port of the lush national park on this Mediterranean island.

light summer dessertsauthentic restaurant

For a light sweet finale, the summer red berry compote with whipped Chantilly cream and cinnamon at L’Anse de Port-Cros is best if you intend to be active after the lunch.

A hospitable tradition across the Mediterranean, here, each meal concludes with a shot or a sip, if you prefer, of rum, orange and pineapple juice blend with secret spices the chef keeps to himself.

Crossing by private boat from Hyeres, the Porquerolles island or Cavalaire-sur-Mer in the Var department takes only about 30 minutes to an hour. Boarding one of the seasonally scheduled ferries stretches the sail up to two hours, but if you hang around it pays off. We avoid the core of summer, rather sailing in May, June and September as the temperatures for outdoor activities are more balmy.


Dining at Le Cap Estel: La Table de Patrick Raingeard as a romantic retreat in Eze sur Mer

The soothing view from Cap d'Estel

La Table de Patrick Raingeard is a Michelin starred restaurant in the exclusive Le Cap Estel hotel. Crowned by its lush garden around a curvy private road driving you in and out the property. The outdoor seating starts from the warm months (usually June-mid September), unless it rains or blasts gales. The chequered indoor part of the restaurant also serves as the breakfast room for the checked in guests. There are only a few suites and smaller rooms in the main villa and in a new building on its side.

Michelin restaurant in EzeMediterranean

Cap Estel like a head of an eagle reaches out into the Mediterranean between two wide-spanning wings – Cap Ferrat and Cap d’Ail. A short ride from Monaco, this is one of the most relaxing and romantic spots to dine in the area (like the Grand Hotel du Cap Ferrat now a Four Seasons managed property).

One feels so close to nature here — the murmur of the sea waves, the verdant pines and refreshing coastal breeze are disturbed only by the gentle voices of the waiting staff serving you. As the ducks and cute ducklings wander around your table outside, you might not resist to throw them at least a small slice of the warm bread. The giant sourdough loaf comes from our favourite bakery in the area, the Ma Premiere Boulangerie up in La Turbie. The country bread is served with Huilerie St Michel olive oil from Menton flavoured for the chef with verbena. Mauro Collagreco also uses their oils at Mirazur.
Cap d'Estel pool bar viewMichelin Ezeartisan French breadartisan bread

The boutique luxury of Le Cap Estel is a peaceful retreat for Monaco residents. This ultra luxurious villa hotel through all its facilities is a sanctuary of calm and elegance. It is a very romantic spot for couples, but also a place where one can focus on work or creativity as well as making it a family escape from all the duties at home. The pool bar and garden are one of my favourite aperitif spots on the Riviera. Undisturbed by tourists, over-excited kids and car noise, this is what I call an oasis of calm. One needs it when living in the nearby buzzing Monaco, where traffic and construction steal all the romance the tiny principality used to posses over a century ago when Apollinaire grew up there.
Dress as you would to a dinner at an elegant five-star hotel, yet there is no need for a tie or a formal dress. Wearing a comfortable long silk dress or light pants could tune you to the fresh and relaxed atmosphere at Cap Estel.
Amuse bouche of raviolo with meat & chorizo filling
The food at La Table de Patrick Raingeard feels fresh in the mouth, is locally sourced and so light that the m meal won’t disrupt anyone’s ‘regime‘. This is one of the rare gastronomic restaurants where after a multi-course menu you will not feel like you have just eaten for two. You feel pampered rather than driven over by a truck as at most high-dining establishments. Each plate is meticulously described and the exact provenance of the ingredients is disclosed if you are curious. If you like the sweet and fragrant lemon or the wild strawberries, then you know where to get them!
Asparagus Michelin star appetizer at Cap EstelMichelin Eze
After a complimentery amuse bouche of a giant one-pieace ‘raviolo’ with meat & chorizo filling, I ordered the Asparagus bunch with radish, mouse of candied lemon from Menton and smoked verbena. Cooked just right – still crisp yet mellow, the asparagus tips were flawless. The flavours of the mousse brought up fond memories of the Riviera – the lemon gardens in Menton and the verbena leafs in digestif tisanes. A decade later, I had to order also a white asparagus dish, its form as delicious as the first impression. Such an incredible starter raised my expectations about the upcoming dishes.

For seafood, the Blue lobster salad with strawberries from Carros, eggplant with balsamic vinegar aged for 8 years by Leonardi would not only satisfy cravings, but also it offers the opportunity to try one the La Table de Patrick Raingeard signature dishes. Who would think of eating lobster with strawberries? The only weakness was the quality of the lobster. This crustacean is often offered but rarely excellent in France. Only the right season and location secure the most tender catch! US diners used to the melting-texture of Maine lobster might be disappointed.
Blue lobster salad
Moving to the main acts, first with a Monkfish roasted in purple artichoke, corn and Ibérique chorizo cream with roquette foam, my palate was in the food heaven. There were so many unique flavors on my plate that I could not decide which I liked the most. The artichokes as well as the fish were tastier when dipped in the green roquette foam. The yellow corn sauce enriched the otherwise light monkfish and the Ibérique chorizo cream added a bit of rich and spicy notes.
Monk fish roasted in purple artichoke
Another sea-sourced main course recommended by the waiter at La Table de Patrick Raingeard, the Wild turbot with chanterelles, stew of white beans and raisin, yuzu mousse, was also excellent. As I dipped my fork into my husband’s plate, I found the delicate texture of the fish elevated by the soft Japanese yuzu citrus mousse with the juicy raisins.
Wild turbot with chanterelles stew
If you prefer land to the sea, then meats like the Charolais beef, local provençal lamb or a guinea fowl from Bresse (Burgundy) widen your choices. Of course there are tasting menus with multiple courses and also some vegetarian, even vegan options. This spring, I tried the vegetarian tasting inclusive of two desserts and a cheese plate, and adding the sublime bread, I felt I had just the perfect amount of food.

Michelin EzeMichelin Eze

You can round up your meal with a plate of cheese or (and as you will get some without ordering it) dessert. The French cheese selection is wide, and the desserts innovative including local and exotic fruits such as yuzu and combava. The Wild strawberries, crispy verbena and lemon sorbet, accompanied by a foam of combava represents a perfect friendship of the French cuisine with exotic ingredients. Citrus, fruits, chocolate and even vegetables circulate in the sweet plates.

patisserieMichelin Eze
The cheese selectionpatisserie
Drinks: Start you special evening with a glass of champagne or a cocktail at the attic-themed pool house or at the lobby terrace. The view and the sizzling sea transfer you into timeless realms. You might even forget that you came here for a meal. Skimming the wine list at La Table de Patrick Raingeard though brought me back to the Earth. The pocket-deep prices for the mostly top Bordeaux and Burgundies may challenge some diners.

wine from Nicerare Rhone wineThe bar

There were also reasonably priced ‘bargains’ on the list and the sommelier was very helpful with choosing the right wine for us. The Puligny Montrachet 1er Cru la Pousse d’Or from Burgundy was an ideal refreshing Chardonnay with our delicate dishes. Even more affordable is the local white by Clos St Vincent of AOC Bellet, this was after all the wine served at the princely wedding in Monaco, so quite a royal pour. Most recently we were pleased to find a still fair-priced Rayas, so we splurged on.

Cuisine: Mediterranean, gastronomic
Visits: June 2012 and April 2022
Chef: Patrick Raingeard is a well-established Michelin-stared French chef creating light, fresh and locally sourced dishes in the Riviera spirit.
Contact:+33 0 493762929
Address: 1312 Avenue Raimond-Poncare, Eze-Bord-de-mer 06360, France

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Chez Davia: cuisine Niçoise elevated from rustic tradition to sophisticated perfection

Chez Davia is one of these rare family-owned restaurants today still handed down through generations. Born of Italian emigrants to the Riviera, first their daughter took over, and currently in the third hands of the impressive grandson Pierre Altobelli, the meal at this classic Niçoise restaurant might be the best you will savour in Nice.

Mother, son, plus a friendly and authentically sharp Niçoise workforce chez Davia create a familial ambience. The Japanese wife of the chef also sometimes helps out, while during lunch service his son hops around. Finesse and a sophisticated touch on cuisine Nissarde shows in his elegant handling and seasoning of the local, carefully selected ingredients. Even the floral arrangements like an artichoke bouquet in spring and sunflowers in summer feel like Southern fields blossoming with edible beauty.

Nicoise bistroChez Davia

Riviera bounty transformed with precision

Sometimes the Bib Gourmand by Michelin guides to a greater satisfaction from a meal than any starred experience. Davia is the one restaurant in Nice we always return to when in the region. In the nearby pompous Monaco, one could only dream about such an authentically elevated, local, quality dining and Cannes is either bling bling or not worth the trip. No tasting menus, caviar, gold, lobsters and wagyu beef from distant lands arrive in the tiny kitchen chez Davia.

After gaining experience at the legendary restaurants in the region, chef Pierre gathered further skills and knowledge around the world — from the truffled cuisine at Bruno (Lorgues), Ducasse (Louis XV in Monaco), Maximin (Vence), Morisset, Gagnaire (Paris), Yannick Alleno, with brothers Pourcel he traveled to work in Shanghai, then moved to Hong Kong (Amber), Troisgros in Tokyo and finally at the Intercontinental in Osaka he met his current wife. Back in Nice, the chef with his passionate team elevate what they are given by the Mediterranean fisherman and Alpes Maritimes farmers into still authentic plates, yet better.

Cuisine NissardeTarte du Citron

Fresh lemon tart Tart du lemon in South of France

Sweet homey delights chez Davia

On our recent visit, the adorable mother of the chef took the orders with her broken English (my basic French mended all holes) and dedicatedly sat behind the desert counter, counting the receipt slips with such seriousness, that she must have recounted each at least three times. Chef Pierre Altobelli often ventures out from the kitchen later in the service, aiding the floor staff such as assuring that a proper grate of the sanguine-hued lemon zest is snowed over the exquisite lemon tart. The fragrant home-made tart is a must. A thin, buttery crust crumbles wholesomely under your spoon and the citrus fresh custard swishes through the mouth so lightly and puissant! Since I got carried away by the end of the meal, the crème brûlée is torched prior to serving, and while the ice cream is only vanilla flavour, it is made by a regional artisan for those who just must have it. The compact, open kitchen is just too small to add a gelato machine in.

Chez DaviaNicoise bistro cuisine

Seasonal gems on the weekly changing menu

In spring fava beans and green pea pods make it into homemade tagliatelle pasta au pistou (herbs and olive oil pesto) cooked perfectly al dente (in summer the delicate white coco beans take reign). A firm bite with fresh spring flavours. Also with young sugar-snap peas and sheep’s curd, the young favettes beans shine as much as on the raw artichoke salad.

We always order the signature marinated anchovies spiced up with pimment d’espelette generously drizzled over with olive oil. This is perhaps the best anchovy preparation we have ever put into our mouths, that perfectly pairs with the locally sourced bread, soaking all that perfection like a sponge. Delicately melting on your tongue with the sweet, slow roasted, skinned red pepper, topped with fresh basil leaves and a scant rosemary seasoning for some mouthfuls’ brightness of herbal flare.

Also a staple chez Davia are the stuffed sardines with the green leaves of chard. Crisply breaded, not greasy, the stuffed deep fried fish is accompanied as most sea bounty here with a slice of lemon.

Riviera cuisineCuisine Nissarde

Cold served ratatouille with Moroccan curry spice in summer. Aubergine and zucchini pickles add vinegary kick and a petal of courgette flower like a boat delivered the most sublime mouthfuls into my needy lips. In the heat, also the perfect rendition of Salade Niçoise or cold rabbit terrine with fragrant sage, a generous minestrone or soup with pistou (French version of pesto, without nuts, just herbs, garlic and oil). Aioli provencal also mades it into the menu. Basically, Riviera meets provencal cookbook with Italian influences (Nice used to belong to Italy), voila Niçoise cuisine! San Remo tender shrimps were served raw with a drizzle of olive and the lemon gold. Stockfish was cooked in San Remo style.

Nice bistroMediterranean CuisineFresh peas, lava beans, sheep's curdNicoise cuisine

With minced veal stuffed little local vegetables cannot be omitted on the traditional menu in Nice, and they also can make the main course. Still, in chef Pierre’s rendering they are delicately handled, not overcooked as elsewhere and light. The fish changes according to the daily catch. The Fennel fried line-caught rouget fish (red mullet) served with lemon and spicy rocket salad from Ventimiglia market was extraordinary. We know the farmers on this Italian border market very well. Only there we could find the best quality vegetables, seafood and fish on the entire Riviera. The daily-changing cheese plate is also from this market, but curated selectively from small local producers around the border between France and Italy.

Daube de beuf comme l’arriere pays Nicoise chez Davia is cooked slowly to mount-melting tenderness of the beef and topped with cooked beetroot and black Nicoise olives.

Mediterranean line-caught fishNicoise cuisine

The wine list chez Davia are mostly Southern bottles ranging from very affordable to rare finds. Many biodynamic or organically farmed. We like the local Clos St Vincent Blanc Le Clos from the whites if on the list (it slightly changes almost daily). Designated AOC Vin de Bellet, the winery spreads across the Niçoise hilly back country. Another time, a glass of Languedoc rosé to start was fresh yet floral deep like a blooming hibiscus. A characterful Rhone Syrah (photo far bellow) took us by our tails, so returning for second time that same week, we had to get another bottle.

wine from NiceMediterranean cheesefromageFrench wine

The menu chez Davia is handwritten entirely in French, but during the most touristy summer they pen up an additional English version. The sharp and helpful sommelier or the other waiters are eager to help with translation.

The only other family run restaurant with a similar style in Nice is the much smaller La Merenda in the old town. We like them both, but found the cuisine now chez Davia more refined, even sophisticated, while still satisfying with abundant, balanced flavours.

Address: 1bis Rue Grimaldi, 06000 Nice

Open for lunch Wednesday-Sunday 12:30-2pm & dinner 7:30-10pm

Closed all day Monday and Tuesday for lunch.


THE KNOWN UNKNOWN

THE KNOWN UNKNOWN is a poem I wrote while climbing one of my favourite trails in Côte d’Azur this spring. The flimsy April weather brings an abundance of clouds and fog hovering over the coastal Alpes Maritimes. While the Mediterranean blue brightens the low seaside, the rising rocky Alps shovel in a cape of veiled mystery. Add some spring wind, that pushing steady force, rather than the Mistral’s stormy disorder, and you get a moving scene of darkness and light.

Like the human soul, nature, which is within us, shows its dichotomy blending in, painting over light with cloudy darkness, shady glimpses of duality that don’t rest. Never the same, constantly changing. Like our emotions, like who we show that we are depending on the situation and perhaps the others, who are considered safe to accept our vulnerability.

THE KNOWN UNKNOWN

THE KNOWN UNKNOWN in the creative process

Nature has always inspired poets, painters, novelists, scientists, even powerful, millions of lives influencing politicians like Winston Churchill, who holidayed painting on Côte d’Azur. Since we are nature, naturally, we are moved by her swells. And some of these undulating waves breathe inside us the muses’ whispers or crash en force a storm of creativity. My own experience attests that all one needs is to accept the call of the muses and to be openly listening to the flow of this unexplainable joy that takes all over you. This is when one accesses the known unknown, the personal and collective unconscious meeting at once on the level of consciousness. Therefore, one cannot understand the words in some poems literally but metaphorically, and that is the puzzle to be riddled with a relishing poise of a player.

Forget reason, that comes later when you reflect on what intuitively was given to you and the poet. At the opening exhibition curated from the history of art at The Louvre Abu Dhabi arresting quotes accompanied the visual experience. A few touched my heart, some stirred the reason, others spoked united to my heart, reason and the soul.

Like this one: “The ignorant affirms, the leaned doubts, the wise reflects.”

THE KNOWN UNKNOWNTHE KNOWN UNKNOWNspirit898 meaning

THE KNOWN UNKNOWN in poetry

Often, I only understand what I wrote in the poetic swell, days, weeks, even years after I reread it. Able to connect the content with some further experience, the poem becomes the whole, self-sustaining entity more ready to be appreciated by the reader. Yet, as readers some poems we don’t understand until the ripe time in our eventful lives ushers clarity shaded by ignorance or the lack of cues. I could only get Shakespeare’s sonnets past my mid-thirties. Before then, I was a drowning swimmer in the whitewater of cluelessness. Then I saw a live performance By Heart in Brooklyn by a Portuguese director, well it was a one man show, plus the voluntary audience called to the stage, whose task was to memorise a part each of Shakespeare’s Sonnet number 30. Over the two hours we were all taken into the unknown depths of these magic fourteen lines, accompanied by the director’s insights and readings from other authors such as Boris Pasternak touched by this particular prodigious work. So, once I got this raft to paddle through, I was mesmerised by their universal, time-defying depth.

the musecoexistence

I gave you the raft by drawing the scenery that inspired me above, the skilful paddling is in your hands.

THE KNOWN UNKNOWN

Innocent beginning clothed blue

Bathing in the seaside morning 

I set to climb the unknown truth

A veil of dark fog hovering

In a weighed down ghastly mood, blown

Like a flying carpet of grey glue

Down is up, up is down, change is true

 

A poetic realm thrones high above

The noise of sunken humanity

Into a thick fog of vanity.

 

But here, the apian song grooves

My soul along its flawless notes

I feel so free diving in whole

While flying jolly through high and low

The verdant treasure throve of life

~RB

THE KNOWN UNKNOWN has an intuitive rhythm of 8-9-8. I’ve just googled the number and what showed up in the search results took my spirit by its tail. I am vaguely familiar with tarot, and only once was introduced to the so called Angel Cards. Pulling a symbolic card from the deck after a sound meditation session, I was rather amused than assured, yet this call from 898 rang a divine clue: “you are worthy of greatness. It means that you must detoxify your thoughts and environment. Get rid of all the negative reviews, toxic people, and situations in your life.”

New ZealandMountain lake

I shared this poem with a friend, adding: “Poems have hidden messages in them that we can only see in a certain stare of mind.” Of course I meant “state”, but one indeed has to pay close attention, literally, to stare at the content sometimes to decipher the meaning. She had to “let it sit for a few days” before getting it to “sink in”, meaning to grasp the details and the wholeness of it. Hopefully, she did.

The Nietzsche path up to Eze inspired a few of my poems. Some, I published on La Muse Blue previously. Depending on the season, my state of mind and the alignment of my heart and soul in that moment of strenuous climbing up, ideas flow, words pour out. I hope, they will guide you too for whatever fruitful purpose it may be.


Villa art by Jean Cocteau at Santo-Sospir in Cap Ferrat

Villa Santo-Sospir in Cap Ferrat is a special place on the glamorous coast of the French Riviera. Side by side with the lavish mansions of the ultra-rich, the by modern standards modestly sized vacation house, was in the early decades of the 20th century the hotspot of the most creative personalities of its era.

The owner of the villa Santo-Sospir madam Francine Weisweiller was a well-connected socialite. She hosted Coco Chanel, Picasso, and many others, who enjoyed a cocktail and certainly a captivating creative talk within its walls and on the tranquil, Côte d’Azur views offering patio.

Jean Cocteau as well as his adopted son stayed at the villa Santo-Sospir for 13 years. Not as ominous as they may seem, but certainly long for guests of any house. The wall art started one summer when his hyperactive mind bursted with mesmerising creative explosion on the villa’s walls, doors, wardrobes and finally in an elaborate colourful tapestry. The artist created by the Ancient Greek myths inspired frescoes that still adorn the ageing villa. The multi-skilled French poet, novelist and painter thus reclaimed an old form of a museum – an inhabited space filled with beauty created uniquely for the site and the numerous visitors passing through.

These artworks were made before the opening of the more conventional public museum dedicated to his oeuvres in the nearby Menton. It is essential to see now, before the walls crumble under the heavy weight of climate and time. The fading is already visible in the villa’s interiors, and the funding is scarce.

Santo-Sospir, 14 Avenue Jean Cocteau, 06000 St Jean Cap Ferrat, France
 They usually do not pick up, but leave a message on: +33 4 93 76 00 16
or email : santosospir@aliceadsl.fr
You can book simple lunch or dinner at the villa to experience the gorgeous sunset over the bay of Villefranche Sur Mer.


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