Cannes: Grading the Hotel Breakfast Buffets
This story first appeared in The Hollywood Reporter's Cannes Daily on May 16.
The buffet is, admittedly, both a French term and invention (dating to the 1700s), referring to the serve-yourself smorgasboard and the sideboard furniture on which it’s presented. But the all-you-can-eat ethos of the breakfast buffet is 100 percent American. So it’s always fun to observe the begrudging gall with which the Gauls translate the now-foreign concept into their native tongue. THR visited Cannes’ A-list hotel trio to find out how they fared.
The hotel’s brasserie Fouquet’s, given to a decor of dark paisley and hushed lamp sconces, nails American can-do service attentiveness, asking “Newspaper? Coffee? Anything special aside from the buffet?” even before you’ve had a chance to sit down. That exuberance didn’t extend to the spread. Sure, a decent, if uninspired, selection of the expected standards was offered: fruits, cereals, charcuterie, bacon and sausage, deliveries from the boulangerie. But the admirably extensive cheese selection was sweaty (how about a glass dome?) and the crepes were tasteless and brittle (maybe they shouldn’t be left to wither under heat lamps?). Worse, the coffee was burnt. Price: €39 per person
Quintessentially Cannes, all swirling mosaic tile, flowing palms and sunlight, the Martinez’ indoor-outdoor breakfast setup feels ideal for light meals — croissants (perfectly flaky) and fruit (there’s a legitimate spread). A good thing, because unlike its counterparts, there is a distinct lack of festive indulgence to the affair: no gratis champagne, no particularly exotic offerings. Still, alone among the trio, it goes in for the have-it-your-way Americanism of a dedicated omelet maker, and he’s plenty capable. The only trouble lies in the so-called hot section, which simply wasn’t hot enough. Everything aside from the potatoes — the eggs, sausage, bacon, etc. — was lukewarm. Turn up the burners, s’il vous plait! Price: €40 per person
Now we’re talking: a bright, white, wedding- cake-like space; sprawling food selection that suggests infinitude; and a distinctly cheery, un-French style of service that fits the populist breakfast buffet tradition. (At least on the rather slow day THR stopped by on the morning of the Grace of Monaco premiere.) All of the basics are on point. But it’s the special touches and the smart decisions that place the Carlton above the rest. Bubbly isn’t just presented on ice; it’s accompanied by madeleines for full Proustian effect. Cured salmon isn’t just offered (properly, within a handsome refrigerated shelf); it’s presented in three variations, with all of the trimmings, from lemon wedges to chive cream. Price: €42 per person