La Petite Maison - Nice
La Petite Maison is a restaurant that we return to year after year. Run by the formidable Madame Ruby, who frightens waiters and customers alike with her stern yet charismatic countenance, the restaurant has become a favourite among the glitterati.
Despite its omission from theMichelin Guide this restaurant really wows in terms of food. My starter dish of truffled scrambled eggs was vastly superior to Terre de Truffe’s paltry offering. They were creamy, fluffy, and light with the perfect balance of of truffle. This was the dish of the holiday, without question, hestitation or debate. In fact it is one of the best things I have ever tasted!!
For the main we all shared two magnificent roast chickens stuffed with Foie gras. So simple yet so wonderful, the chicken was cooked to perfection–tender and succulent with a robust crispiness.
La Petite Maison is not to everyone’s taste, which might explain its exclusion from the Michelin. The service is undeniably French, which in this case denotes rather cocky and indolent waiters who appear somewhat distracted and exasperated. It is also a good place for checking out the interesting work of some of Europe’s plastic surgeons. Certain patrons looked so pulled, taught, and overly enhanced that they resembled cartoon characters. If this is your kind of scene then you will be rewarded by the most amazing food. If not I still urge you to go just for the experience!
Lunch - La Merenda
Tucked away in a backstreet of Nice’s old town is an exceptional little bistro, called La Merenda. There is no telephone which means popping in beforehand and making a reservation. It is an tiny room, some of the press have referred to it rather unkindly as a ‘hole in the wall”, with wooden tables and stools placed so closely together that you can almost touch your neighbours shoulders. This should not deter you, however, because its rustic unpretentious charm is exactly what adds to the overall eating experience.
The Chef, Dominque Le Sanc toils aways in full view of his patrons creating great honest home cooking. Interestingly, he was a former chef at the renowned Le Chantecler who eschewed the sometimes stuffy gastronomic world in favour of opening his own restaurant, specializing in regional dishes.
There are no menus just one blackboard listing the daily offerings. I opted for a starter of Moules Marinieres. The mussels whilst fairly small had so much flavour, which was enhanced further by the fragrant broth which enveloped them. To follow a beautifully executed daube of beef was melt-in-the-mouth tender and reaffirmed exactly why this tiny bistro was so popular with tourists and locals alike.
Go during the day, and lap up the atmosphere.
La Petite Maison
11 rue St-Francois de Paule
Kei’s Passion - Nice
After some truffle induced nightmares (just kidding will stop with the truffles now I promise!) we venture into the old city of nice through the winding backstreets which apparently are still inhabited by nicoise residents. Along the way we spy a wonderful chocolatier as well as a whole shop devoted solely to olive oil. The cours saleya is home to the flower and vegetable market, its a shame that we do not have access to a kitchen because with such great ingredients one could cook up a feast!!
We discuss various possiblities for the evening’s meal. After a while an interesting proposition reveals itself, a restaurant set up by a young japanese chef, Keisuke Matsushima attempting to merge Japanese with Meditteranean. This has been done before by Michel Bras, so successfully that he has been awarded 3 Michelin stars for his famous restaurant in the Midi pyrenees.
With an impressive background training under the Pourcel twins ( the young brothers who own a 3 star michelin restaurant) could Matsushima be the next Bras? we would soon find out.
In an unimposing retail premises tucked away in the newer part of Nice we arrive at Kei’s Passion . The dining room is tiny but every table is occupied and there is a palpable buzz and energy. Whilst the decor is simple, the service is not. The two young brothers who man the operation dart from table to table clearly relishing in explaining the chef’s food and philosophy, they appear to be really behind Matsushima, who makes brief appearances from the kitchen greeting the patrons with his mass of peroxide blond hair.
It is clear that this restaurant has high expectations and is seriously angling for its first Michelin star. I am not going to go into immense detail over this meal other than to comment on the most salient factors. Firstly, it’s sometimes is a little bit gimmicky, a plate of amuse bouches contained almost surgical pipettes to administer a hit of cassis, which was unecessary as well as a little irritating when spurting out all over my top!! A dish of risotto and asian greens was technically very good. The main of pigeon was great, gamey but succulent a tricky combination and one that most chef’s fail to master.
Matsushima is a very promising young chef. The meal did not borrow as much as I had thought or hoped from Japanese cuisine yet there were subtle clues towards the chef’s asian background. I wish this restaurant all the best.
22 ter rue de France
Place Croix de Marbre
Terre de Truffes - Nice
My husband and I leave my aunt’s beautiful house in Grasse to spend a couple of days by the sea in Nice. Nice is somewhat unfairly overlooked when compared to more glamourous locations along the Cote D’Azur, such as Cannes or St Tropez. However, it is a fun and dynamic city with an interesting food scene and an exceptional farmers market on the Cours Saleya. The close proximity to Italy is reflected in the Nicoise cuisine, which has a strong meditteranean flavour, and which reflects the distinctly unpretentious cuisine which has come to define the South of France.
Terre de Truffes was our first port of call. I must confess I am a bit of a truffle junkie so it comes as no surprise that I was instantly lured in by its unique claim that every one of its dishes contained the magnificent truffle, even the ice cream.
Terre de Truffes is Chef’s Clement Bruno’s conception. In fact his name ‘Bruno’ ( as he is fondly known to friends) has become synonomous with the truffle. His main venture is his restaurant in Lourges an hour from Nice. Terre de Truffes is its offshoot and offers a more informal relaxed dining experience. It also sells a huge variety of truffle products bearing the owner’s famed name.
The heavy oak paneling gives the dining room a dark almost austere feel, which is balanced by the rickety tables and chairs placed very close together making it feel intimate and romantic.
My first course of salad with truffles was plonked down at break neck speed about 10 minutes after we were seated. There appeared to be no attention to the way the food was composed on the plate, just a mound of salad leaves interspersed by some greasy lardons with the most abundant amount of shaved truffles I had ever seen on one plate. Wow, this must have cost them a fortune, I mused, until I later learned that they probably used a cheaper variety of truffle called the tuber estivum, or brumale. There is no comparison in taste between the perigord or alba to the lesser truffles offered here. The latter emitted an unpleasant feral aroma, which when eaten tasted like moldy mushrooms!
Scrambled eggs and truffles are a match that in my opinion are the most perfect union. Gordon Ramsay stated once that every new employee is asked to prepare scrambled eggs before working in one of his kitchens. This is the benchmark he judges them on. Yet it seems that most restaurants are unable to produce this fairly basic dish. Terre de Truffes offering was beyond dismal. My dish of scrambed eggs with truffles was a concoction of claggy, overdone eggs with a thick layer of grease on top, festooned with the odious truffles from the dish before. Yuck, yuck, yuck!!!
I better flee this restaurant quickly before my love affair with truffles dies!!
Marginally better was my husbands dish of torellinii and yes, you name it, truffles. The size and richness of the dish meant that we shared it and still felt stuffed beyond belief.
That night, straight after dinner, I was left with a distended belly and some rather unpleasant truffly memories. It was going to take me a while to fall in love again. Despite Chibois’s sublime truffle menu, I was convinced I had been scarred for life, that is until La Reserve Beaulieu, and that’s a whole different story!
Terre De Truffes
11 rue Saint-François de Paule
93 62 07 68