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.
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.
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.
13 Rue Bavastro
After dinner, we strolled through old and new Nice to our next destination, a very important destination.
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.
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.
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!
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.
2 place Rossetti (main shop)
6 rue de la Poissonerie (not open every day)
28 boulevard Jean Jaurès (by the tram line)
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.
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.
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.
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.
Cours Saleya (stall in the market)
28 Rue Droite (shop in the old town)
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.
I love that every takeaway pizza comes with a sachet of sauce picante, which turned out to be some pretty good chilli oil.
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.
Our lunchtime view was nothing to sniff at either.
More in Part 2!