Need a last-minute dinner reservation for 16 people in Cassis on a Saturday night in August? No, apparently it’s not impossible. On a recent stay at a villa in Provence with a good friend and her business school buds, we decided to have a dinner out one night as a change from the huge meals around the communal table on the terrace and poolside snacking/roséing the rest of the time. After an afternoon of wine tastings at Chateaux Pibarnon and Canadel in Bandol, we descended upon the gemlike port city of Cassis, after-tastings-hungry and dressed in our Saturday-in-wine-country best. Earlier that morning, I had spent like an hour feverishly calling all the top restaurants along the Côte d’Azur and most of them ended up erupting in hearty laughter when I asked for a reservation for 16. But one spot actually came through: Le Grand Large on the Plage de la Grand Mer.
I honestly wasn’t expecting much from a place with space for 16 on a Saturday night. It was kind of a “better than nothing…” type of decision. But we ended up having a fantastic time at Le Grand Large in Cassis. Seated at a beautifully dressed table on a beach deck, we enjoyed the sunset against an orange sherbet sky. Service was fantastic, especially considering the size of our party, and the food was fantastic, pleasing even the pickiest among us. The mussel appetizers we ordered to share were particularly popular. The sweet little lumps of mollusk meat were nicely cooked in a pool of fragrant olive oil and sprinkled with crunchy bits of hazelnut, which were slightly toasted. Most ordered the entrecôte au poivre or the magret de canard, which came with creamy dauphinoise potatoes, mushrooms and grilled tomato. We kept the wine flowing, ordering a couple of magnums of Bodin Cassis, a lovely blend of 40% Marsanne, 30% Clairette, 30% Ugni white.
For my main, I ordered one of my favorite things ever, which I was ecstatic to see on their menu, joues de lotte. The monkfish cheeks were coated in a very light batter and pan-fried to the perfect consistency, almost like that of a scallop. I love monkfish for its meaty, bouncy texture and the cheeks are especially fine, with no pesky fish bones to worry about and a delicate, clean white fish flavor. Four cheeks were served with a piquant caper and mustard sauce, which complemented the fish nicely. Also on the plate was a little mound of half-decent wild rice, some artichoke, a wedge of roasted beet and one of roasted turnip. A more than just satisfactory meal with delicious local Provence white on a beautiful beach in Cassis with fantastic service. Le Grand Large provided exactly the vibe we had wanted for a night that turned out to be one of the highlights of our trip.