Never judge a book by its cover plastic foods pictured below is as real as it gets. When I first came to Japan I couldn’t believe how visual Japanese were. I learned early on how to judge food visually and since the 1980’s I trained myself since I rarely if ever, eat in any restaurant without doing a “pass-through” walking in the restaurant to the washroom (just to get a look-see) I would check tables and scope out the dishes. I could see how the food was cooked, prepared, and presented and decide whether or not I would stay or leave.
This takes me back in time: twenty-four years ago we were visiting Monaco (staying at Hotel de Paris) and the concierge recommended a restaurant in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin a commune in the Alpes-Maritimes department in southeastern France between Monaco and Menton. A small coastal town was asleep with an old fashioned building and inside was a real surprise!
We arrived for a dinner reservation at 19h00 to a restaurant named Le Roquebrune and it looked quite road-side shabby from the outside and not what I expected.
It was let’s say, cote Côte d’Azur shabby chic, quite common but be careful before going in. I needed to check it out, this was standard practice for all new restaurants especially those recommended by a concierge. Everyone waited in the car and I came into the fireplace at the entrance and a kind of obnoxious red interior. I wasn’t sure until I stepped into the dining room and inspected my table and the foods being served I realized this was going to be a journey.
Le Roquebrune was one of those restaurants you’ll never forget, a cozy old fashioned non-descript restaurant with lots of funky charm. The business was family-owned and operated by Patricia and her sister in the kitchen Marina, her Mom at the cash, and her Dad the sommelier. (pictured below)
They eventually passed away and the family kind of continued but barely. They closed the restaurant and opened a bed and breakfast and the restaurant operates sur demande.
Le Roquebrune was the best hiding place of the rich and famous and I was neither by a local definition. Mobutu Sese Seko Kuku Ngbendu Wa Za Banga the famed African leader was the number one client. His name told by local citizens meant “Mobutu the mighty rooster who leaves no hen untouched.” Given that “kuku” means “hen”, and “seko” means “rooster”. Everyone knows him by his Leopard hat he never was without it. Actually derived from an Africanized version of a British Army “garryowen” it resembles in shape.
The ruler of Zaire and he had a big appetite for life. He just kept the restaurant going and his villa nearby was staffed to the brink. His villa was as you would expect, lavishly furnished in bad taste.
Then Adnan Khashoggi was a Saudi Arabian businessman known for his lavish business deals and lifestyle, he was one of my favorite non-political in comparison to Mobutu, he was a regular at Le Roquebrune. Adnan knew how to live it up with the best of the best in luxury. His jets were stylish and his yacht Nabila was state of the art, later owned by none other than Donald Trump.
We became frequent customers of Le Roquebrune and we couldn’t get enough of their fresh fish, the crudites extraordinaire, and the fresh souffle made from lemons from their garden. The mimosa would be abundant and placed with the crudites onto our table prior to our arrival. I would often go early to catch a glimpse of the Fisherman’s fish basket, hand-carried into the restaurant.
It was Sundays Alain Ducasse would be sitting there (his day off from Louis XV) the three-star Michelin in the Hotel de Paris. A very “traditional” menu where you will find Crêpes Suzette, Grilled fish, and soufflé. The Marinovich family would maintain “all products are bought from real peasants, proud of their profession, who know how to do with nature and let things live, little treatment and a magnificent taste. She would say “we are committed to buying the good and serving the good.” As for the fish, presented to customers who choose them according to arrivals, they are bought directly from fishermen, and their grandparents already served my mother”.
The products were exceptional quality and the preparation made with the greatest simplicity, they bordered perfection. Patricia understands customer loyalty after but so many years of hard work she closes the restaurant.
It was an extraordinary restaurant at the time, none quite like it – and like all good things…they come to an end.
Le Roquebrune Hôtel***