Just standing at the front of Le Club 55 and waiting to be seated is a waste of time. Even if you have a reservation. Particularly if you have a reservation. Unless you’re P Diddy or something. What you have to do is thread your way through the enormous bamboo-covered patio to the back, where you’re likely to find a surly waiter or two and emphatically tell them you are here and you are ready to be seated—now. Then there is the question of where to be seated. Is it better to be down on the main patio, closer to the beach, or at one of the slightly elevated tables in the back looking out over the scene? Most likely they’ll just seat you wherever there’s an empty table. That’s what happened to us.
The first thing we did was order the epic crudités pour la table. Not because any of us were really dying to gnaw on raw mushrooms or whole bell peppers but because it looks nice and gives you something to do while you’re looking around at the other diners and trying to figure out what to have for lunch. We also ordered a couple of bottles of rose from the nearby vineyards of Provence.
Somehow, Sanc-et-Sanc, which has been here for over 50 years, still works. I mean, you’d think that the most famous café on the Cote d’Azur would be nothing but a tourist trap at this point, but it’s not. The setting is simple and understated (I liked the way the busboys keep cutlery and napkins stored in wicker baskets stashed in the branches of the tamarisk trees)—wooden tables and chairs, like you might find under the trees of a farmhouse in Provence, and a few U-shaped white sofas for larger parties. They throw down a simple pale blue tablecloth, grab some cutlery from the trees, bring out your wine, and then you just kick back and enjoy. The sommelier doesn’t come around and no one wants to tell you about the specials du jour.
I would never imagine going to Club 55 for the food, and yet you know what? It’s quite good. And, like the setting, very simple. You start with a cold artichoke with vinaigrette or perhaps the salad nicoise, with salty, succulent anchovies, and then order something from the Mediterranean—grilled sardines, for instance, all smoky and crisp, or sparkling fresh St Pierre, moist and perfectly cooked, served with buttery slices of potato that have been smeared with olive oil and roasted. Nothing exotic. Nothing pretentious. Just good, local ingredients perfectly prepared that are, nonetheless, as beautiful and seductive as the Pucci-wrapped women sitting at the table next to you admiring your fine plate of crudités.