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Report: Vence, Nice and environs

j
jsaimd Jun 18, 2009 10:24 PM

We camped out in Vence for 6 weeks with our 3 kids (ages infant, 5, and 7 years). I wanted to write up our thoughts on food, as there isn't much out there for this region. We are die hard food lovers from Bay Area California, but were trying to be fairly frugal on this trip. We also had 2 celiacs in the crew, so no gluten for all. My French is mediocre, so please excuse spelling and misuse of articles!

Vence:

Le Troquet: We ate here the first day that we were in the country. I was starving after surviving off of Fruit and nut bars for days, so it is difficult to assess fairly - but the food did seem good. We just needed food and it was one of the first places we came across. Service was good. I had a salad and nice fish (flounder) with a good cauliflower souffle and overcooked but flavorful green beans. My complaint is that they were very heavy on the butter Husband had good mushroom ravioli, and son a steak hache with fries. My son's meal was one of the best versions of that we had, even though it isn't a meal I would seek out in the region. We did have sticker shock for carte prices.

Creperie Bretonne: Son was dying to try GF galette and this was one of the better creperies we went to. Husband was a fan of the carmelized onion with roquefort and the chevre served with salad, son like jambon et fromage. I liked the ratatouille, but the salad nicoise was a disappointment. Dessert galettes are made with the sale batter, but I liked the salty sweet combination. Ice cream just OK for my tastes.

La Cassolette: This was a savior after a string of mediocre meals that felt over priced. It wasn't the best food we had, but was nice and service was good. My husbands braised veal was very good and he returned later on his own and had another nice meal. My risotto was a bit more done than I like, but good taste, but the orange duck was too sweet for me. Panna cotta was good, as were all the desserts - standard but good. I do recommend this place.

La Regence: Yuk yuk yuk on all accounts. Couldn't figure out why this place was so popular until we asked a local friend for dining recs and they said "Anyplace with nice outdoor dining" My soup de poisson was inedible and the rouille tasted like canola oil. Nothing was great and service was mediocre. My husband tried to order the special on the board and they didn't even know it was on the menu that day (indeed it wasn't). Pizza was doughy and not flavorful.

Le Pleyra: Decent food at a decent price in a nice setting. My salad nicoise was fine, but nothing to write home about. Kids meals were bad, but the moule frites were fine. MIL liked her salad chevre chaud and onion soup.

Les Bacchanales: Without a doubt the best meal we ate in the area. Fantastic all the way through with the exception of the amuse bouche. Creative flavors well cooked and the best desserts we had on the trip - a total steal for 50 Euros for 4 courses. Each course was paired with a unique bread. I had heard service was slow, but it was just fine for us. Unfortunately though was made a reservation to go back, but I did it in English (my husband is the fluent French speaker). The guy seemed to understand but was odd - I confirmed the date 3 times during the conversation because he was so odd. They were closed when we got their for their vacation - so so so sad because we were about to leave. Sigh...so we ended up at Le Vieux couvent

Le Vieux couvent: I had limited, but promising hopes given it was referenced in both the Guide Gantie and the Michelin Guide. This meal was a flop - perhaps because we were so excited to go back to Bacchanales and this was obviously not that restaurant. Soup de Poisson amuse bouche was good, entree of shellfish and potato salad was too salty and tasted only of mayonaisse. Husbands duck with fois gras was better but not great. My plat was a salmon which was well cooked and the olives were flavorful, but the herb oil was flavorless. Veggies were bland. My husbands chicken fricasse was dry, but flavor was fine. The melted onions were very good. Dessert was find, but nothing to write home about. Bread was mediocre.

Auberge des Templier: We went for a nice dinner with MIL and kids. My amuse bouche (2) and entree were very good - a smoked salmon mousse and a shellfish cream mousseline. My husband had a filo turnover with shrimp which was good, and an asperge salad also good. The plats were disappointing. My fish was cooked typically (all restaurants cooked it more than I prefer), and the carrot puree was good, but I have a feeling they left out a major flavor component to make it GF. My son's fish was good, mousseline OK. Husbands lamb was overcooked and flavorless he said. Dessert for the non-celiacs was a chocolate cake, which they said was good, but typical chocolate cake. Nothing creative, but overall fairly solid food. A cut above most, but price is also above most. We wanted to give it another try - it warranted it. Service was very friendly.

l'Armoise: A seafood specialty restaurant in old town. My son and I went together as my husband doesn't do seafood. The amuse was a smoked salmon rillette. Good. The entree a St. Jacque scallop with truffle oil, lobster sauce, and risotto - very rich and very tastey. The plat, grouper with seared frois gras and a buerre rouge sauce. Also good. Dessert an orange creme caramel with good texture and flavor. Would go back, but it is more expensive than many of the old town restaurants.

We had wanted to try La Lilote, but never got there. La Farigoule may have been nice too. Also, the little brasserie I think it was Etoile, only has 1 or 2 dishes a day, but it looked good.

Bread: My husband and son tried several boulangeries. The favorite was hands down Lou Fournil. We followed the crowd there the first day and we could see why. Baguette and olive breads were favorites. Also tried Pleyra, the bakery at the corner by the Place Jardin (more on that later), and the Baguepi place. Of note is the boulangerie that comes on Monday and Thursday afternoon at the roundabout on Route du Grasse. They sell rustic and flavorful breads my husband really liked, but they sell out quickly, so get there before 6 PM. They also sell cheese and dried sausage.

Pastries: The top for breakfast pastries was the shop at the corner near the Place Jardin. The dessert pastries and breads were not tops, but their breakfast pastries were very good. My husband like the almond croissant. The place next to Lou Fournil won a place in Guide Gantie, but the croissant wasn't great. Never did try anything else. There is a little shop hidden in the back of old town that does chocolat, macarons and dessert pastries. Chocolats were OK, macaroons decent, but never did try the other desserts - they were pretty. The baguepi place did good pomme and mediant tart, but the verrines weren't great.

Other: The cheese shop La Poivre d'Ane was super yummy - we had lots of cheese from there and the service was very good.
The traiteur next to the creperie had good paella (but of course suffered from being held), and fish. Very nice chef saved us when our dinner option was closed. We tried another traiteur on the main drag in old town - can't recall the name, but it is across from Lou Fournil - the liver was very good, but everything else was bland IMO.
Markets: We frequented the local market. The socca there was super good - very olive oily, but I loved it. The local veggies were fresh and reasonably priced for the freshness. The veggie markets throughout town really vary in price and quality. Supermarkets: Leclerc was our favorite, but we avoided fine cheese and delicate produce there.

Antibes: We liked the market the first time, but found it to be ho hum as we spent more time in France. We ate at a creperie right near the market which had good salads and mediocre crepes. Legrand Gourmet was a nice epicurie and son enjoyed a chocolate mousse cake at Patisserie Cottard. We wanted to try Mamalu and Comptoire de la Tourraque but never did get there.

Frejus: On the boardwalk we ate at a pizza restaurant, La Bocca. OK salads and decent pizza. Good service.

Cagnes (Haute): Josie Jo. This was an interesting place. Like most of our weekday lunch dining we were nearly alone in the restaurant, but it felt extra empty here. The service was fine, but a bit distant and strange. Sons calamari was very good, small portion it being an entrée. Other son had a large portion of melon and jambon. My stuffed zucchini blossoms were fantastic, and my duck, fire roasted and salted, was very good. Very plain straightforward food – nothing creative. My husband had a good but not too memorable entrée and a flavorful but a bit tough faux filet. Overall, not the best value we encountered, perhaps because we prefer more creative cuisine.

Cap Ferrat St Jean: I can’t recall the name of the restaurant, but near the beach down from Cadillac – to the right if you are facing the beach. Solid and inexpensive food. Not fancy, not creative but satifying lunch. Lunch special of beef with potatoes was good. Salad niciose and ravioli good too.

Nice:

Luc Salsedo: Yummy yummy. Great balance of flavors and good value (lunch deal). My carpaccio was among some of the best I have had, and my fish main was very good. Sorry I can’t recall the exact details, the consequence of waiting too long to write up the report, but it was fantastic. My husband had a tomato and sheeps milk cheese entrée which he said was very good and I think duck for a plat. Super nice owners and they were very welcoming to the kids. Highly recommend this place.

Arlequin: Not a restaurant, but we went back again and again. We had gelato in Italy just over the border (Haiti in Ventimiglia). Everyone told us that Italian gelato was good, but I preferred Arlequin to Fennochio or Crema Gelato or Haiti. I loved the chocolate sorbets, the pineapple mint sorbet, the pistachio gelato – good balance of flavors and great texture. We went back often. Fennochio was fine, better than most of the ice creams I had, but beyond the fun flavors not too exciting.

Nissa Socca: A big disappointment. The socca was more like a crust, very dry. Not my thing. OK salad, pasta and pizza, but not worth the hype.

Renee Socca: Very good socca, but everything else was a letdown. Prefer more carmelized onions and more flavor. Cheap but not too much variety in food.

Oliveria: Super sweet and gregarious owner. Some really fun olive oil. Go and order the entrees – all were good (and we had all of them). The mains were less successful, but still good. I do recommend this place for a fun meal. The owner does speak English if you prefer.

Don Camillo Creations: Our last meal out in Nice. We had the market menu which is a good value. They were nice enough to sub in duck for my husband who doesn’t eat fish, and deal with my celiac. My kids split a menu, but in reality they served them full portions. Very well prepared fois gras to start, the plat was less good, but still good calamari with curry cream (I just don’t like the generic curry powder), but dessert was the weak point. The sorbets were icy and flavorless and the rest didn’t make up for it. I do very much recommend this place, but would need to try dessert again to recommend that course.

Brasserie Majestic or something like that on Notre Dame. Not worth writing home about – just bar food and mediocre. Our mistake for waiting too long for lunch and not arming ourselves with recommendations our first day in Nice.

Cours Saleya: Unimpressed with the reseller nature of the food section on the weekday, but enjoyed the local reseller section of the Saturday market. Some really good sheep milk cheese. Bitter orange marmalade was good, but I found most to be good in the area - maybe not too picky? Very good nougat noir. Husband liked his fougasse. Most other things and the produce were fine, but not too exciting. I could find better or just as good in Vence for the same price. Didn't like the Chez Theresa socca, underdone and not so flavorful - but it appears I got a bad batch as I saw more well done socca on the pan in subsequent visits.

There were many more places we wanted to try, but alas, our time and money didn’t allow. My best advice is to search out the lunch specials for nicer restaurants and to choose wisely. You can spend a lot of money on mediocre food or less on really quality food.

Also see my report on chocolatiers and macarons in the area.

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    saacnmama RE: jsaimd Jun 19, 2009 06:21 AM

    Thank you!! What a wonderful report!
    I'm planning to get to Venice with my son. It's been too long since I was there, and I don't think my plan from those days--wander around taking photos of laundry hanging on lines criss-crossing canals until I happen to notice an eatery that catches my attention and figure out my order based on people there--would work with a 6-yr-old.
    Now if I could just figure out camping in Italy, something like Yelloh in France!

    1 Reply
    1. re: saacnmama
      j
      jsaimd RE: saacnmama Jun 19, 2009 07:05 AM

      Note I was in Vence (a town in the hills above Nice) not Venice. I would hate for someone to be searching out these restaurants in Italy!

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