Côte d'Azur Restaurants
3 Avenue des Fleurs
Tel: 33 4 97 07 26 26
Nice's funkiest restaurant was styled by Philippe Starck acolyte Matali Crasset with a menu that changes monthly "designed" by chef Bernard Leduc. These recipes are prepared by Nice's frigoverres, or glass pots for the refrigerated display cabinet from which diners select. Each frigoverre costs a mere six euros, service included. The big question; is it any good? The largely gay clubbing crowd, who love the DJ, doesn't necessarily care, but the intentions—and vitamin content—are good. Dishes include: from the "Raw" menu, orange salad with prunes; or from the "Cereal" menu, ricotta cheese cake with blackberries and strawberries; or from the "Vegetarian" section, udon noodles with sautéed mushrooms and red pesto sauce; or from the "Cuisine" menu (microwaved in-house), chick-pea kebab. All this takes place in a land of pale wood and lime green, pink and turquoise leather. The experience is truly strange, but what a bargain.
Open daily 24 hours for guests; 7 to 1 a.m. daily for non-guests.
20 Rue Comte de Cessole
Tel: 33 4 92 41 51 51
On the French side of the hills above Monaco, right off the Grande Corniche with its spectacular cliff views, the tiny town of La Turbie hosts this Michelin-starred powerhouse. It's known for its $92 prix-fixe menu, which includes a fish appetizer; an earthy, refined saddle of lamb; and a dessert of tart and sorbet of lemons from nearby Menton. That menu is as high in quality as it is simple, but the $170 dégustation allows a more substantial range of fish and game, with the foie gras and truffles laid on in abundance. The encyclopedic wine list has a good selection of modestly priced vintages from Burgundy and the Loire, as well as $10,000-plus bottles of Romanée-Conti. During the summer, be sure to reserve a spot on the terrace: the main dining room has striking, high vaulted ceilings and frescoes, but all the action's outside.
Open daily 7:30 to 10:30 pm, July through September; Wednesdays through Sundays 7:30 pm to 10:30 pm, October through November 5 and February 13 through June.
7 Quai des 2 Emmanuel
Tel: 33 4 93 89 49 63
There is a sense of faded glory at L'Ane Rouge (Red Donkey), with its thick carpets over uneven floors and plastic chairs on the terrace. But all is forgiven once you taste the food. The bouillabaisse, at more than $100 per head, is still legendary for the intensity of its broth and the extraordinary freshness of its seafood (the dish must be ordered at least 24 hours in advance). Somewhat limited tasting menus are available (priced from $37 to $110), but ordering à la carte lets you try delicate portions of fatty tuna with melon, zucchini flower wrapped around squid and langoustine, and a lobster and green-bean salad that astonishes with its freshness and sweetness. Main-course fish dishesespecially a filet of John Dory in olives and saffron, and sea bass tournedosare perfectly light and flaky. Service is a bit slow, but with the view looking out on the old port, with the moon rising over the town, you won't mind lingering.
Open Thursdays through Tuesdays at 7 pm. Closed February.
13 Rue des Frères Pradignac
Tel: 33 4 93 39 59 24
This lively restaurant serves up classic coastal and Provençal cuisine just south of Cannes's Rue d'Antibes. All the usual regional favorites are here: rockfish soup, soupe au pistou (the French version of minestrone), and authentic Niçoise salad. Stop in for lunch, when the $47 prix-fixe menu offers marinated sardines with a strong, lusty flavor and a seared duck breast in pepper sauce. The house wine is blissfully cheap and palatable. The only thing to avoid is being seated in the back, away from all the action on the street. As at many establishments on the Riviera, it's best to call ahead to ask for outside seating.
Opens Mondays through Saturdays at 7:00 pm.
Haut de Cagnes
Tel: 33 4 93 20 73 21
The flavors of Provence and the ocean commingle here in dishes like turbot with a light ratatouille and pigeon stuffed with foie gras. The hot tables are on the terrace overlooking the busy town below, with vistas of the sea and mountains. Don't worry if you get stuck in the main dining room: It has a Goldfinger-style retractable roof decorated with Provençal heraldry. The restaurant and the attached hotel are in the hills between Antibes and Nice and not easy to get to, but they are worth the drive through tortuously narrow roads and the town's medieval citadel.
Open Wednesdays and Fridays through Sundays 12:30 to 2 pm and 7:30 to 10 pm; Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays from 7:30 to 10 pm.
Hôtel de Paris
Place du Casino
Tel: 377 98 06 88 64
The mystique of Alain Ducasse is explained here at the epicenter of his empire, the spot where he reaped the first three of his constellation of Michelin stars. It goes without saying the rooms are the most opulent imaginable, all warm and glowing and Louis Quinzey, and that diners are treated with egalitarian generosity—it's the service that enables it to hold onto that third star. It also goes without saying that the maestro isn't at the stove—that's the domain of chef de cuisine Franck Cerutti, a (near to) Nice native who's been working closely with Ducasse for years and shares his sensibility and skill. One slightly surprising aspect of the menus here is the presence of peasanty dishes secreted among the foie gras and Osetra and Breton blue lobster. A stew of stockfish tripe, poached salt cod and Perugina sausage, for instance, is pure Monegasque, albeit exquisitely evolved and featuring elements from Nice, Scandinavia, and Umbria. A squab breast—to pick another all-but random example—is just as involved and high-low, the pigeon from La Motte du Caire in the Alpes de Haute-Provence has its juices thickened the old-fashioned way with its liver, heart, blood, and a drop of vinegar, then it's served with potatoes in duck fat. Of course it costs a fortune, but if the troops don't provide an experience to remember forever, they've failed and you should e-mail messrs Michelin, Gault-Millau et al forthwith.
Open Thursdays through Mondays 12:15 to 1:30 p.m. and 8 to 9:30 p.m. from December 29th to February 11th and February 28 through November 27th. (Open dinner only Wednesdays June-August).
Chemin de Moulin
Notre Dame de Vie
Tel: 33 4 93 75 78 24
When the chef-god Roger Vergé retired in 2004, Alain Llorca took on the terrifying task of filling his shoes. Lately of the esteemed Le Chantecler in Nice, Llorca trained with Ducasse, but his style is just as much influenced by his homeland—the currently most-culinarily-fabulous Spain. His Ronde des Tapas is a tasting menu by another name, but there's not a whiff of classical French piety in his dishes masquerading as other dishes and fast food—octopus stew "bouillabaisse", foie gras "bonbons", pizza dice and goat cheese croque monsieur. Regular menus come in three déclinaisons: classical/traditional, contemporary (a.k.a. "new and amazing") or light (a.k.a. "natural"), and one way to ride Llorca's roller coaster is to try the three-times-three menu, where three single ingredients are repeated in each of the three styles: for example classical roasted rack of lamb with mushrooms and black truffles, a contemporary roasted rack with balsamic vinegar and Italian bacon, and a light candied lamb served in a tagine with cannelloni and assorted flowers. Desserts by Llorca's brother, pastry chef Jean-Michel Llorca, are equally audacious. The rooms have had an overhaul and now all is white down to the chandeliers, with flourishes of plum. Vergé made Mougin a place of culinary pilgrimage for years, and Llorca is keeping up the tradition, scoring his second Michelin star in 2005. In other words, book way ahead. With nine rooms and apartments on the premises, don't rule out spending your entire vacation here. You can even participate in cooking classes and wine tastings.
Open daily 12 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 to 9:30 p.m.
1 Cours Saleya
Tel: 33 49 380 1844
A three-star chef introduced me to the pizza at Le Safari, on the lively Cours Saleya in Nice. Well, Franck Cerutti wasn't a three-star chef yet; he was the proprietor of a wonderful little place called Don Camillo, around the corner from the Cours, and I'd made arrangements to interview him for a story. He suggested Le Safari, and as we settled in on the terrace, amidst what seemed like the whole stylish, raffish population of the neighborhood, and I started to order the Niçoise-style stuffed vegetables, he shook his head and said, "Get the pizza." Not surprisingly, he knew what he was talking about. I chose one with anchovies and Niçoise olives, and from the little wood-burning oven just inside the door came what I would consider a perfect pie, a paradigm: The crust was thin, with irregular blisters and blackened spots, and as flavorful as good country bread; the tomato sauce was spiked with Provençal herbs; the cheese was sour-salty Cantal; the anchovies and olives were top quality. I was in pizza heaven. Cerutti has now long since been the chef de cuisine at Alain Ducasse's three-star Le Louis XV in Monaco, but I'll bet that he—like me—still stops by for pizza every time he's in town.—Colman Andrews, first published on Gourmet.com
2 Quai Amiral Courbet
Tel: 33 4 93 01 96 73
Part of what's been called the "barefoot Riviera," Calypso sits along the port in the (relatively) relaxed fishing village of Villefranche-sur-Mer, with St.-Jean-Cap-Ferrat on one side and Beaulieu-sur-Mer on the other. Calypso is as unpretentious as the Côte d'Azur gets, with plain wooden tables on a veranda next to the busy port —and exceptionally fast service. Plentiful seafood is the game here: The salade niçoise is fresh, tangy, huge, and, at around $18, a bargain on this overpriced coast; the similarly priced salade Calypso, with grilled octopus, is another favorite. Depending on your olfactory sensitivities, the port setting is a blessing or a curse—the winds alternately bring fresh salt air or the smell of the fishing boats unloading their cargo. Either way, it's a perfect stop-off from the Corniche Inférieure—take the money you saved on lunch to the Casino at Monaco and try your luck.Ralph Martin
Open daily 12 to 2:30 pm and 6:30 to 10:30 pm.
664 Boulevard de Bacon
Tel: 33 4 93 61 50 02
Look at the address—this is nothing to do with pork. It's a delightful casually epicurean tribute to fish that's been run by the Sordello family for nearly 60 years. In that time, the siblings who are now in charge, and the chef of 30 years, Serge Philippin, have learned to ace the sourcing of seafood, so this is where you'll get something that's harder and harder to find: the best of the catch. The soupe de poisson avec rouille, the bouillabaisse and the bourride are all magnificent of course, but an even better option is to order whatever they have today—loup, daurade royale, chapon, sar, corb, marbre, denti, pageot, mostelle. Merely reciting the piscine names brings the glittering Mediterranean in the Baie des Anges to mind; just imagine eating them in situ. The white tent-roofed dining room is gorgeous, as is the clientele—this is the Côte d'Azur. The terrace is divine.
Open Tuesdays 7:30 to 10 p.m. and Wednesdays through Sundays 12 to 2 p.m. and 7:30 to 10 p.m., March through October.
30 Avenue Aristide Briand
Tel: 33 4 92 41 86 86
Argentine chef Mauro Colagreco worked under superstar Alain Passard at L'Arpège in Paris, one of the world's premier places for fresh vegetables, so it's no wonder that his Côte d'Azur smart-casual restaurant includes the words "from our garden" next to nearly every dish. Mirazur sits in a 1960s modernist pavilion elevated above the palms and bougainvillea of Menton—literally the last stop before Italy (the border is about 100 yards away)—with panoramic views of the town and its bay. In keeping with the chef's passion for seasonal ingredients, in high summer, eggplant and tomatoes feature heavily on the seafood-oriented menu, along with regional mushrooms. The lunch menu is a bargain, though the $80 Menu Tomates de Notre Jardin (dinner only) is also a stupendous value for a Michelin-starred restaurant, with grilled squid in a seafood broth and the catch of the day, as well as a tomato compote dessert. There's a slight feel of roughness around the edges in the setting: The building calls to mind a molded-concrete spaceship that must have looked great when it was first built, but now there are a few cracks in the surface and a bit of rust around the metal joints. The setting aside, the menu is inventive and compelling, making this a destination worth driving to the end of France for.Ralph Martin
Open Wednesdays through Fridays 12:15 to 2:30 pm and 7:15 to 10:30 pm, Saturdays and Sundays 7:15 to 10:30 pm, July and August.
73 La Croisette
Tel: 33 4 92 98 73 00
Occupying the premier beach real estate in Cannes, this extension of the Hôtel Martinez offers a light seafood menu perfect after a day in the sun. Everything is fresh and tastes it: Try the mozzarella and fried eggplant and the fillets of red mullet in a saffron broth. The light fare is a break, both for the mind and the waistline, from the over-the-top intensity of many dining establishments along the Riviera. Prices, considering the beachfront location, are surprisingly low (expect to pay about $42 a head).
Open daily 12:30 to 6:30 pm.