Film Scouts Diaries

1997 Cannes Film Festival Diaries
Dining in Cannes: Bistro de Mougins

by Jim Byerley

If Martha Stewart lived in a cave it would probably look something like the Bistro de Mougins. Chic country French meets the Cro-Magnon. Early in the 1997 Cannes Film Festival, Mougins is still eerily deserted. The impossibly picturesque hilltop village just down the road from the old Picasso place and only a 10 minute cab ride (sans traffic) from the Croisette) is a popular destination for festival goers. Tonight, however, pre-opening, the place is a ghost town. One chef standing outside his empty place even tries to recruit us for the evening. "No, no" we say," we're booked at the Bistro." "That's a good place" he said, "but go at your own risk." So much for Gallic neighborly good will.

A most congenial threesome works the fashionably decorated basement-level room at the Bistro de Mougins and they do it with incredible skill. We had to ask for our check twice, but otherwise our needs were met promptly and graciously. We were seated at the Bistro's best table, in my book, though it was next to the toilet. It was a table for two on the landing, as you entered. Several steps above the rest of the place, it afforded fabulous views over the entire layout, as if the dining room were a stage and we the audience. Our fellow diners were half-French, half- English speaking. A hefty American couple with South Carolina drawls were seated just below us. Announcing in a voice that most could hear that they were celebrating an anniversary, the couple was so relieved that the owner spoke English. "What is an aubergine, honey?"

The typical Provencal bistro menu is not awfully surprising. The duck fois gras was tasty and the toasted brioche bread served with it was habit-forming terrific. The simply prepared white asparagus, was as big as a baby's, well, they were over the edge of the plate, believe me. The taste of Spring was alive and well in a House Beautiful basement in Mougins. Other appetizers offered in the prix fixe menu (175 FF) were soup de poisson, eggplant (that's aubergine, honey) caviar and the like.

Several fish dishes were offered, as well as liver, lamb, beef and kidneys. The grilled Mediterranean loup was served whole, stuffed with fennel and was cooked just long enough. Plenty of flavorful olive oil from the neighborhood was available to dribble over the flaky white flesh. Served with some tasty zucchini, potatoes, broccoli and carrots, it was so pretty that we took a picture. A crisp uncomplicated vin rose from nearby Chateau Ste. Roseline was the ideal accompaniment.

Desserts available this night were recited by our charming hostess. Lemon tart, various ice creams, assorted sorbets, etc, but we settled for the luscious fig tart and a slice of chocolate something floating in a puddle of creme anglaise. The basic cheese course offered just before, was limited, but entirely satisfactory.

While other Mougins restaurants went begging for business this night, the packed Bistro turned away several parties that arrived sans reservations. During this anniversary Festival, be sure to call ahead. And yes, the owner does speak English. Down below us, the happy American couple was embracing the French couple at the next table who had just bought them a glass of Champagne. Tres content, they were well on their way to their own glorious 50th.

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