“You’re ruining my childhood,” Lolo moaned, deadpan with a flicker of an eye roll. She had pulled off the perfect teenage response to her parents’ glee.
Her father broke the news at dinnertime. It was early July, and Canadians had just been approved to enter France this summertime. Straight after Philippe had arranged our flights, he rang Mirazur. The restaurant didn’t just have three Michelin stars. It also ranked #1 among all restaurants on this planet. We were counting our own lucky stars.
Lolo was less taken. “Nine courses!” she cried. “How do you eat all that?”
Yet something told me she was modestly intrigued, for when the appointed lunchtime arrived, our 15-year old donned her favourite dress and, with a small bowl of Chocapic cereal lining her stomach for the hour’s drive, she seemed well disposed to face the day.
A small army welcomed Mirazur’s guests and deposited their cars along the moyenne corniche, meters before the Italian border. Each employee wore a navy Mirazur face mask – an extra this summer, with the unusual benefit of all mouths and nostrils actually being covered. (Things are getting sloppy in the Côte d’Azur.) Inside, the airy, wood-and-glass dining room offered wide views of the Mediterranean and a perched view of the Riviera coastline toward the guava-persimmon-pineapple palate of Menton’s old town.
We settled into a corner table beside the panorama, and Philippe chose an elegant Nuits-Saint-Georges to suit the occasion. The server returned with three thin-stemmed glasses.
“Non, j’en prends pas,” Lolo said. She sounded perfectly French. Her phrasing was so fluid, her voice so luxurious, that I did not understand a single word she’d said. For my daughter, it was a double-win. She had out-classed her mother’s linguistic abilities (easily done), and she had convinced the waiter she was of-age.
Philippe crooned over the first taste and, once two glasses were filled, he encouraged our daughter. She took his glass in her hands, swirled it, breathed deeply, and declared the bouquet “douce.” Soft. Fruity. Then she tipped the honey-coloured nectar to her lips and pronounced it serviceable.
“We’re ruining your childhood,” I reminded her.
“You’ve already ruined my childhood,” she said.
We had arrived at Mirazur on a day of des feuilles. This summer’s menu rotates through four themes, taking its inspiration from le rythme du cycle de la nature. On some days, like today with its waning moon, the menu focused on leaves; others days it contemplated roots, flowers, or fruits. It was a beautiful vision, made even more magique by the poetry of French menus – and I was content that, by hook or by crook, my family would get their greens.
We plowed through a round of leaf-based tapas, and a mound of tender leaves and sushi atop a tapioca pearl cracker. A bloom of piping bread arrived with wild celery-infused olive oil, and we counselled one another against eating it. There was only so much room. Still, its oven-fresh aroma was beguiling and the slices were small.
Each course brought the clink of new utensils crafted specially, we learned, for the restaurant. One knife was made in Switzerland from surgical-grade steel. Studying the tools before me, I mulled over the possible next course. Was the far-right utensil a spoon, or with its flat edge was it a fancy fish knife?
Lolo picked up her spoon-knife and spun it in her fingers. “What’s this?” she said. “A shovel?”
That was more like it. My daughter had returned.
What arrived next was neither soup nor fish. A cluster of the restaurant garden’s tender leaves; crunchy, peeled hazelnuts; and turnip shavings cut into the shape of leaves mounded atop a velvety, vermouth-infused sauce. The shovel was meant to scoop up every ounce. (The inevitable next question: “What’s vermouth?”)
The rythme of courses was steady without feeling rushed. It was a table of food, but also a table d’art. The next item made me think Mondrian. Calamari, green apples, celery, basil, and ginger had never looked so sharp.
If the calamari was a Mondrian, the caviar was an exquisite origami. When a waiter presented our next plates, I wondered aloud combien de chefs it took to create this bijou of French caviar, cucumber, and stracciatella.
“Trente-six chefs, Madame,” he said – 36 chefs for 40 covers. By the nonchalance of his reply, I was not the first diner to ask.
Philippe and I knew how to pace ourselves. We had dined at Mirzaur in 2015, when the restaurant had “only” two Michelin stars. We’d received the celebratory email in 2019 when the owners shared, with émotion immense, news of their elevation. Five months later the restaurant was voted the best restaurant in the world in Restaurant’s Top 50. Mirazur had been climbing through the list for a decade – but there was nothing like being #1. Suddenly the race was on. Philippe had managed a table with visitors last year, but a table for two in August was frankly im-poh-SEE-bleh. Impossible. This summer is different. (Isn’t it, though.) Five weeks ago, when Philippe rang for a réservation on a traditionally popular Sunday lunchtime, the receptionist asked, “Would you prefer 13h15 or 13h45, Monsieur?”
The addition of our teen wasn’t evident. Lolo’s palate had grown, but she still delighted in a bowl of fluorescent-orange Kraft dinner. Understandably, the pop of the caviar was a step too far. By August, though, we’d reckoned our daughter would welcome a little indulgence. For the whole of July, she had lived a parallel life to the rest of Antibes. While boaters, paddleboarders, kite surfers, and gloriously explosive sunsets tried to distract Lolo, she sat captive in Bellevue’s bayside study, logging on each day to a “reach-ahead” science class based in Toronto. Lolo relished the 2:30 p.m. starts. She didn’t rejoice as much over the sessions on frog dissection. Mercifully the task was online, but the scissors and pins came with realistic, computer-voiced cues and abundant squishing noises.
“At least you can’t smell anything,” I’d told her encouragingly. You never forget formaldehyde burning through your nasal cavity. “And at least you didn’t have to scramble the frog’s brains.”
“You had live frogs?”
Lolo will never be a surgeon. In anticipation of this meal, I’d recalled the iconic French plate cuisses de grenouille. What if Mirazur brought a plate of jazzed-up frog legs to our table? I’d guffawed at the thought.
Fortunately, the closest we got on the day was a tail of crevette nestled beside baby courgette balls and bathing in another green sauce (for which I was losing the detail, but this one contained spinach). The black dots were month-old, fermented garlic that looked and tasted a lot better than my month-old stuff.
A couple more courses swept by – including the saintliest-ever morsel of Saint-Pierre, draped in a purple perilla leaf and accompanied by its emulsion, which was like a cross between basil and mint. Guinea fowl and lamb (with accompanying leaves) moved the menu back on land.
After six savouries – I swear there were more – came an additional option of fromage, but for reasons of space, we only ogled the trolley. There were still three desserts – cannily described en français as the “pre-dessert,” the “dessert,” and the “mignardaises” in order to avoid eating three desserts. The first was happily ethereal, like the world’s fanciest palate cleanser.
Lolo understood that idea. “I remember we had one of those in that fancy hotel in Maine,” she said. Philippe and I tried to remember. It was nearly a decade ago. “You know, the restaurant where they made you wear bibs with a lobster on it.”
Of course. Her parents wearing plastic bibs at a fancy restaurant. That was the sort of thing a kid would remember.
“They brought lemon sorbet in the middle of the meal,” Lolo said. “It was tasty and everything, but I thought, ‘This is strange because I didn’t order it. And it’s so small – isn’t this meant to be a fancy restaurant?’”
Philippe and I laughed. The things kids never say. To be fair, today’s fresh fig granita (or a raspberry equivalent for the fig allergy among us) was far more than a palate cleanser, but its delicacy and crispness created a similar effect.
The main dessert – is such a phrase even appropriate? – was a voluptuous concoction of dark chocolate, olive oil, rosemary, and an unexpected twinge of sweet charcoal. The combination was silky and addictive.
Lolo sighed in relief. She had soldiered through raw fish and cooked fish and lamb and a heap of green things, all of which she’d normally avoid. “You can’t go through all that without having chocolate,” she said.
Three hours after we’d begun, Philippe and I sipped macchiatos (“noisettes” in the South of France), and we all fingered the mignardises, which managed to be mostly green. As we contemplated an afternoon well-spent, we toyed with the inevitable question: What was your favourite course?
Philippe and I made contributions big and small – the tangy sorrel pesto inside a sweet potato tapas cone, the seared calamari with its ginger-infused sauce, the melt-in-your-mouth Saint-Pierre, the seductive chocolate…
“I dunno,” Lolo said. “They’re all so different. I’m honestly just as happy with gnocchi poêlés.”
You find bags of gnocchi à poêler in the refrigerated section of a French grocery store. Often they’re sold in lots of three for a better price. You melt a knob of butter in a pan, toss in the potato dumplings, and spin them around until they’re golden. For extra flair, you dredge each gnocchi bite through a runny egg yolk.
Mirazur still ranked #1 for Philippe and me. (It still ranks #1 in the world, too, since the 2020 survey was cancelled.) And as parents, we simply enjoyed a veiled compliment about our own kitchen – and the fact that we hadn’t totally ruined a childhood.
34 thoughts on “Chez Mirazur: French Gastronomie with a teen”
Loved the article and gorgeous pictures. Have seen the restaurant and chef/owner on Top Chef France and it’s on my list to visit one day!
Exactly, Shari. And do keep it on your list!
What a magnificent and elegant treat; a unique culinary adventure for the family. Congratulations to Lolo for managing the three-hour experience although being an adolescent. Good to know you are well and enjoying your COVID19 summer in Antibes.
Thank you! I really enjoyed reading and looking at all the pictures.
Thank you for your article . Beautiful pictures of the food.( I love to take food pictures too) Reminded me of a few meals I’ve enjoyed on world travels some years ago. Here’s a typical American question! What is the going rate for a meal there?
I so enjoyed the vicarious pleasure of special dining. The pandemic has only allowed me occasional outside brunches and coffee. The pictures of the food are exquisite and mouth watering!
Wow. Booking for 2025…..hope it retains its stars!!! Seriously, that caviar/concombre oeuvre d’art had me at hello….and I don’t even like caviar!
P.S. Just checked Colagreco’s journey – wow again – Training under Loiseau, Passard, Ducasse, what a CV, and what a privilege for you all to experience ‘food’ as an art form!
Hey Tracy, you’re right about the chef’s pedigree. I also read that being Argentine-born, he’s the first non-Frenchman to earn three stars in the French version of le Guide Michelin. He’s a culinary rock star.
Just imagining L’s facial expressions during…Miss you all
Must admit I had to look up the fish called Saint Pierre…..John Dory as I found out…my lesson of the day. Loved the critique and the pictures. There is no question in my mind that Lolo will look back in time at some point and realize how enchanted and experiential was her childhood.
Back from Toronto. Glad you are having such a lovely time. Can’t wait to see you back. Lolo must be getting excited for returning back to school to whatever it is going to be.
Can I please be your daughter?? 🙂
Top comment, Rachel! 🙂
Oh yes I can absolutely see how you have ruined her childhood. 🤣
Well we but the bullet and booked our holiday in France, cycling in Brittany, leaving on Wednesday. Wish us luck and let’s hope it all doesn’t get locked down soon.
All the best
Oh good, Underminer! Enjoy. If everything locks down while you’re there, consider it France’s way of trying to keep you? And the extra crêpes, butter, and cider de rigueur.
Sadly, about 24 hours after I posted that comment, the UK government stated that visitors to France would have to quarantine – so our trip is off and we are very glum. I hope you are safe and enjoying your time there.
I’m so sorry to hear that, JR. That sort of sums up summer. It’s tough to plan too seriously a week ahead. Anything in 2021 sound simply . . . abstract. I dunno, we could share a crêpes recipe with you? But it’s never the same. Your next visit – whenever it happens – will be all the more sweet.
Oh how wonderful. I feel like I’ve just eaten an exquisite colour drenched painting.
Thx for the delicious vicarious experience.
Thanks for this article, i went and ate and promptly forgot everything…Glad you enjoyed it too. My favourite was the very first course but i cant even remember what it was!! White fish with something crunchy and some soy sauce????
And then the fig granita.
They gave me the recipe 🙂 ill send it to you as your fig leaves should be ready to harvest?????
Merci Rachael, would love the recipe – but only if it’s as calorie-free as I think it should be…
Ps and if you havent been accused of ruining L’s childhood more than 50 times… you’re not ‘parenting’ enough 🤣
Sounds like an amazing experience!! Sounds like Lolo enjoyed it, although you two definitely enjoyed it more! I still remember the stuffed zucchini flowers we ate when I was there, and dream about having them again! Thanks for sharing! I miss being there!
Oh I do miss Lolo and her droll sense of humour! Thanks for sharing a lovely afternoon with us!
Hey! I remember having stuffed zucchini flowers when there too!!
Beautiful descriptions and photos! I was hungry when i started reading and am now trying to clean up the drool!!!!!
Consider yourself lucky Lolo enjoyed the day with you. I would be enjoying the food, my children and grandchildren
I would certainly love the desert. The rest of the family would enjoy 200 units of calories and tell me they are full and watch me eat the rest of so wonderful a meal however this is why they are tiny in size and I am not
Enjoy the rest of the summer and stay safe
Oh my, Jemma, thank you for this wonderful vicarious experience! I haven’t indulged in an extended tasting menu in far too long!
You tell my precious Lolo that a full bowl of Kraft Mac & Cheese awaits her in our kitchen any time she wants to come by!!! Our fave! But it was fun to experience the decadent life of the jet set through your meal! Sending love.
Fun to read this. Food is a love language of mine and Lolo’s comments shine almost as much as your responses:). I took my daughter to Noma in Copenhagen in June 2019. She was 23. I almost bulked at the extravagance. It would have ruined the trip if she had not talked me into it! What a joyful experience, like reading your post. Made me wonder about Lolo when she is 23.
His creations are edible architectural marvels infused with sensory bouquets. It’s theatrical fare at its finest. There should be a Michelin award for the gardens. Thank you for such a satisfying and delightful treat!
Oh how I love that you’ve already ruined Lolo’s childhood, bwahahahahaha! I might be with her on some of those courses, as you can imagine. The palate cleanser!!!
I have a story for Lolo, not to change her appreciation on food but to let her know that life can shade light on it from different perspectives.
I was about her age. For the Christmas holliday, my parents sent me (alone hourrah !) to Martinique. I stayed in a Planters’ farm owed by a local family in the center of the island. One day I was sitting on the terrasse, readind, and I heard a repeated noise : clac, clac, clac I asked : what is it ? The answer was : we are cutting down a palm tree for you. I was totally surprised and didn’t feel at ease with the cutting of a tree for me. They worked an entire day to peel the heart of the palm tree and prepare it. And I must admit that it was the most memorable meal I ever had in my life ! The menu was “simple” : Palm tree salad (each fiber was detached from one another like hair) as a starter; palm tree gratin to accompagny the lamb gigot; and palm tree blanc-manger for dessert. One tree, three different flavors, so delicate, so new to my palate, so fresh. It was like incorporating the essence of the tree in me.
So I wish Lolo many more, and diverse, culinary experiences. All of them are linked with people, with a certain human atmosphere, with emotions and memories and that is sometime the most important part of it. Good food is never only food.
What a beautiful recollection, Diane Louise! I resonate over your concern for the tree – and find beautiful the idea that the palmier was somehow incorporated into your being through the variety of courses. Thank you for sharing with us. j