Nice is Food Lovers' Heaven
Nice, France's second city, is well known for its food culture. And why not? Surrounded by the fruit, vegetables and famous olive oil of Provence, by specialist producers of meat and with the harvest of the sea at the local fish market, Nice could hardly fail to be a spectacular place for food.
The Markets of Nice
The fabulous, seductive market in the Cours Saleya is one of Nice’s great attractions. It’s not a tourist attraction, though visitors make it one of their first stops. Like the vegetable and fruit market in Antibes, it’s a proper working market, used by the local residents and restaurants. The best way to see it is on your own walking tour of the Cours Saleya.
The fish market is a lesson in fish you may not recognise. It's a short walk from the Cours Saleya to Place Saint-Francois and is open from 6am to 1pm daily except Mondays.
Where to Enjoy Local Flavors
There is no greater pleasure than eating local dishes prepared by knowledgeable chefs and Nice has plenty of both.
Try the market on the Cours Saleya and the little streets of the Vieille Ville (Old Town) for socca (a thin pancake made from chickpea flour and olive oil, baked and crisped in the oven and seasoned with black pepper, a little like a crepe), pizza, pissaladière (pizza-like onion tart), petits farcis (delicious stuffed Provençale vegetables), salade Nicoise, pan bagnat (fresh baps or bread filled with salade Nicoise), tourte aux blettes (tart of Swiss chard, raisins and pine nuts) and beignets de fleurs de courgettes (deep fried fritters in olive oil with vegetables like courgettes flowers).
You can buy these specialities at stalls or try the local restaurants.
Discover local restaurants:
Food Shopping in Nice
Once sampled, never forgotten –- the open-air maket on Cours Saleya is a feast for all the senses. It’s worth getting up early before the tourists arrive to see how the locals shop and it's the first stop for any serious food lover. But Nice is a real food town and there are plenty of shops to enjoy as well.Olive oil production is serious business in the Mediterranean –- something I only fully realized when getting to Nice’s great olive oil shops –- though perhaps ‘emporium’ would be a better term to describe the serious nature of the business. The (AOC) appellation controléee is applied to olive oil in the same way as AOC wines – just as carefully produced and just as expensive. And you’ll find yourself comparing the nutty with hints those hinting at apples –- yes, you can talk about olive oil just as you do about wine.
Learn to CookIf you really want to know more about Niçois cooking, book a day at Les Petits Farcis. Cordon Bleu-trained owner Rosa Jackson takes you through the Cours Saleya market and introduces you to her favorite producers, like Claude Aschani who makes olive oil, olive pastes, vinegars and honey on her farm in Coaraze. It’s the kind of insider knowledge that you dream of acquiring. You shop, you learn how to cook your ingredients back at her apartment, then you get to eat the results. It’s fun, informative and relaxed. Information and booking at Les Petits Farcis.
Wine bars offer the chance to ask the knowledgeable sommeliers about wine and get a sensible answer. Unlike wine bars in the U.K. or U.S.A. you are expected to eat as well, though the menu is less formal than a regular restaurant. These two are my favorites:
- La Part des Anges
Olivier Labarde is a sommelier who really knows his stuff. Try recommendations from his 600-strong list, and keep sober with plates of charcuterie or cheese, lamb confit and the like at this small, buzzing wine bar.
Address: 17 rue Gubernatis
Tel.: 00 33 (0)4 93 85 71 53
Open: Mon.-Sat. 10.30 a.m.-11 p.m.
- Vinivore The little sister of La Part des Anges, with the same care and attention to the wine list from Olivier Labarde. A 400-strong wine list which includes the top names, good drinking and organic wines is the attraction here, the bottles stored in a huge wine rack along one wall. Food is of the ‘home-cooking’ type –- charcuterie, roast guinea fowl, gratin of potatoes and the like.
Address: 32 avenue de la République
Tel.: 00 33 (0)4 93 26 90 17
Open: Mon.-Thurs. 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Fri. 9 a.m.-10.30pm., Sat. 7 pm.-10.30 p.m.