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Nice, a three course tragedy [tdf]

August 3, 2012

It’s common, when a couple or even a small group of people head off into the unknown for an extended period of time, that they will come back with a few catch phrases from said trip.

Sometimes they’re in-jokes. An idea that has collapsed like a set of dominoes into a phrase with no particular significance to anyone but it’s owners.

And sometimes they’re phrases so often mentioned that they become a catch-cry for the weary travellers. In our case? It was this:

“Full. To. Bursting!”

Destination: Nice
This post is part of the onebitemore “Tour de France” series, published every Friday until I run out of stories to tell. To see an overview of the trip or to see other posts in this series, click on the map to be redirected to the index page.

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Ahh, the oh-so-very first world problem of eating so much because the food is so good (and oh-so-reasonably priced) that you feel like your insides may possibly explode if even one bite more is taken.

(See what I did there? One bite more? Ha! I crack myself up.)

And so, a brief journey through the eateries we frequented in Nice, starting (of course) with meals that you’ll struggle to finish.

Chez Freddy

aka: touristy joints can be value for money, and delicious!

It’s probably a little bit of a tourist trap, Chez Freddy, with outlets in Nice and Cannes, but unlike most tourist traps, it was one that I thoroughly enjoyed.

Sitting right next to the flower markets at Cours Seleya, we were drawn to Chez Freddy after doing (more than) a couple of laps of the plaza for its red awnings, french language menus and, of course, the final friendly offer of a drink on the house.

complimentary drinks at Chez Freddy, Nice

And so began my obsession with the Kir. White wine with a dash of cassis, it became my go-to drink (whether for apertif or general dryness of mouth) for the rest of our trip.

Koji, somewhat less enamoured by the idea of being handed a glass of what looks like red cordial (but tastes like heavenly summer angels!) stuck to beer. In his case, a 25cl (or 250ml glass) of Pression that was so enjoyed that another was ordered after.

moules marinière

For the princely sum of €25.90, one can get stuck into a three course menu, with a choice of entree, main and dessert.

The entree list included gems like Nicoise Salad, 6 oysters “fines de clare”, duck foie gras with fig marmalade (€3 surcharge) and melon and parma ham, but it was the mussels that had Koji’s attention from the start.

Moules marinière in a bowl as big as your head. Light and sweet with the taste of eschalots, white wine and the sea, they would have easily satisfied a hungry traveller as a main when eaten with the fresh complimentary bread that sat on the table.

My choice? The soupe de poissons – a lurid orange, gritty mess of delicious fish bone, crustacean shell and saffron all ground up and sieved through and intensely good.

Traditionally used as the base for a bouillabaise, the soup de poissons is eaten by smearing crusty croutons with yellow rouille (an olive oil, garlic, saffron and chilli mayonnaise) and dunking them into the piping hot liquid before eating. Cheese is offered to patrons here, for placing atop your rouille adorned crouton pre-dunking, but bouillabaise purists and my lactose-intolerance alike advised against it.

Soupe De Poissons, grilled fish, entrecôte

The mains were serious affairs (particularly after having consumed close to 50cl of soup).

Daube Nicoise (a Provencale beef stew) and the famed bouillabaise (€3 surcharge) were passed over for something lighter. Or so we thought.

Koji’s Royal Sea Bream grilled with herbs came out as a whole fish with almost as many vegetables and a serving of rice doused in cream.

I, on the other hand, had somehow developed a knack for ordering the largest dish on any set menu and, after requesting with what I thought would be a little bit of steak with chips, ended up with well, the above. Apparently when one orders a beef Entrecote grilled (rib eye) with bearnaise sauce, one gets a 2cm thick slab of meat the size of two hands put together and a couple of potatoes worth of chips. Also a tub of bearnaise. A. Tub.

Glug.

ille de flotante, tarte au pommes

Determined not to be defeated, the desserts followed our somewhat-completed mains, and after debating the list and discarding chocolate mousse, tiramisu (€2 surcharge), caramel, ice cream and white cheese with honey or fruit coulis, we ended up with what was to be one of our favourite desserts eaten on tour:

The ille de flotante. The meringue was airy. The custard was light. The treacley syrup on top just bitter enough to create some interest. Koji, hater of all cake and dessert-like treats, almost didn’t want to share.

But I had a tarte tartin (though it presented more like an apple tart) and a trade was negotiated. I’d like to think both parties won that one.

Chez Freddy

22 Cours Saleya 06300 Nice
Tel 04 93 85 49 99


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Nissa Socca

aka: the biggest meal we had all trip (and under €50 for two)

nissa socca

Sunset in Old Town Nice and we are on the hunt for a dinner venue. We’ve been walking for 20-odd minutes, to the consistent mutterings of “I reckon there’s probably something better around the next corner”.

And so around corners we went until faced with weary feet and an ultimate choice between two venues on opposite sides of a pedestrian walkway. One, filled with patrons laughing and drinking wine. The other, silent, almost brusque in feel, and empty.

We chose the empty one. The French, after all, do not eat at half past six.

wine, niçoise salad, ratatouille

We started (as became our custom) with a 50cl (500ml) bottle of the house red. In this case, a bottle from the Cotes du Rhone priced at a very reasonable €11.

Three course meals at Nissa Socca will set you back the remarkable sum of €18 per head – remarkable when you think of the cost of a three course meal in Sydney. Doubly so when you start to eat.

“It’s about time I tried a Nicoise Salad” said Koji. “Also, I’m still full from lunch.”

It came, quartered eggs and tomatoes topped with white anchovies that he begrudgingly offered me a one-quarter portion of. The anchovy, not the salad, and only on the condition that I would remember what it tasted like and attempted to replicate it on our return.

I was similarly satiated from our rather large lunch and thought that an entree of ratatouille would be a good choice. Regional food, mainly vegetables. And entree sized means it’ll be small right?

Enter the a dinner plate piled high with eggplant, zucchini, capsicum and olives. So delicious that it was nigh on impossible to stop eating. Though I did stop. About three-quarters of the way through. Because I couldn’t eat a bite more.

petit farcis and grilled sardines

“Oh no! We ordered mains!”

It was then that we noticed locals coming in. French speaking, child toting locals that knew to only order a main each with an entree for the children to share.

If only we’d arrived later and followed suit.

(Except then we probably wouldn’t have gotten a seat).

Koji’s main was probably the highlight of his food eating time in France. A dish called petit farcis. Little stuffed vegetables. Cute. Until you have seven of them, onions, tomatoes, tiny round zucchini. Well, sort of tiny. All delicious. At this point, Koji retracted his request for nicoise salad on our return and traded it in for petit farcis. For his birthday. Please. Instead of cake.

All the while, I was sitting, furrowed brow, and staring at my plate. Five (count em! FIVE!) sardines, each about 20cm in length lay staring at me. A giant potato sat in a ceramic dish, which in turn, sat on top of a mound of salad.

“How am I ever going to eat this all!?”

The answer, one at a time. And slowly. Savouring the smoky taste of grilled sardine skin against the firm, fresh flesh.

And adding lots of lemon to every bite.

chocolate mousse & apple tart

Dessert (for there is always dessert – fools don’t learn quickly) was a manageable glass of dark chocolate mousse and a slice of apple tart. I’m not sure if it was the effects of the red wine or the full to bursting stomach that had me taking blurry photos at this stage, but oh my those photos are confusing (and a bit painful) to look at.

Nissa Socca

Rue Sainte Reperate, 06300 Nice, France
Tel 04-93-80-18-35 


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La Table Alziari

aka: my favourite meal in Nice / we finally learn not to order lunch-dessert

la table alziari

On a stroll back from the Port, we decided to go a hunting. Not real hunting, mind you, just, you know, looking.

Our target? A little yellow restaurant that I’d spotted early one morning on a walk that looked promising (and, incidentally, had looked up on the internet that evening to find that it was a culinary institution in Nice and run by the grandson of the Alziari olive oil family).

We had to go there.

complimentary bread and olives

The menu changes in accordance with the seasons and is written on a blackboard that is carried to your table and propped up by the owner. If a dish runs out, you’re right out of luck. But if, like us, your French is so awful that people in the street look at you pitifully, you are in luck as Andre will go to some pains to try to explain anything you don’t understand.

We are provided with bread, olives and bottle of olive oil, which is quickly followed by a €6 pitcher of red wine.

a pitcher of wine and a bean salad

I picked the salade de cocos at a mere €7 as my entree, partly because I had a hankering for beans and partly because I was so entertained by the idea that the French say beans the way we say “cocoa”. Ahh, you crazy French people!

The white beans were smooth. Creamy even. Served with peppery olive oil, a bundle of shaved herbs and more pepper than I’ve ever seen adorning a dish eaten out (meaning it was the perfect amount of pepper for me).

There were more than enough for one girl, and if I’d managed to convince Koji to go two ways with entrees (I didn’t. He’s very persistent in his choice of meal) I might have been only just satiated instead of over-beaned.

unforgettable Aubergine Provençales

I can understand his reluctance to share.

Aubergine provencales (€7). Served cold and perfectly slimy, a plate of grilled aubergine (eggplant) marinated in a provençale tomato based sauce. Slices of saucisson, olive tapenade topped croutons and plump black olives completed the picture.

He mopped the dish clean.

pasta

Entrees cleared (and red wine being sucked down like a gasp for air after being underwater), we proceeded to what was, perhaps, the best dish of pasta I’ve eaten in my entire life.

Maybe it was the quaint, slightly sloping street we sat on. Perhaps it was the blue skies and the sight of children running down cobblestoned paths. The little puppy that sat outside a big green door, begging to be let up.

Or maybe it was the slightly thick, wholesomely yellow strands of chewy noodle that sat underneath my daube d’agneau. The meltingly tender pieces of lamb mingled with a red wine sauce. The screamingly good price of €15.

I believe Koji had a similar experience with his plate of pasta adorned with alouettes sans tete (€14). I couldn’t be sure though, for the sound of contented chewing drowned out his sparse commentary.

La Table Alziari

4 Rue Francois Zanin 06300 Nice, France


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Tired of stomach stuffing meals and lunch-dessert (oh ok, Koji was tired of lunch-dessert. I loved the idea. My hips, not so much) we decided to change tack.

Next stop on this three course tragedy (for stomachs moreso than tastebuds): the quick bite.

Chez Rene Socca

aka: I’m going to need a tray of this with my next beer

this. is. socca.

Socca. The beer snack and lunch choice of the Nicois – created in Nice and found almost solely in Nice.

I fell head over heels for it.

the counters at Chez Rene Socca, aubergine pizza

We’d walked past Chez Rene Socca (arguably the best place in Nice to eat socca) umpteen times in our ramblings through the Old Town and, frustratingly, on the one day we decided to head that way for lunch and a beer, couldn’t for the life of us find it!

Twenty minutes and a minor hanger-related tantrum later, we arrived, made a hasty order in pidgin French, found a table and some beer and plopped ourselves down.

The socca had just run out and a new pan was being brought out over the fire, so we made do with a couple of other snacks to start.

A slice of aubergine tart (that would probably have been better warmed up in an oven) was appreciated in spite of its chilly nature. The pastry was buttery and the aubergine fragrant.

pissaladiere

We fell upon a slice of pissaladiere, in a skinny wedge the length of my forearm, topped with sweet caramelised onions and a sole, coarse, hairy anchovy.

We ordered more beers.

And then it was ready. The socca that we had been waiting for, for at least three minutes. Or, one might say, our entire lives.

It is, essentially a savoury chickpea pancake. But that description would not do justice to the piping hot, crisp-on-the-outside-fluffy-on-the-inside sensation that is a plate full of hot socca eaten with greased up fingers whilst swigging mouthfuls of beer under the sun in a bricked plaza in the South of France.

Or, for that matter, my current hankering to go right back there and do the same all over again.

Rene Socca

2  Rue Miralhetia 06300 Nice, France
04 93 92 05 73


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Restaurant O’Staff

aka: eating in places outside Old Town Nice

pizza, wine and pasta from O’Staff

Oh, I know I’ve been Old Town centric, but that’s just where we ate. On the one occasion we were just too far out from Old Town to head there for the sole purpose of dinner, we wandered a little bit West of the main promenade where the shops line the tram-frantic street and stumbled across a pizzeria that made good the hole in our stomachs and the sadness in our souls.

The pizza was family sized and there was about half a packet of pasta on my plate. We drank all the wine. And it was good.

(And, at €41.80 for one pizza, one pasta, one bottle wine and one espresso, it wasn’t horribly priced for Centre Nice either).

Restaurant O’Staff

5 Rue Paul Déroulède 06000 Nice France
08.99.23.01.66

Open 10am to 11pm daily


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Snacking about Nice

Part of the reason we spent so much of our time being so damn full was the snacking options in Nice.

peches gourmands, nice

Take, for example, Peches Gourmands, where you can buy as many pate de fruit as you’d like for a per 100g price (or if those don’t take your fancy, as many buttery biscuits as your ever-patient Koji will allow before his eyes pop out of his head and a “you’re going to eat how many cookies?” pops out of his mouth.)

I was going to give them away. Sort of.

Well, not the peach and cassis pate de fruit. I ate those by myself.

(You can find branches of this store all over France)


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Or, if you’d prefer snacks of the more chocolate variety, you could stop by Emilie’s Cookies & Coffee Shop just one street away from the Port at Nice. A darkly chocolatey brownie drizzled with an equally chocolatey sauce can be obtained there with change from a note and, from what I hear, the coffee ain’t bad either.

Emilie’s Cookies & Coffee Shop, Port Nice

Emilie’s Cookies and Coffee Shop

1 Rue de la Prefecture 06300 Nice, France
04 93 79 88 40


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If you are particularly lucky, as we were, your local bakery will be lauded as one of the best places in Nice to buy bread. It will also be close enough that you will be able to stand on your balcony and smell the freshly baked baguettes in the air and be able to fly down the stairs and across the street in time to see them coming out of the oven.

Hot bread in cold hands. We gnawed the ends off before making it home.

(You might also, as I did, fall for their petit eclairs in coffee and chocolate. But especially in chocolate. A triple cheese tart for Koji the dessert hater will be nibbled at surreptitiously despite the eclairs to follow.)

treats from la princesse

La Princesse Boulangerie Patisserie

108 Avenue Californie 06200 Nice, France
04 93 44 99 50


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In the kitchen

cooking up a couple of meals in Nice

And then, without warning, your stomach will fail you.

Koji’s first, protesting at the three course meals three times a day and the never ending stream of cake.

“More cake?”

“It’s a cookie / brownie / ice-cream!”

“I can’t do it anymore! I need a salad!”

And so back you will go to the markets on Cours Seleya for fresh tomatoes, goats curd and mache.

White anchovies in a packet so large we couldn’t finish them (despite eating them straight from said packet) and assorted groceries from Carrefour (a whole aisle of pate! 75cl of cider for less than 3€! Smoked mussels!).

Boiled eggs and grapefruit for breakfast. Fresh baguette loaded with French butter. Tea out of a camel shaped teapot sourced in Amsterdam.

We ate like kings even whilst ensconced in the confines of our apartment with its jaunty tiled kitchen and the food was just as sweet there as any fancy restaurant in town.

tomato, goat cheese, white anchovies, mache

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This post is part of the onebitemore Tour de France series, published every Friday until I run out of stories to tell. To see an overview of the trip or to see other posts in this series, click here.

Previously: It’s nice in Nice

Next time: we’re going to take a little break from the TDF series, but after that, get ready for side trips to Monaco, Cassis & Cannes.


  • #1
    August 3rd, 2012

    A tub of bearnaise! Pate de fruit! I can’t tell you how much I’m enjoying this series. It’s like having a vicarious vacation. 🙂

  • #2
    August 6th, 2012

    EPIC!!!! And lol Sheryl that first picture is just too cute for words. I’m so amazed by all the food in this post. Eating your way through Europe really sounds so phenomenal, a dream that I hope will come true one day. Really!! Can’t wait to start work full time so I can save and save and save to make that happen. This post is def very helpful for when that day comes. Glad to see you had an AWESOME one, yay!

  • #3
    August 6th, 2012

    Food food foooooooooood! What an adventure you had. There’s so mcuh food there that I don’t know how you ate it all..

  • #4
    August 7th, 2012

    Woah!!!! What a great trip and how much incredible food did you eat? I especially love the look of the moules marineres and the ille de flotante – my fave French dessert!

  • #5
    August 11th, 2012

    Fantastic food adventure, but, what I do love when abroad is being able to create my own meal. Yes you ate like kings 🙂

Shez