For the New Year’s holidays, and generally during winter, the Côte d’Azure is always a buen retiro. This year, once again, its amazingly mild climate attracted a large number of Italians, myself included. Allow me to recommend a couple of interesting places to eat which are bound to revive the spirit during a relaxing holiday: one is the best fish restaurant on the whole coast, the other a new establishment that has shot to the top the list of eateries a city like Nice can offer.
Let’s start with Loulou (+33 4 93310017) at Cros De Cagnes (Bd de la Plage, 91), the coastal ‘offshoot’ of Cagnes Sur Mer. No frills from the chefs, the Campo brothers: good local fish, cooked simply to bring out the best of its flavor. No culinary tricks or complications here: the ingredients all come from within a radius of a few kilometers (the furthest being the shrimp from San Remo) and the prices are extremely reasonable (38 euros). Baked sole, salted sea bass, fish soups and other classic dishes are expertly prepared in the open-plan kitchen (with an enormous cooker hood to guarantee absolutely no unpleasant odors, almost big enough to swallow up the chef!).
In an area of the coast like this, full of touristy fish restaurants where you are most likely to throw your money away, Loulou is a safe berth and excellent value for money. As I said before, this is undoubtedly the best fish restaurant on the Côte d’Azure.
The other restaurant is Le Padouk (+33 4 92147700), situated inside the hotel in the splendid, recently renovated Palais de la Mediterranée (Promenade des Anglais, 15) in Nice. The cuisine is complex and creative but sensible, an original interpretation of traditional Nice dishes. Chef Bruno Sohn is from Alsace as is his sous-chef, who was on duty when I ate there. It’s odd to find two Alsatians in Nice, cooking so stylishly in a new and fashionable location.
Opposite the huge terrace overlooking the sea the various types of menu are displayed: substantial snack dishes at the bar, the more reasonably-priced lunch menus (entrées at 15 euro, main courses 23, dessert 8), and the pricier dinner menu (75 euro or à la carte). The dishes are both simple, like the excellent mixed grill of fish or vegetables, and complicated – sometimes a little too complicated (for example the mullet with Nice-style stuffing – a little over the top and rather disrespectful of the ingredients).
But one dish is definitely worth the journey, and is not to be missed, if it remains on the menu in the future. It is not one of Bruno Sohn’s original creations, but the faithful revival of a recipe by Jules Gouffé, the great 19th-century chef whose handed down collections of recipes have made culinary history. This dish is the ‘pig’s trotter stuffed with foie gras with a porcini mushroom and autumn fruit marinade, fondant potato and a tasty sauce’ presented by Gouffé in 1867 towards the end of his career as ‘ancien officier de bouche’ at the Jockey Club in Paris. This unforgettable dish demonstrates the courage and modesty of the chefs at Le Padouk, the best you’ll find in Nice, and certainly on its way up (it has been open less than a year). Keep an eye on it.
Carlo Petrini is international president of Slow Food International
Adapted by Ailsa Wood
First printed in La Stampa on January 15 2005