28 December 2014

Absinthe Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

Yesterday we took a trip to Antibes, which is only a 15-minute train ride from Cannes. We had a little potter around the town centre and then headed to chef Christian Morisset's restaurant, Le Figuier de Saint-Esprit, a gorgeous little restaurant in an unassuming building on the seafront on rue Saint-Esprit.

It was much too cold and windy for outdoor dining, but our table in the main room inside was so pretty, it almost felt like we were outside: the central eponymous fig tree was decorated with sparkly purple decorations, which coordinated nicely with the pink and purple tableware. There is a dégustation menu, but we ordered à la carte and enjoyed a glass of pink Champagne while we considered our next move.

After an amuse-bouche of crab, cucumber and parmesan, the starters arrived. I ordered the langoustines and chicken wings, which came with a thick mushroom soup that was rather, er, mushroomy than I was expecting. The langoustines and chicken were utterly delicious, though, and served on a bed of vegetable tagliatelle. My brother and I shared the beef for our main course and it was epic. It came beautifully medium rare and was so tender and flavoursome, I didn't worry too much about how full I was getting.

Then it was time for the puddings and, to my delight, everyone got a small portion of the chef's speciality pudding — lavender crème brûlée — and a sampling of petits fours, as well as a main pudding. For the latter, I chose the Madagascan dark chocolate moelleux, which contained a peppery jelly and was served with a sort of chocolate-praline semifreddo bar. Both were sinfully rich and extremely tasty. Le Figuier isn't cheap but if you are ever in Antibes and would like to find a restaurant for a really special meal, look no further.

From the sublime to the... Antibes Absinthe Bar? Antibes' absinthe bar and museum is located in a cosy basement just opposite the market on Cours Masséna. We squeezed our way down the narrow, winding staircase and took a seat at one of the small tables, which had already been set up with the absinthe kit.

The walls are adorned with vintage absinthe posters and there is a wide selection of comedy hats available for borrowing to add to the surreality. We each had a glass of absinthe (€7) into which we dripped water and sugar and soon we were enjoying our drinks. Well, actually, I was the only one who really liked the aniseedy goodness, but the others made a good go of it too.

Afterwards, I realised that I could have had a pink or turquoise drink instead — I think they were varieties of Pernod — but I'll have to save that for another visit.

Le Figuier Saint-Esprit. 14 rue Saint-Esprit, Antibes, France. Website. Facebook.

Antibes Absinthe Bar. 25 Cours Masséna, Antibes, France. Details. Facebook.

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