Nice might be famous for its glittering Michelin-starred restaurants, but it's traditional Niçois cooking that reigns in the culinary capital of southern France. The best places for local dishes and Provençal tastes are the small bistros favoured by the locals. Many are run by chefs who trained with the greats before going solo. You'll find some real treasures among the usual tourist traps and pizza joints in Vieux Nice (Old Nice) and the port.
1. Les Viviers
There are two parts to Les Viviers. The better known restaurant is a serious destination but I prefer the smaller 1900s-style bistro. The decor might be a bit of a cliche but the Art Deco style, stone walls, blackboard menus, crisp white linen and fresh flowers on the tables really works. This is the place for classic, high-end dishes like scallop carpaccio with truffles, and devilled veal kidneys. Well worth the expense are their specialties of flappingly fresh fish and seafood. Set menus keep prices reasonable; the all-French wine list is serious and if you're not careful, can damage your wallet.
Address: 22 rue Alphonse Karr, New Town
Tel.: 00 33 (0)4 93 16 00 48
Open: Mon.-Fri. noon-2 p.m., 6 p.m.-10 p.m., Sat. 6 p.m.-10 p.m.
2. Le Bistrot du Port
On a summer's day book for a leisurely meal at the outdoor tables of the bright yellow Bistrot du Port. It's the perfect spot for people watching, particularly the mega rich bobbing up and down on their yachts in the old port opposite. The cosy interior, with its large panoramic mural of Nice, is a great spot in winter. Fish is the name of the game here; order a generous seafood platter or ask the chef Jose Orsini for a whole fish cooked in salt.
Address: 28 Quai Lunel, Old Port
Tel.: 00 33 (0)4 03 55 21 70
Open: Mon., Thurs.-Sun. noon-2 p.m., 7 p.m.-10 p.m., Tues. noon-2.p.m.
3. La Merenda
Unusual dishes chalked up daily on the blackboard bring locals flocking to this small, cramped and frankly uncomfortable bistro (you sit on stools with no backs). Tripe, polenta with cheese and andouillettes are cooked with panache by former Hotel Negresco chef, Dominique le Stanc. No credit cards, no telephone number, no booking. It's incredibly successful.
Address: 4 rue Raoul-Bosio, Vieux Nice
Open: Mon.-Fri. noon-2 p.m., 7 p.m.-10 p.m.
4. Côte Sud
The Côte Sud is the best bet if you're visiting the Matisse or Chagall Museums in Cimiez, the smart residential area in the hills high above Nice. The attraction of this peaceful neighborhood restaurant is the expert cooking of chef Jean-Luc Jaffres who bases his menu on what he buys at the market each day. Book in the light, airy restaurant or sit under the trees on the terrace outside for the freshest sea bream with tomatoes and onions, or a rack of lamb cooked simply with herbs.
Address: 2 rue du Professeur Sureau, Cimiez
Tel.: 00 33 (0)4 93 01 36 40
Open: Mon.-Sun. noon-2 p.m., 7 p.m.-10 p.m.
5. In Vino
This wine bar-cum-restaurant champions the idea of matching wines (many by the glass) with a small selection of well-cooked dishes. The emphasis is on organic food and wine and the owners know most of the small wine producers personally. It's a romantic place with red walls, wooden furniture and racks of wines filling the rooms and a terrace for warm summer nights. With its lively atmosphere and late opening hours, In Vino is a refreshing change from more conventional bistros.
Address: 2 rue de l'Hotel-de-Ville, Vieux Nice
Tel.: 00 33 (0)4 93 80 21 64
Open: Mon.-Sat. noon-2 p.m., 7 p.m.-midnight.
6. La Table Alziari
Sit on the restaurant's outdoor terrace and order cod with potatoes, olives and tomatoes or lamb stew just like grandmother used to make. Revered by locals as an immovable institution in a dangerously changing world, La Table Alziari is run by the grandson of the olive oil family (you can buy their famous oils at the shop, 14 rue Saint Francois de Paule).
Address: 4 rue Francois-Zanin, Vieux Nice
Tel.: 00 33 (0)4 93 80 34 03
Open: Tues.-Sun. noon-2 p.m., 7 p.m.-10 p.m.
7. La Cantine de Lulu
North of the revitalized Place Massena among the seductive shopping streets of the new town, La Cantine offers an archetypal Nice experience. Zucchini flower fritters, aioli on the last Friday of the month, veal with olives, bouillabaisse to order. A loyal local following keeps this small bistro buzzing.
Address: 26 rue Alberti, Vieux Nice
Tel.: 00 33 (0)4 93 62 15 33
Open: Mon.-Fri. noon-2 p.m., Tues.-Fri. 7 p.m.-10 p.m.
Named after a George Brassens song, this small unpretentious restaurant tucked away in the labyrinth of the old town's small streets packs in a local crowd. The decor is simple - yellow walls, small tables and wooden chairs. There's a friendly welcome, good-value food (try the excellent set menu around 17 euros) and dishes inspired by Normandy and Provence.
Address: 3 rue Centrale, Vieux Nice
Tel.: 00 33 (0)4 93 80 87 90
Open: Tues.-Sat. 7 p.m.-10 p.m.
9. Vin sur Vin
Once purely a wine bar, Vin sur Vin has been fabulously revamped as a brasserie/bistro with a 300-strong wine list to accompany hearty dishes like beef stew or just a simple plate of cheese. It's in the pedestrianised area of the new town, ideal for a break from shopping.
Address: 18 bis rue Biscarra, New Town
Tel.: 00 33 (0)4 93 92 93 20
Open: Mon.-Sat. noon-2 p.m., 7 p.m.-10 p.m.
10. Le Bistrot d'Antoine
Inventive cooking at bistro prices wows the locals here. After stints with top chefs like Joel Robuchon and the celebrated local and international star, Jacques Maximin, Armand Crespo wanted his own place. So a few years ago, he and his wife Sylvie took over this old-established bistro. In winter, go for the cosy upstairs dining room; in summer eat on the sunny outdoor terrace with a mix of tourists, local regulars and the best recommendation of all -- off-duty chefs. Prices are reasonable; the wine list is fair and there's an impressive list of rums to round off the meal.
Address: 27 rue de la Prefecture, Vieux Nice
Tel.: 00 33 (0)4 93 85 29 57
Open: Daily, noon-2 p.m., 8 p.m.-10 p.m.