I’ve always been somewhat on the fence regarding New York New York in Cannes. Ostensibly a very glamourous restaurant, oozing style and a certain upmarket swanky-ness, yet I’ve never been totally convinced by its overpriced food and below-par service. One of the first times I ate there, I ordered a rack of lamb, which was flambéed table side in Jack Daniels. Ferocious flames raised high out into the restaurant, as if the devil himself was trying to escape from the dead lamb’s carcass, and the dining room momentarily paused and became fixated on the spectacle that was unravelling before their eyes. Unfortunately, I was a smoker at the time and was not able to blow out my burning dinner quickly, leaving me with nothing more than charred lamb and a lack of breath. At 28€, it was a hefty price to pay.
But this experience has not stopped me returning on several occasions as it’s a favourite spot of many friends and I can’t deny that it does have a certain alluring atmosphere. It’s the kind of restaurant where it seems al-most appropriate to bribe the Maitre D’ to get a table facing the Palais des Festivals – something I have never done mind you, but it certainly wouldn’t seem out of place.
The first thing one notices on arriving is the abundance of staff. It’s a human chain of workers fulfilling essentially superfluous roles: a lady at the door hands you over to another lady with a clipboard, who then leads you to your table where a young man, often with fear and uncertainty etched across his face, sits you at said table before leaving you alone for at least 15 minutes. It’s about enough time to try and make some sense of the senseless circus around you. That said, once the food does finally find its way through the jungle of limbs and tables, it is often very good.
While the steaks are served with nothing at all – even chips must be paid for – the quality of meat is second to none and you can get a prime cut of Aberdeen Angus for 95€ (needless to say, I can’t yet afford to indulge in such extravagant things). The first time I had the Argentinian entrecôte – considerably cheaper at 29€ – I declared that it was the best steak I had ever eaten, and it probably was.
The Chinatown Salad is another favourite, with strips of chicken and prawn forming a double act as unlikely as the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, and Brexit Secretary David Davis arm-in-arm and blasting out a rendition of Que sera, sera at Eurovision. Washed down with a glass of Chablis in the sun and the jagged silhouettes of Le Suquet leaning over you, it’s all rather pleasant. New York New York doesn’t just excel with food – the bar, which stretches throughout the restaurant, has an impressive cocktail list and the numerous bar staff seem to know their stuff. It makes a refreshing change from a 20-something year old barman who couldn’t care less about your drink nor your problems you insist on sharing. Yes, I am talking about my former self.
It goes without saying that my first visit to New York New York was an expensive disappointment and a generally underwhelming evening out. Though since then, albeit reluctantly, I have returned enough times to actually be convinced by this place.
While it is perhaps overpriced and the service is undoubtedly slow, the restaurant possesses an atmosphere that makes the whole dining experience feel fancy without being pretentious... Just don’t set fire to my food next time!