Today we had lunch at Club 55, the beach restaurant that witnessed the golden age of the St. Tropez of Brigitte Bardot and the French bikini.  Club 55 was founded by a French couple of adventurers from a well heeled family.  The de Colmonts had traveled the world before discovering the untouched beauty of Pampelonne beach in their native France.

In 1955, they set up a small cabana surrounded by reeds where they grilled fish on the virgin beach.  Legend has it that the their restaurant, at the time the only one on the 2 kilometer beach, served food for the cast of “And God Created Woman.”   The film, directed by Roger Vadim, starred a sultry young Brigitte Bardot in the mythic role of Juliette, an iconic figure of women’s liberation in France.

A far cry from the wild, untouched beach it once was, today’s Pampelonne beach is a succession of restaurants and partitioned sunbathing areas with thumping summer hit music.  Club 55 has in turn grown exponentially, and now serves up to 400 meals a day in it’s rustic setting underneath a grove of tamaris (in English tamarisk or salt cedar trees) that shade patrons as they feast on fresh fish and vegetable dishes.  True to its cinematic roots, the restaurant still welcomes stars of cinema and fashion from the world over.

Later this summer we will be spending a lot more time near this end of the Riviera, and hopefully get inspired by some of the food we had today at Club55:

The four of us ordered the classic summer lunch at the Club, starting with two appetizers to share:  a large basket of fresh raw vegetables (crudités) served with their achovy mustard mayonnaise,  and deep fried small fish (la friture) with a thick tartar sauce.  Our main course was a grilled sea bass accompanied by crazy good pan fried potatoes.  And last but not least we were tempted to order the famous “tarte tropezienne”, a local standby made with pastry shell and sugar filled with pastry cream.

Next week I am returning with friends and will post more photos of the other amazing dishes served at the Club.  I will also try and get a shot with the owner and perhaps some celebrities.  Each season inevitably brings at least one Joan Collins sighting.  As the French say “a suivre”….To be continued.

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