Le Club 55: Eternal Classic.
43 Boulevard Patch, 83350 Ramatuelle, Франция / 13 сентября 2017
There is a phenomenon of beach clubs In Saint-Tropez. As the legend has it, this one was exactly one of the first and it was born accidentally, when the crew of Roger Vadim was filming “And God created woman” right here on the beach and asked some fishermen to sell them fish and to cook it. The owner gave the filmmakers some vegetables from her garden, I’m almost sure they were local beef’s heart tomatoes, sweet pepper and green onions. She also boiled some eggs, cut bread, took out a jar of oil, fried sardines in the pan and threw a bottle of house rose on the filmmakers’ table. They ate and drank right there by the hut, under a tree on the beach. Then the filmmakers would come back again and again. Then there appeared tourists, and the fisher woman figured out that keeping a tavern was quite profitable and gave up fishing.
Now there are more tables, the choice of food and wines has increased, the former fishing house has become the kitchen, the backyard is now a parking lot, and the son of that woman, whose name is Patrice, now runs the establishment. By the way, there’s a good story and at the same time an important life hack about Patrice and my good friend Andrey Fomin. If you call there in August and try to book a table for the same day, it’s more than likely that they’ll turn you down. But if there are just two or three of you and you just show up there before 13-00 and hand a 20 to a waiter, this way you’ll get a table. And this is what Fomin used to do for many years in row. Taking Patrice for one of the waiters, he would give him a bribe in the form of a 20 and get a table. Patrice in his turn would take the “blue one” with joy and without embarrassment and give a table.
55 has its own rules, which create its particular atmosphere. The rules are simple: no music, no dancing, no assholes like jugglers scrounging around the tables, no Ukrainian models demonstrating any trashy swimwear. The menu never changes and “never” here means “absolutely never”. The core of the menu was formed about 50 years ago and it has a collar of 15-18 dishes of the day. They daily serve three dishes of the day. The concept of food is all about that stuff that the woman used to give to the filmmakers, but brought to a higher level. A higher level, in a good sense.
At 55 no one shows off and there are no people who sit down there and say: “come on, fucking entertain me”. People who come there are as a rule self-contained and calm and don’t have the habit of pouring champagne on each other. The staff, hearing Russian speech, doesn’t try to push you Dom Perignon Rose Magnum. Disgusting slaughterhouses like Nikki Beach, Bagatelle, Les Palmiers, Shellona, etc., have totally overthrown the essence of Saint Tropez and its traditions. The idea was to break away from the Mordor of Monaco, Cap-Ferrat and other Caps, and at last gain some freedom and simplicity on the sandy beaches. But in reality they’ve just built petting zoos all around. You can and even should visit them once, but it’s impossible to stay there for a long time because of the abundance of audio-visual noise.
Let’s get back to food. After you take a seat, they immediately throw some grilled homemade bread and butter with ice on your table. Then you should always ask for a basket of fresh vegetables. Exactly those from the woman’s garden, with boiled eggs. A basket for two people kills 6 grown-up eaters at once, a basket for 4 kicks out of the game a table of 10 grown-ups and kids. It took me a long while to get why these vegetables are so tasty. It turned out that they have a huge garden, so they don’t store vegetables but immediately put them on the table. After the basket you start thinking – “why the hell did we even order all that?” – but they bring you appetizers: boiled artichokes, baked sweet pepper with anchovies, onion cake (sort of ingenious quiche with onions), deep-fried small fish, mussels in wine and sardines. We drink local branded Cuve 55, rose and white. We’re dying, but then we get a second breath. It’s common courtesy to have a big fish for everybody as the main course. I’m sincerely sorry for those people who don’t eat fish, they can have meat in the form of steak with pepper or beefsteak with egg.
There isn’t much meat here. And they don’t serve fucking scallops, neither burrata with tomatoes, nor pasta with truffle and no risotto with saffron. Those aren’t local stuff.
I almost forgot the most important thing: when you sit down at the table, ask them to put aside for you the desired number of portions of their signature cake with red berries, it comes to an end pretty quick. And it’s important to know that in 55 you can’t reserve a table for a certain hour, there are only two options: for 13-00 and for 15-00, nothing in between or after. And the last life hack: you’ll have to wait for about an hour or an hour and a half for a big fish for 5-6 people, it takes a long time to prepare it. And they never warn.
One more thing: there’s a special zone in the corner where people sit by a concrete wall. There are only small tables for 2-4 people there. This is the most VIP space, which is usually taken by some old men who have been coming to 55 for many and many years in a row. I used to know David Hamilton, a half-forgotten British photographer, he committed suicide in Paris at the age of 80 last autumn, whether because of loneliness, or illness, or he simply ran out of money and fell on evil days. So he used to spend each summer in Saint Tropez and he would come each day to 55 during the last forty-five years. There are about 5 more such old men and they always stick to the wall, each of them has a glass of red and “plat de jour”, and so they sit there staring at the visitors.