SMALL IS BEAUTIFUL, IN ST-CYR

Le Grain de Sable, Plage des Leques, 83270 St-Cyr 04 94 26 16 49

There are pebbles a-plenty, but not much really good sand along our coastline, you’ll have noticed. Cassis has a poor little strip, the Plage de Pampelonne’s not bad at St Tropez, and Marseille’s Prado beach is made up of the excavations for the metro tunnels, I’ve been told.

Then there’s a long, rather grey strand along the crescent bay of St-Cyr, in the Var.

And on that stretch of sand sits the charming marine restaurant, which has named itself, minimalistically, after one single Grain de Sable.

It’s a very pretty place indeed. All the wood — from the chairs to the overhead beams - are painted in forget-me-not blue, and the walls and ceiling are a mix of canary yellow and the purest, bright white. The bright warmth of the colours matches the happy welcome that greets you when you walk down the steps into this jolly beach cabanon. Large picture windows all the way down the sea-side overlook the bay with its superb view along the lengthy horizon, from La Ciotat’s rust-rugged rocks of the bec d’aigle on its western point, to the easterly pine-clad headland overlooking La Madrague.

The food is suitably sea-foody, with an integral oyster/urchin bar which produces huge glistening platters which pleased my fellow-diners no end. I opted for the delicious white truffle ravioli to start with. There are 2 menus - €20 and €28, both excellent value. We tried most of the house specialities — a full-flavoured risotto aux cèpes, brochettes de St Jacques et gambas (top marks), a marginally dry filet de loup, rescued by a remarkably good sauce of corail d’oursins, and a medaillon lotte with a brilliantly spicy lime marmalade.

The wine list is also fairly minimalist — if you’re going for the seafood, pick the Pic St-Loup for shellfish, and the Château de Bagnol Cassis for fish.

Our only complaint was that the very prettily ruched-silk-clothed table was a little small for 4 people — but it seems to us that everything in St-Cyr is on the petite-side, so perhaps the cramped table was fitting. After all, we were 4 normal-sized people from the normal outside world. When you arrive in St-Cyr you appear to enter some sort of Lilliputian kingdom. It’s a little place, inhabited by small people, who live in squat dwellings. The moment you get out of your car and stretch, Gulliver-like, you spot the difference in stature, and you find yourself stooping to stay less conspicuous from then on, until you leave. Their cars are Minis and Smarts, (but they mostly seem to ride bicycles). Their dogs are poodles and Yorkies. Their children are miniscule. Their guineapigs are hamsters. Their mosquitoes are gnats. Even their famous Grand Hotel des Lecques is only a couple of storeys low. Small is definitely beautiful, in St-Cyr.

But the enormous welcome, big attention to detail in service, and the huge enjoyment of your meal at Le Grain de Sable - which, true to its environment, won’t surprise you with a big bill - will at least make up for feeling outsized, in this interesting little Lilliput-by-the-sea.

Juliet Young

Correction
This is technically in Les Lecques rather than St Cyr — sorry to cause offence to the larger than life St-Cyrois!!!

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