A gastronomical trip to the city of the salad
In a country famous for its food, almost every major city lays a claim to exceptional cuisine, but only two French cities can boast a dish named after the city itself. Lyon is one – as in ‘pommes Lyonnaise’, and Nice is the other, with its legendary ‘Salade Niçoise’ included on menus the world over. But food in Nice is not just about salads. You’ll find everything here, from Michelin-starred restaurants, markets brimming with foodie delights, and Italian-influenced Provençal specialities to rustic, idiosyncratic street food. Here are ten of the city’s best foodie experiences.
TEXT: EDDI FIEGEL | MAIN PHOTO © KRISTOFFER TROLLE
Saleya Market. Photo © H.Lagarde
Stroll through the Cours Saleya market
This lively market on the edge of the old town looms large on every tourist itinerary but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth visiting. Set on one of Nice’s many elongated squares, amidst Italianate townhouses with smart pavement cafés, head past the purples, pinks and reds of the flower stalls with their lavender, geraniums and dahlias, to the food section. Here, you’ll find plump olives, local honeys, cheeses and the best Provençal fruit and veg. This is the perfect place for that bit of cheese to go with a baguette and a glass of wine for a picnic.
Try socca instead of crêpes
Whilst the Bretons have their crêpes and galettes, the Niçoise version of a pancake is made of chickpea flour. It may look like a beautifully browned crêpe with the same slightly crisped texture, but ‘socca’ is cooked in an old-fashioned, pizza-style oven and eaten on its own, traditionally as a street-food snack. Look no further than Chez Thérésa’s stand every morning at the Cours Saleya market or if you want to sit down with a cool beer, head to their place in the old town and watch it being freshly made in an oven dating back to 1867.
Chez Thérésa, 28 Rue Droite.
Salade Nicoise. Photo © Kelagopian
Eat ‘the real’ Salade Niçoise
As you might expect you’ll find the city’s most famous dish on virtually every menu in town, but what it actually looks and tastes like can vary hugely from one place to another. It turns out the widely known recipe of green beans, tuna, potatoes, anchovies and hard boiled eggs is not an accepted standard at all in Nice. Depending on where you go, you’re just as likely to find artichokes, radishes, celery and spring onions in there too. Chefs at the city’s higher-end, fine-dining establishments likewise tend to enjoy deconstructing the classic dish and creating their own idiosyncratic versions. So where best to try it? There’s no real answer – just trust your nose and if you’ve found somewhere good to eat, chances are the Salade Niçoise will be good too.
Try courgette flowers at Alziari Restaurant
This is another Niçoise staple which has become all the rage of late. Locally grown, yellow courgette flowers either served crisply battered and deep-fried as beignets or fritters, or alternatively, baked, stuffed with delicately spiced meat. Try Alziari, tucked away down a side street in the old town for some of the best, as well as other top-notch Niçoise specialities.
Alziari, 4 Rue François Zanin.
Farcis. Photo © Pixabay
Sink your teeth into ‘les petits farcis’
‘Les petits farcis’, or ‘farcis’, are another local speciality featuring vegetables – usually aubergines, tomatoes, onions or peppers – stuffed with ground meat such as veal, beef, garlic and breadcrumbs. They can be served hot or cold either as a light lunch or as a starter, and you’ll find them on the menu at most places serving traditional Niçoise cusine. For some of the best in town, head to Acchiardo, where they’ve been dishing up top local dishes since 1927.
Acchiardo, 38 rue Droite.
Grab a ‘pan bagnat’ on the go
Yet another classic Niçoise street food snack, ‘pan bagnats’ are perfect for picnicking and you’ll find them in bakeries throughout the city. Essentially a ‘salade niçoise’ in a bun, it’s served in a roll made of the local wholemeal ‘pain de campagne’ filled with raw vegetables, hard boiled eggs, tuna or anchovies and olive oil. The story goes that it was originally a way of using up slightly stale bread, but you’re unlikely to find your bread stale these days. Try, once more, Chez Thérésa in the Old Town or the stands at the Hall Gourmande.
Pissaladiere. Photo © Merle ja Joonas
Taste the difference between pizza and ‘pissaladière’
Something else you’ll see on most menus is this tart which, to all intents and purposes, looks very much like a pizza, but is in fact a savoury tart topped with caramelized onions, olives and anchovies. Grab a slice, pizza-style, on the go from a bakery, or sit down and try it as a starter in any of the traditional Niçoise restaurants around town.
Visit Chocolaterie Henri Auer
Whether you like chocolate or not, this artisan chocolatier opposite the Nice opera house is worth a visit just for the ornate, chandelier-filled Art Nouveau interior and Auer’s extraordinary chocolate sculptures and creations. A family-run business since 1820, it’s the perfect place for gifts with beautifully packaged chocolates and macaroons as well as homemade jams and bonbons.
Chocolaterie Henri Auer, 7 Rue Saint-François de Paule.
Left to right: Halle Gourmande. Photo © OTCM IBQ | Saleya Market. Photo © H.Lagarde
Visit the ‘Halle Gourmande’ at Libération Market
Housed in the vast steel and glass train shed of what was originally the city’s 19th-century Gare du Sud train station, this new food court, on the edge of the Libération food market, opened earlier this year. There’s a huge choice of different styles, from local seafood including an oyster bar, Niçoise specialities, cheese and charcuterie, to Lebanese, Thai and noodle bars. It’s also blissfully free of international chains.
Libération Market, 35 Avenue Malaussena.
Drink a royal cocktail at the Hotel Negresco
With its pink domes defining the skyline along the Promenade des Anglais seafront hotel, the grand Negresco hotel is a city landmark. Drop by the plush, chandeliered and wood-panelled bar for its signature cocktail – the ‘Royal Negresco’. Created in 1936 by the hotel’s head barman, it’s a beautifully subtle if heady concoction, like a glamorous cousin of a champagne cocktail with a unique mix of Kirsch, strawberry syrup, Taittinger Champagne and ‘palettes d’or’: ie tiny flecks of pure gold.
Royal Negresco, 37 Promenade des Anglais.
Bar Negresco. Photo © Didier Bouko
Easyjet flies to Nice from Belfast, Bristol, Edinburgh, Liverpool, Gatwick, Luton, Stansted, Manchester and Newcastle, with fares starting from 25 euros per person.
Where to stay:
The three-star Villa Rivoli (10 Rue de Rivoli), housed in a converted 19th-century villa, has double rooms from 89 euros. Alternatively, the contemporary, four-star Deck Hotel (2 Rue Maccarani) near the old town has doubles from 95 euros including breakfast.