There was certainly some good eating throughout my work week in Nice. Even my work conference offered up some proper three course lunches (with wine!). On one night, a couple of colleagues and I managed to get a last minute table for dinner at La Merenda (which runs a “no telephone, no cards” policy), near the Cours Saleya. The tiny restaurant is packed with tables and you’ll be eating elbow-to-elbow with your neighbours. And I’m still not sure how they manage to churn out all those dishes in their tiny kitchen.

It turns out we got the last table for the last seating that night and we had to patiently wait our turn to see the chalkboard menu. Though service was brusque, they did answer our million questions about the menu and the local specialities offered on it. And they kindly let us split a large portion of Soupe au Pistou (pistou being the Niçoise version of pesto) by three to start! We had seen other patrons slurp up this magical elixir and yes, it’s as good as it looks. Cheese, ham, vegetables, basil…it’s all in there.

Soupe au Pistou

Beignets de Fleurs de Courgette were just that – battered courgette flowers. This was the first time I’ve ever had them not stuffed! They were fine but not particularly exciting; this does seem to be the way they’re prepared here in Nice though.

Beignets de Fleurs de Courgette

A Pâtes au Pistou (pasta with pistou) was perfectly al dente and bathed in a luxurious basil- and garlic-rich dressing.

Pâtes au Pistou

Of all the mains available, we were all drawn to the Daube de Boeuf à la Provençal. What emerged was a hearty beef stew served with…chips? No, the texture was too smooth, too…wait, do I detect the flavour of chickpeas? The large golden chips sitting alongside our daube turned out to be panisses, fried cakes made of chickpea flour. I believe the flour is first cooked like polenta and when its cold and stiff, it’s sliced and fried. They originated down the coast in Marseille. They were beautiful and so good with the thick, wine-rich stew.

Daube de Boeuf à la Provençal

Desserts were also good. A Compote de Figues was sweet and simple with its dollop of fromage frais.

Compote de Figues

A Mousse au Chocolat was a little stiff but still went down easily. By this point, we were pushing the remnants of our desserts to our colleague with the largest appetite but even he was starting to have trouble. Oof.

Mousse au Chocolat

To get a table in this tiny restaurant, you’ll need to book and to do so, you’ll need to pop into the restaurant (remember: no telephone!).

La Merenda
4 rue Raoul Bosio
Nice, France

As I mentioned previously though, not all was brilliant eating in Nice. Meals at Le Safari and Du Gesu were fine, if not spectacular, but our dinner at La Zucca Magica, Nice’s highly lauded vegetarian restaurant and which came recommended by a friend of a friend, was distinctly mediocre and unmemorable.

Back to the good. My favourite pizza place turned out to be this takeaway joint – Pili Pizza. Any pizza on the menu for €6,50. And they were excellent! Great crusts and very good quality toppings. I have no shame in saying that we even tried their kebab pizza – good stuff.

I miss you, Pili Pizza

On our penultimate night in Nice, we all ordered pizzas and took them to the beach to eat by floodlight. It was brilliant.

Pizza on the Beach

Pili Pizza
24 rue Benoit Bunico
Nice, France

I spent my last day in Nice revisiting the Cours Saleya Market for the colours and smells and hustle and bustle.

Vegetables and Eggs

"Pepper" Tomatoes

Spices

Pink Garlic

I wanted to take lots with me but as my next stop was Barcelona (a very short work/play related trip and I won’t be blogging it this time), bringing perishables with me didn’t seem like the best idea.

Along the Quai des États-Unis

Finally, a restaurant worth looking out for in nearby Villefranche-sur-Mer – that’s the final post in this short travel-eating series.

Nice is nice, to sum up my first trip to the Côte d’Azur. Actually, it’s awfully grand and I wish Blai could have come along on this work trip of mine. As it was, I had my lovely colleagues as company and we did pretty well on the eating front though there were a couple disappointments along the way. But the city, oh the city is beautiful and lots of fun with the sea and the hills and lots to see and do; I do hope to return one day.

I developed a slight obsession with the Niçoise socca during my week in Nice. This soft/crispy baked pancake is made of chickpea flour and is usually served as a snack with drinks. On our first night in the city, I dragged my friend and colleague to Chez Pipo, one of the best places for socca according to David Lebovitz. We grabbed the last available table outside and set to work on the menu. With such low prices (everything was about €2,50 per portion), we ordered one of everything to try. Salty tapenade noire and anchoïade were served with little toasts.

Tapenade Noire et Anchoïade

Their pissaladière was delicious and I could easily have handled about three portions of this. However, there was cause for restraint as I’ll explain in a minute.

Pissaladière

We had quite a wait for our portion of socca as only a tray’s worth is made at a time (each tray being about the size of a wagon wheel). It was incredibly addictive with it’s crispy edges and softer centres…but then again, I adore chickpeas.

Socca

Chez Pipo
13 Rue Bavastro
Nice, France

After dinner, we strolled through old and new Nice to our next destination, a very important destination.

Nice at Night

Place Masséna

The reason for our restraint at dinner was this: Fenocchio. One hundred flavours of ice cream. We made it our mission to try as many of these flavours as we could during the week. I think I only managed 7 overall.

Fruit Flavours

My first tasting was of two scoops: an exquisite marron glacé studded with lots of the candied nut and a brilliant speculoos. It was a good start.

My First Fenocchio Ice Cream

Later in the week, two more flavours: a bright and fruity guava and a slightly disappointing, subdued salted butter caramel. I heard that the intensely chocolately flavours were excellent as were the other fruity ones. I can also vouch for the ginger flavour!

Guava and Salted Caramel

We started at their stand in the old city by the tram line but then became loyal to their main stand in Place Rossetti. They have seats in the square and you get to gaze upon the imposing Cathédrale Sainte-Réparate. Oh, and they serve sundaes and waffles there too.

Fenocchio
2 place Rossetti (main shop)
6 rue de la Poissonerie (not open every day)
28 boulevard Jean Jaurès (by the tram line)
Nice, France

Cathédrale Sainte-Réparate

On most days, there’s a fruit and vegetable market at Cours Saleya – more on that in the next post. What you want to look out for is Chez Theresa and their excellent socca.

Socca

The large tray of socca sits on an oil drum stove, frying gently. It’s not cooked there but in an oven of Chez Theresa, located in the Old City; you can buy your socca at this location but it’s not quite the same. To get the socca from one site to the other, there’s a man and a moped and a trailer for the large tray.

Theresa herself serves the socca. It’s a pretty no-nonsense affair – hand over your €3 and get your portion. She’ll direct you to the salt and pepper (both recommended) and off you go with your snack.

Serving the Socca

Her socca isn’t much of a looker and could certainly be improved by being more crispy (it’s soft almost all the way through). However, what’s amazing about it is its flavour – all toasty and coated in extra virgin olive oil and so so good. It’s hard to stop burning your fingers as you reach for more. It’s highly recommended. On weekends, you can expect a queue for it.

Socca

Were these the best soccas in Nice? Well, I did try a couple others but mainly their flavour was weak. These two were certainly the best I tried on this visit.

Chez Theresa
Cours Saleya (stall in the market)
28 Rue Droite (shop in the old town)
Nice

When in Nice, you can’t swing a cat without hitting a place that serves pizza. Nice is located very close to the Italian border (and was itself under Italian rule until 1860) and this shows in its local cuisine and well…all those pizza and pasta joints. We grabbed a random takeaway one from a cafe in the old city and took it over to the base of the castle. It has a good thin crust and good quality toppings – it sure beat most of the takeaway pizzas in London.

Pizza

I love that every takeaway pizza comes with a sachet of sauce picante, which turned out to be some pretty good chilli oil.

Sauce Picante

We had also grabbed some pastries from the renowned Patisserie Lac. My friend’s intensely chocolate macaron filled with chocolate ganache almost did her in (in a very good way). I tried Lac’s version of the Niçoise tourte de blettes, a Swiss chard tart that comes in both sweet and savoury varieties (here be sweet). It was delicious with the raisins and pine nuts coming through rather than any vegetal flavour.

Pastries from Lac

Our lunchtime view was nothing to sniff at either.

Our Lunchtime View

More in Part 2!

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