I visited the tiny village of Eze, perched on a little hill on the French Riviera.
Having climbed up the narrow streets, I discovered (no doubt like many visitors before me) that the only places to get a really lovely view of the sea and countryside were either the "exotic garden" (5 euros to see a lot of cactii? i don't think so!) or if you eat in the Chateau Eza Hotel restaurant. I took a quick glance at the menu outside and winced at the price, but then when I saw that the restaurant has a michelin star, decided that as a birthday present to myself, I would buy myself lunch.
At first the slightly supercilious waiter placed me a low cushiony seat, where the sun poured straight into my eyes and then gave me only the drinks menu. I explained that I wanted to eat, and got the menu, and later moved myself to an actual table. Sadly the menu I was given wasn't nearly as interesting looking as the menu shown outside; I guess it was after lunch and before dinner so the kitchens weren't fully open. Anyway I ordered the salad of serrano ham with melon, served with a minted creme fraiche at a mere 17 euros. For my international readership, that'd be $26.50 aud, 28.50chf, or 24.50usd. Not a cheap eat eh?
So I had high expections for this salad. Maybe that was the problem because, frankly, the reality was disappointing.
What was the problem with it? The ham was ok; not exactly a work of art in plating, but otherwise fine (not much you can do to make a pile of ham look sexy I guess).
The bread was dry, and was really only rendered properly edible by dipping it in the juice from the melon.
The sliced melon was bruised but ok.
With the glass of melon balls, it was clear that they had not been freshly cut - when you first cut melon balls, they are quite smooth, and it is only with sitting for a while that the surface texture kind of 'furs' up so they are no longer smooth. Neither were they all balls. Ok, so you can call me fussy, but we are talking michelin star here and we are talking a darned expensive melon ball, so I do actually expect that they will be at least mostly round! You can see at the bottom of the glass a sort of scraggy bit of melon at the bottom. It was at least a very nice sweet and tasty melon.
And finally... its surprising that this sad little blob of creme fraiche actually managed to make it onto the menu's description of this dish.
To be truthful I think that this would be the level of presentation I would expect from a pretty new apprentice chef, and the head chef of a high quality restaurant would have made whoever plated this do it over again. I guess it would be a perfectly acceptable dish from an average restaurant.
The service was not particularly good or bad... but the view was good.
Would I go there again? I guess I might give them a second chance if I were having a romantic weekend away, but frankly foodwise even a cheap restaurant in a village in Italy would outstrip this place and since Italy is only about 40 minutes away....