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Top 3 beach restaurants in Cannes (forget the hotdogs)

If you are the type who ventures into the city in the middle of the day, sweating buckets, looking for that bargain hotdog stand – stop reading now! However, if your understanding of a pleasant lunch is a glass of chilled Chablis, some exquisite food, all located a few steps from your sun-bed, then go no further, here is your ultimate guide to the best beach restaurants in Cannes.

These three places have many things in common: mouth-watering food, eye-watering prices, efficient if a bit slow service (but then again, who is in a hurry). Every summer during the fireworks festival they offer additional seating so you can view the spectacular show while chewing on a shrimp.

Miramar Plage
Miramar Plage is probably the best of the lot that caters both lunch and dinner in a pleasant setting. The food is top-end gourmet including some outstanding seafood. The wine list is extensive but avoid asking the waiter for advice, he will point you to the most exuberantly over-priced bottle and if you are as polite as Alex, you will end up buying it (poor fella). Rule of thumb: for White and Rosé pick between 30 and 60 Euros, go up slightly if you choose a Red.

Miramar Plage

Zplage Beach Restaurant, Hotel Martinez
Since we stayed at this hotel, most of the time we also ate lunch here. The food at Zplage is a concoction of traditional Mediterranean and Asian (woks are prominent on the menu). The dishes are somewhat bland, so if you are into spicy, this restaurant should not be your first choice (or ask for Tabasco, as we did). One of its claims to fame is a 54 Euro (appr. 70 USD) hamburger. We thought we found the most expensive one in Hotel La Mamounia in Marrakech, but no, this one outdoes it in price (and size). Here, Hanna recommends the shrimp wok and Alex – the Black Angus filet steak.

Carlton Beach Restaurant, Carlton Hotel
Probably the most luxurious of the three where the really glitzy crowd descends in the evening. Celebrities just can’t keep their hands and stomachs away from this place. The food, as expected, is reliably good as is the service and the ambiance. Carlton Beach Restaurant is the biggest, so during fireworks season you have a better chance of getting a table here at short notice than at the other two establishments.

Psst, between us, but keep it quiet, OK? We also went to a hotdog stand a couple of times on La Croisette. Try Le 6, top of the top. The best hotdog it town!

A peek into the kitchen at the Carlton beach restaurant

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Not quite dressed for success, in Grasse

Restaurant La Bastide Saint-Antoine is part of this beautiful 5-star boutique hotel (Relais and Chateaux group)

On our way to visit Grasse, a small picturesque village in the south of France, we asked our taxi driver if he could recommend us a good lunch place. He gave us a name of one of his favorite restaurants and insisted that we can’t bypass it. “The olive oil they use is locally produced and you’ll love the food!” he told us.

Since we were not even slightly dressed up, we assumed he had recommended us a charming family owned little restaurant somewhere in the countryside at dirt cheap prices. Boy, were we wrong.

The little hole-in-the-wall-cafe we had expected ended up being a world-renowned Michelin star restaurant – La Bastide Saint-Antoine – owned by chef Jacques Chibois. And to our horror we had arrived to this top-notch gourmet restaurant, located in the middle of nowhere, with one of the nicest terraces we have ever seen, overlooking a beautiful valley – wearing flip-flops and shorts!! Trust us, we were in stark contrast to everything this place is famous for – class, taste, sophistication.

La Bastide Saint-Antoine

We desperately waved to the taxi driver (we have to leave now, we are NOT dressed for this!!) but it was too late, the car had already disappeared around the corner.

However, to our continued surprise, we were allowed in (note to ourselves: don’t make that mistake again, next time they might ask us to leave) and shown to a delightful table. And surprises didn’t stop here. Being aficionados of good food, we know how much it costs to eat in such a restaurant. However, the lunch menu was at a fixed and very reasonable price.

The fois gras, the shrimps (as starters) were beyond words. The sea bass (as our main choice) could hardly be more recommended. Pencil in the view and we probably found one of the most romantic and idyllic hideaways in south of France.

The restaurant is part of a boutique 5-star hotel (Relais and Chateaux group) and a weekend here is something we would whole-heartedly recommend.

Follow the joyful animals from Madagascar to Hotel de Paris

There are luxury hotels, and there are LUXURY hotels. Hotel de Paris in Monte Carlo definitely belongs to the second group. We have written about James Bond in a previous hotel review but here it would actually be a disservice to our readers not to mention 007. With all the glamour and flair this hotel radiates, no wonder a couple of James Bond movies were filmed on its premises. In fact, it’s not hard to picture Sean Connery elegantly entering the lobby, charmingly looking around with glitter in his eyes before he sits down for a martini at Le Bar Americain. The hotel has also been featured in two additional Hollywood blockbusters, Iron Man 2 and Madagascar 3, while plenty of other movies have been filmed in the vicinity.

A humble little bouquet in the lobby

To be honest, we really couldn’t find anything to fault Hotel de Paris (what were we expecting?). The service was exquisite, quick, efficient and non-intrusive. The hotel, which was established in 1864, has “chateau-like” rooms that are beautifully decorated, spacious and offer everything imaginable.

Superior Room

Superior Room

In the evening, Le Bar Americain will entertain guests with some jazzy tunes and if you are up for a game of roulette (of course you are), the Monte Carlo Casino is located just across the street.

The hotel is a regular item on the Conde Nast Traveller Gold List and to sum it up – you will not be disappointed staying at Hotel de Paris in Monte Carlo. All your needs will be taken care of (for a hefty price, of course).

Rating: 5/5

A Killer Bill in Nice

La Petite Maison – not so scary after all

Visiting Nice for the first time we, of course, had absolutely no clue where to go for dinner. Checking at the hotel where we were staying seemed to be the best bet we could come up with and after hearing our preferences, the concierge replied:

-There is one place I would recommend to you and it’s called La Petite Maison. It’s the trendiest place in town, the food is amazing and on top of that – it is Elton Johns and many other celebrities favorite eatery.

-Great, we replied. Can you please book a table for two?

-But there is one thing you should know before you make up your mind, she said.

The woman looked at us and the tone of her voice suddenly changed. She leaned forward and whispered:

-I must warn you, the place is sort of famous for its rude service. I mean VERY rude service.

She eyed us up and down as if she was doubting we would think her recommendation sounded as such a great idea after all.

Trying to look as cool as possible we replied in one voice:

-Book us there. 9 PM. Sharp.

Later in the evening, while strolling down the street towards the restaurant, we suddenly started to question our decision. Why, in our right mind, were we voluntarily going to a place where the service is famous for its rudeness? (Read Tripadvisor and you will see that this is no joke). But there was no more time to think about our decision now. We had arrived. On wobbly and shaky legs we entered the restaurant with the same feeling most seven year old’s have during their first day at school. Pure fear.

To our surprise (and disappointment) nothing particularly scary happened during the dinner. Instead, the service was quite the opposite – very friendly. But it was still hard to stay completely relaxed, and when it was time to pay the bill, we suddenly noticed that our waiter by mistake actually had charged us for four (!!) lobster pastas (instead of two). However, after hearing the concierge’s earlier warnings about the place, that was something we never dared to question…

For reservations, please call: +33 4 92 98 77 89 (and BTW…Good Luck!)

Hotel Benkirai – a charming place in glamorous St. Tropez

Hotel Benkirai in St. Tropez is advertised on several travel websites as a five star establishment, which it is not. It is in fact a nice four star hotel to spend a few days enjoying life on the French Riviera. It’s located only a five minute drive from St. Tropez with all its beaches and jet-set life this former fishing village, turned glamour capital, has to offer. The hotel has an excellent taxi service free-of-charge until midnight, so you can easily go to town or enjoy the beach whenever you feel like it.

The hotel itself is very pleasant with a lovely restaurant/bar area, a nice pool and plenty of comfortable sun beds (in the morning you are not stressed looking for a place to put down your old bones to get some tan). The rooms are small, that is a fact, but rather well designed in light blue and white colors. You have either a nice terrace or a balcony. You may feel a bit claustrophobic, but then again, who comes to St. Tropez to hang around in the hotel room?

The restaurant serves traditional Mediterranean food in a tranquil setting and is an excellent choice if you don’t have the energy to take the taxi downtown. Being rather picky travelers, we were not able to fault the service even one small bit, everything was top notch. And most importantly, Sam (our dog) was very much welcomed. So if you are planning a visit to St. Tropez and don’t want to stay in the town itself, don’t hesitate to book Hotel Benkirai, it’s an absolutely beautiful place with plenty of charm.

Rating: 4/5

Pool area

Mr. K’s dazzling world of Chinese food

Alex went to Mr. K’s, and all we got was this this lousy photo.

There are over 45,000 Chinese restaurants in the U.S. and, according to Chinese Restaurant News, Mr. K’s in Manhattan is #4 in the entire country and #1 in New York City. That is an achievement hard to beat and when you visit Mr. K’s you understand why. Run by Johnny Kao and his family for over 30 years, Mr. K’s never stops to amaze with its exquisite cuisine, excellent wine list and truly outstanding service. There are numerous choices on the menu but in our view you have to try the dumplings (they offer several options, all are great). The shrimp dishes are mouthwatering good and Mr. K’s is also famous for its Peking Duck. Let’s put it this way – whatever you try, you will not be disappointed. Just remember: this restaurant is definitely not a five-dollar-all-you-can-eat-buffet. It’s an extremely stylish place to enjoy and savor the tastes from the Shanghai, Peking, Hunan, and Szechuan regions.

Mr. K’s
570 Lexington Ave, New York
Tel.: (212) 583-1668

Salobre Golf Villas – a true paradise but don’t forget the car!

Located on a fantastic golf course in Maspalomas in the south of Gran Canaria, the Salobre Golf Villas offer their guests (usually golfers) a very comfortable stay. When you book your villa you can choose the number of bedrooms you need, if you want a private pool, how big it should be, etc. A fully equipped kitchen and daily bread service are included. You also get full house-cleaning once a week. The location of the villas are really nice but secluded. There is a small convenience store in the area that offers basic products but if you are into some serious cooking or barbequeing you will have to venture out to one of the bigger grocery stores in Maspalomas (10 minutes car ride away). In other words, if you don’t rent a car be prepared to spend a small fortune on taxies on a daily basis.

Photo: Salobre Golf

The villa we stayed in was located on top of a hill where we could enjoy an amazing view of the entire golf course and the ocean. It is not exactly on the cheap side but if you are a family of four and rent it for a couple of weeks you will certainly spend less compared to a similar level hotel (where you will be confined to a small room and a shared pool, how annoying!) One note of caution though: avoid the WiFi if you can – it is E.X.P.E.N.S.I.V.E. But, otherwise, be prepared to spend a blissful holiday at the Salobre Golf Villas. You will enjoy it!

Photo: Salobre Golf

Hotel Santa Catalina – a historic weekend hideaway

Hotel Santa Catalina is considered the best hotel in Las Palmas (Gran Canaria) and all major dignitaries usually stay here. It offers 202 rooms decorated in a beautiful old Spanish style and the junior suites are very spacious. The ones at the lower levels have huge terraces overlooking a park.

The hotel has one buffet restaurant and one a la carte restaurant (nicely located at the terrace next to the main entrance) and one bar. We stayed in this hotel several times and generally had a very pleasant experience. It has a historic feeling that is compelling, especially compared to the super modern five star hotel complexes in Maspalomas and Meloneras. The breakfast is nice but you are better off having lunch or dinner somewhere else. Restaurant Segundo Muelle located next door is the best choice in our view; they serve exquisite food in a trendy atmosphere.

There is an OK-ish pool, pretty small for a five star but functional enough and there is also a spa (unfortunately we never checked it out since it looked quite old). The location is fabulous, you are next to the Yacht Harbor with many restaurants and bars and downtown shopping is only a few minutes away.  Hotel Santa Catalina is a nice place to spend a weekend but would not be our first choice for a week-long holiday. The hotel has a pleasant atmosphere but is in need of some renovation to remain number one in Las Palmas.

Rating: 3/5

Puttin’ on the Ritz

If you are dressed up like a million dollar trouper and have a few hours to spare, one of the best brunches offered in Washington, D.C. is at the Fyve Restaurant Lounge in the Ritz-Carlton Pentagon City. The place is not big but highly luxurious. The staff make sure everything is top notch and the buffet selection is beyond one’s imagination. You can go for salmon, shrimps, the likes, or have a more traditional breakfast. There is also a main course included in the price (if you can still eat after helping yourself a couple of times at the buffet).

As would seem obvious in such a fancy place but never checked by us before (banging our heads on the wall), champagne is unlimited so if no serious tasks  planned for later, the waiter will make sure that your glass is amply full throughout the meal. Fyve is famous for dining the power elites of D.C. and you definitely will feel like one. So, if-you’re-blue-and-you-don’t-know-where-to-go-to-why-don’t-you-go-where-fashion-sits…

Aquavit – Nordic tastes with a twist

Aquavit’s Executive Chef Marcus Jernmark (Photo: Evan Sung)

New York Times two-star rated restaurant Aquavit is run by Swedish Executive Chef Marcus Jernmark from Gothenburg. He has recently been ranked 2012 Top 5 rising chefs in the U.S. and samandthedunes managed to meet him for an exclusive interview.

“I started working at Aquavit as an Executive Sous Chef in 2009 after my job as Executive Chef at the Swedish Consulate in New York.  There I got the chance to cook for celebrities, royalty, politicians and over 25 Nobel Prize winners and it was a great experience,” says Jernmark. In April, 2010, after only six months at Aquavit, he got the opportunity to take over the role as Executive Chef after Marcus Samuelsson’s departure.

To stand out among the many restaurants in Manhattan, Jernmark explains that Aquavit is not a traditional mid-town New York restaurant. “For example, we change the menu every day and I like to be spontaneous in the kitchen, play with new ingredients and see what happens,” he says.  One of the Jernmark’s signature dishes is “forgotten beets.” “Yes, I once forgot some beets in the kitchen and the next day I experimented and the dish tasted even better,” says Jernmark.

(Photo: Evan Sung)

You will of course find many traditional Nordic fares on the menu like pickled herring, gravlax but also beef, seafood and some exotic desserts (how about Artic Birds Nest or Raspberry Cylinder). “Previously we only had a four course prix fixe menu but now we moved to a la carte which makes it more approachable,” Jernmark explains.

Among the guests there are many celebrities, including First Lady Obama. “We try to be discreet so that everybody can enjoy a private moment in Aquavit,” says Jernmark.

After the interview samandthedunes tried the New Jersey Asparagus, Gravlax 37C, Charred Icelandic Cod and Seafood “Norden 2012” and we just loved the unique, modern and clean tastes. The presentation was superb. We were even offered their fine selection of Aquavit shots with unique flavors of cucumber and figs. If you are looking for a first class evening in Manhattan and enjoy seasonal Scandinavian cuisine with an experimental touch in a classy setting, Aquavit is the place you should visit. Chef Jernmark shows why he has been ranked 2012 Top 5 rising chefs in the U.S. and will make your dinner an unforgettable experience.

More news about Aquavit: A Michelin Star is Born!

(Photo: Evan Sung)

Aquavit interior (Photo: Evan Sung)

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