On the plane to Barcelona, the guy sitting to me was rather friendly and started chatting to me. We ended up chatting the whole flight. That guy was American of course. Really nice. We ended up talking about food at some point (dude, you’re having a conversation with me) and he asked me: “if you had to give up on all food and cuisine except for one, which one would it be?”.
My answer? French. Duh.
But Vietnamese comes close.
I guess you can never give up on something that’s so much a part of you, and that’s what food is to me: childhood memories, places, times, people.
One of the greatest things about French cuisine is its diversity: each region has its own ingredients, own ways of cooking and own spirit. Today, I am sharing with you some of my favourite treats from Nice and the rest of the Côte d’Azur I was lucky enough to visit.
My few days in Barcelona were super hectic: visiting and walking, going out and partying with my friends, waking up with a hangover and heading to the Picasso museum for opening time before the queue gets crazy. Not really a holiday but more like a fun, cultural and eye opening trip.
On the morning I left, I hadn’t slept all night. We left the club, I took a shower at the hostel and I was on my way to Barcelona airport. Dying of exhaustion. I seriously needed a REAL holiday.
That’s where Nice comes in.
I spent 5 peaceful days, waking up with the beautiful view of the Mediterranean Sea, the sweet sun and heat of the South, and of course: the delicious food of the Provence region.
If you go to North of France, food will be comforting, hot and fat. Just what you need to feel comfy and warm indoors while it’s freezing outside. In the South however, it’s practically hot all the time. Which means food is more refreshing and delicious vegetables with fresh herbs are kings in the region.
Let me guide you through the beautiful foods I got to see, and eat in places you absolutely have to check out if you ever come to Nice (which you should, at some point in your life. You don’t need to be Johnny Depp and have a private Jet to visit the French Riviera. I promise you).
Let’s start with the market of the Vieux Nice. It’s the old town, and it’s lovely. Really cute colourful buildings, narrow streets smelling of olive oil, fresh herbs and spices. Lots of tourists indeed but also lots of local French people, who are actually friendly! Believe it or not. And actually friendlier than people in Barcelona were to tourist in my opinion.
Let’s list some of the specialties of the region shall we?
And of course the courgettes! The best part being that they keep and cook with the courgette flowers. Something I discovered over there and absolutely love. I don’t understand why that isn’t done in England. It makes plates look ten times more beautiful, colourful, impressive and the flavour is incredible!
Which leads me to the second place you must check out.
The port of Nice naturally. Some really beautiful boats (don’t miss out on the fishermen’s boats. Prettiest things on the coast).
I’m taking this opportunity to throw some of my favourite holiday photos from when we left the port on a sailing boat, and sailed to a lovely bay for a swim. I doubt you can find a spot like that in a lot of places.
BACK TO MY POINT! Socca. Go to Chez Pipo. Simple menu. Cheap and tasty dishes. Their specialty is socca, but they serve other Niçoise specialties like Pain Bagnat, Pissaladière and tapenade. Great ambiance, nice terrace, it’s authentic, it’s next to the port. Go there. Eat. Feel happy.
My other favourite place to eat: Oliviera. They have the most delicious olive oils you will ever taste. Each dish is served with a very serious amount of oil but it brings out so much flavour. Service is slow but I’ll tell you why: the owner is the one and only waiter. He loves his job, he loves his produce, he loves his suppliers. He is a passionate man who will take the time to explain to every customer the specificity of the ingredients. And I just love that! So don’t be in a rush when you go, try to make a reservation as they get busy. And have their fresh apple juice, enjoy their bread dipped in olive oil and please order the courgette lasagna. It’s made with baby courgettes, lasagna pasta, ricotta, fresh tomato sauce and topped with courgette flowers. Possibly one of my favourite dishes of all time.
There are also two shops you can’t not go to and they are:
–Nicolas Alziari. The BEST olive oil in France.
–Auer. Really cute confiserie with gorgeous sweet treats. They do everything: pastries, fruits confits, caliçons (other specialty of the region), chocolates. You don’t have to buy much or anything at all (although I would strongly recommend their cholate almonds) because it’s a shop that’s simply beautiful to look at and it satisfies the eye so much.
Finally ice-cream. Nice is very close to Italy, it’s actually a 20minute drive from the boarder (next post in Vintmiglia!). You will have noticed some similarities in the ingredients and even the dishes of the South of France and Italy. Homemade gelato, or “glace” for the French, is no exception. Supposedly, the best ice-cream place in Nice is Fenocchio. And I must say, I disagree. I went there a couple of times and it’s always a little disappointing. They serve so many tourists, they sort of forget the point of being a local shop, that is, if they are even one. Too many ice-cream flavours (that sometimes really, REALLY, don’t work), really bright and unnatural colours, unfriendly staff, too crowded and overwhelming. No, it does not have the spirit of the local homemade ice-cream place.
I am still looking for the best one in Nice but I will redirect you to Antibes. Because, if you go to Nice, you will go to Antibes right? In which case, go to Gelateria del porto. It’s one artisan’s shop, beautiful soft ice-cream that melts to the touch of your tongue (don’t be alarmed by the softness, it needs to be that way because this extremely friendly man takes the time to shape your scoop like a gorgeous flower and it’s much more authentic, tasty and cheaper than Amorino. I vow to NEVER buy ice-cream at that place. ). I had some rich and indulgent chocolate and hazelnut ice-cream. Don’t get confused. It’s not Nutella ice-cream. I actually find that Nutella ice-cream is underwhelming, it’s not even half as rich as actual hazelnut spread as it is most of the time really diluted by the custard. However, this one is rich chocolatey goodness enhanced with a comforting hazelnut flavour and it is on the money.