Mantel of greatness? The pun is inescapable – and the restaurant’s pretty ace, too.
Cannes’old town wanders up Suquet Hill via wriggling streets crammed with visitors and lined with restaurants. This being the case, the said restaurants are scorned by local know-it-alls as 'tourist traps'. Which tells you all you need to know about local knowledge.
The truth is that there are plenty of good eateries on these tiny, steep thoroughfares. If they weren’t at least acceptable, they’d have gone bust. Mantel is one of the best. It’s named after owner Noël Mantel, who has worked with French superstar chef Alain Ducasse and so cannot be entirely dozy.
For the last eight years, he and Dutch wife Brenda have quietly cooked their way into the front rank of Cannes catering. When you taste the risotto with truffles, you’ll understand why. Oddly for Cannes, the place has no terrace. It’s not that kind of spot. Instead, you make a rather discreet entry – via wine racks and a window-full of pastries – to a dining area which is strangely relaxing, in a contemporary, late-night sort of way.
The light is dappled, the tones by turn earthy, bright and soft. There are brown banquettes and the inevitable white flowers in glass tubes. From the walls you are overlooked by Alfred Hitchcock, Cary Grant and Simone Signoret, all in black and white, as in real films.
Somehow I feel that Humphrey Bogart might have been at ease here – except, of course, that he couldn’t have smoked. But he’d have appreciated the wine list. It’s studded with greats and has a good regional selection, too. Look out for Château Roubine pinks and reds (though I reckon £36 a bottle a bit steep, even if they are excellent).
I’ve no idea of Bogart’s taste in food – or even if he had one – but I doubt he would have recoiled before the line-caught sea-bass or the cod au gros sel. These, like the restaurant’s speciality risottos, are simple dishes brought off skilfully.
Hanging from gutters
And the lemon tart would have ascetics hanging themselves from gutters.
Ah yes, say the know-it-alls. (Believe me, I’ve heard them.) Mantel is the exception in the Suquet district. Well, yes and no. He’s excellent – but there are other good addresses nearby keeping him on his toes. To mix bodily metaphors, it is entirely to his credit that he keeps his nose in front.