Restaurants on the Coast, an Exception that Proves the Rule?
I have this strange fascination with the phrase ‘the exception that proves the rule’ because it tends to pop up in discussions where I have no idea what people are on about, except for the fact that the idiom is routinely being used to imply that something is true if it is sometimes false, which, of course, has no semantic resemblance to what Cicero first proposed many, many moons ago. It’s a clever-sounding expression that tends to pop up in clever-sounding discussions, usually delivered with a clever air, the nose slightly tilted up. Politeness dictates that one respond by nodding, with a look of agreement. However, you know that Cicero is rolling his eyes once again in his grave and that he is probably feeling dizzy and nauseous after having to constantly roll his eyes. It seems to have met a fate similar to that of ‘love conquers all’.
The rule: all restaurants right at the coast, especially in France, are to be avoided.
On the beach, across the road from the beach, on the promenade, at the port… Just like coffee all over France, there are only two kinds, bad and horrid. The only thing one ought to have is a drink. Generally speaking. It is probably a safe procedure to follow in unfamiliar territories because it tends to be, by their very nature, rare that one stumbles upon exceptions by chance.
Le Club 55 on the Pampelonne beach never disappoints. Just about everything there is constant and consistent. Patrice gained a bit of weight more recently, but I think he looks better that way. People of a certain age appear nicer and warmer if they are a bit rounder.
His staff obviously take pride in their work. They are committed members of the trade. The bald waiter has been there for yonks, probably about 20 years. The Bald Guy is constantly talking to himself, often moaning about his job, declaring that he has had enough of it. He never smiles. I don’t remember him ever having hair. I do wonder whether he ever actually had hair. He is in a short sleeve shirt in the middle of winter. The first time he serves your table, you are likely to find him a little abrupt and not exactly charming. But, he is very efficient and works very hard; everyone there works like clockwork. People-watching is a constant dish that is served up but not on the menu at 55. After you get over the initial encounter, you realise that the Bald Guy is one of the people to watch. It’s actually quite amusing to watch him. You would be forgiven for thinking that he could be a character out of Le Gendarme de Saint-Tropez. It’s not too difficult to imagine him having run-ins with Louis de Funès. Behind the façade of grumpiness, you see that he actually has the interest of his customers at heart.
And, no plastic furniture.
And the food is consistently good. The corn-on-the-cob and gambas are always sweet and tender. The steak tartare is always fresh and consistently flavoured. Year-round, every year. You get there, sit down, choose the dishes and eat. With no worries. They will take good care of you, and the food will be as good as the last time, every time.
55 is an exception that disproves the rule.