Le Vieux Port is a must-see sight in Nice and it’s not short of restaurants. Whether you want traditional fare like moules frites or bang-up-to-date fusion food, here’s the best on offer.
As one of the largest towns on the French Riviera – and the closest to food-loving Italy – it’s not a shock that Nice has so many delicious restaurants. There are many food outlets just in the few streets surrounding the harbour, and it can be difficult to make a choice. Some have white tablecloths, offer local specialities and, unsurprisingly, focus on the local fish catch. Others are more avant-garde, offering interesting approaches on local favourites.
Chef Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen learned his trade working on boats. Now he cooks fusion food near the Old Port, serving a distinctive fusion of French and African food incorporating his beloved South African favourites such as melktert and biltong in his 24-seater restaurant. He has a Michelin star for crafting three-course menus of wonderful, gastronomic indulgence served on crisp white tablecloths.
For foodies wanting to experience a day in the life of a meticulous chef, Michel Devillers’s restaurant on the quayside of the port of Nice is the ideal location. L’Ane Rouge proposes cookery classes starting with a wake-up call to select ingredients from the local market, followed by meal preparation and wine tasting with the chef himself. The classes offer a glimpse into the way Michel Devillers works, sourcing his ingredients from his own personal network of local suppliers, including fisherman friend ‘Gilbert’, who continues to use the traditional method of line fishing to bring the freshest fish to the tables at L’Ane Rouge. The food is of the best quality – as you’d expect from a butcher’s son and a greengrocer’s grandson – and the dishes are beautifully presented.
Perched on the edge of a cliff facing the Baie Des Anges, La Réserve de Nice has a mythical reputation for gastronomic indulgence with a superlative view over the bay below. It was built in 1862 and was redone in the 1930s in an art-deco style. Chef Jérôme Cotta trained with the best and is inspired by local fish as he whips up seaside extravaganzas. The menu is features such options as ‘the king prawn has a fling with zucchini’ and ‘the peach pitch’ dessert, which contains peaches cooked and sugared every kind of way. Interestingly, they do a divine kids menu of the freshly grilled catch of the day with homemade chunky fries.
Eat anything on the menu for nine euros fifty at Le Neuf Cinquante
Restaurant, French, $$$
Le Neuf Cinquante is a couple of streets back from the Old Port and its name, which translates as ‘nine fifty’, is because everything on the menu is exactly that – €9.50. It’s a homely little place where the wines by the glass are reasonable, the staff are warm and inviting and the chef prepares Italian basics with the best quality ingredients. It isn’t open during weekends so make sure you head over on a weekday.
L’uzine means factory in English, and this place boasts an industrial vibe with distressed walls and pop art on the walls. The ambience is upbeat and lively – groups are always welcome – and a troubadour band plays to clapping, singalong crowds. At midday, the set menus deliver dishes such as mascarpone-stuffed courgettes and octopus in thyme and lemon. In the evening, the menu is similar but grander, offering linguini with clams or cod wrapped in chard.
The owners call Maison Gusto a serious mozzarella bar and they aren’t wrong. If you love cheese then you have to visit this bar and grill selling the Italian delicacy in all its various forms. Try the burrata, stracciatella or mozzarella di buffala washed down with some delectable wine and a charcuterie plate or salad. For burger lovers, order the Bell’Italiano where the mozzarella melts lovingly over meat into tomato confits.
Situated on the northeastern corner of the Old Port, La Vigna is in an ideal location to watch the boats drift in and out of the harbour. The menu is traditionally French – homemade duck foie gras with chutney or salmon tartare – and, with a reasonably priced three-course set menu available both lunchtime and dinnertime, it won’t break the bank unless you decide to splurge on the ample wine list. Try the succulent lemon meringue pie for dessert.
Run by a mother and daughter team, Ode and Amandine, just as the name suggests, Le Marlin is a fish restaurant (the marlin has a big pointed snout similar to the swordfish). They work with local fishermen and fishmongers to select the best fish and seafood that Amandine and her team prepare in the kitchen; think scallops, a mixed seafood grill or one of the best moules frites in town with a sublime view of the harbour.