You can find lists of the top-end restaurants anywhere, but it is the little gems in this middle category that are so elusive, with moderate prices but excellent value. The following restaurants in Vieux Nice offer a level of quality far exceeding their price range.
My new favorite is Le Lavomatique, which opened in what used to be… my old laundromat! They kept the funky blue industrial/laundromat decor, and created something truly original. Gregoire and Hugo, the brothers famous for the Bistro de Fromagier before they sold, have created a French-style tapas bar, where their creative takes on classic fare are meant to be shared. Excellent selection of wines that you won’t see elsewhere, all hand picked by Gregoire. Fun, hip, and always packed… it’s best to reserve. 11 rue Pont Vieux, tram stop Cathédrale, +33 4 93 55 54 18. Closed Saturday and Sunday.
Another new restaurant that I really like is La Bocca, across from the opera house. The entrance is almost hidden, tucked in deep between two tacky souvenir shops, but once you’ve found it, climb the stairs to a fabulous open-air rooftop garden! The main courses are bountiful, but you can also just go tapas-style and stick to the starters (try the artichoke appetizer, the ceviches). At lunch a hearty plat du jour is 12€, 2 courses for 16€; or 3 courses for 20€. They don’t take reservations by phone, but you can book online via their website. 3 Rue Saint-François de Paule, tram stop Opera.
Four of my favorite restaurants in Old Nice come from the same owner, Armand Crespo, who continues to amaze with each new eatery, all with 5-star food at reasonable prices, no website, and an unflagging commitment to quality and inspiration.
The first was the foody mainstay and still wildly popular Bistrot d’Antoine, which features high-level renditions of country-French classics. Feel free to be adventurous here because it is all so delicious that you can’t go wrong… even a simple salad caprese is a revelation here, made with 10 different varieties of tomatoes. Reservations a must: 27 rue de la Prefecture, tram stop Cathédrale, +33 4 93 85 29 57. Closed Sunday and Monday.
Next came the Comptoir du Marché (the Market Counter), which, as its name implies, is all about fresh inspiration from the local produce market. The changeable daily menu is vast, prepared before your eyes (if you are seated in the back dining room). Its prices have shot up this year, but it is still a good value. Rue du Marche, tram stop Opera, +33 4 93 13 45 01. Closed Sunday and Monday.
From the same owner comes the two best new additions to the food scene in Old Nice: The Bar des Oiseaux (5 rue Saint Vincent, tram stop Opera or Cathédrale, +33 4 93 80 27 33) which specializes in delectable creative gourmet fresh pastas, and has a super lunch deal of 3 courses for 20€; and the brand new Peixes (‘Fish’ in Portuguese) on 4 rue de la Opera (just behind Place Massena’s infamous Apollo fountain, tram stop Jean Médecin, doesn’t take reservations) which specializes in Lisbon-style creative ceviches and tartares. Both are very moderately priced, especially in relation to their top-quality ingredients and truly outstanding chefs. Both closed Sunday and Monday.
L’Oliviera Nadim can be spotted at the Cours Saleya Market at the crack of dawn, chatting and choosing the day’s produce from the growers themselves. His passion is olive oil, and you feel it the minute you cross the threshold into this open-air haven from the bustling Old Town. It starts with a sampling of oils to taste with bread, then the menu where every item is paired with a complementary olive oil. While a bit pricier than some of my others picks, the cuisine, the education, and the passion make the experience well worth it. Prepare for a long relaxing meal, with the ambiance of being a guest in his home. 8 rue de Collet, tram stop Cathédrale, +33 93 13 06 45. Closed Sunday and Monday.
Chez Juliette on rue Rossetti, has an eclectically stylized décor with a creative-leaning menu, using a lot of savory/sweet combinations; I especially like their various duck preparations with sauces made from honey or cherries. It’s a little pricier and far more touristy than the others, but I love their kitschy boudoir interior and mosaic-tabled terrace. No website, reservations a must: +33 4 93 92 68 47. 1 rue Rossetti, just above the square, tram stop Cathédrale. Dinner only, and closed Tuesdays, which makes them a good choice for restaurants open on Sundays and Mondays.
Cote Marais is another little gem with an almost cult following, that you would never find unless you were looking for it. It’s a bit pricey, but you get top-tier cuisine that rivals its Michelin-starred cousins. Serving dinner only, closed on Wednesdays, cash only, no website, reservations a must. 4 rue du Pontin, +33 4 93 80 95 39.
Café de Turin on Place Garibaldi is Nice’s oldest restaurant, serving up their oyster and fresh seafood platters under the ancient arches since 1908. A veritable institution, with top quality product in a turn of the century grand brasserie feel. Open every day, tram stop Garibaldi, +33 4 93 62 29 52. They are about to have their first real competition, however: Castel Plage has just taken over a historic space carved into the cliffs at the base of the Chateau, and is turning it into an upscale oyster/seafood bar perched right on the bay… I’ll keep you posted…!
Located in the Port, L’Ane Rouge a top-tier restaurant gastronomique with a fantastic 3-course menu for the bargain price of 27€ at lunch or dinner. This prestigious port restaurant originally belonged to Chagall’s stubborn red-headed mistress, whom he nicknamed the Red Donkey, hence the name. Intermittently Michelin-starred master chef Michel Devillers does great things here… 7 Quai des 2 Emmanuels right on the Nice Port, tram stop Port Lympia, +33 4 93 89 49 63.
Cours Saleya is mostly filled with wall-to-wall tourist-traps, hawking overpriced industrial fare to tourists that they know will fly home and never come back anyway. But if you are set on dining on Nice’s most famous street, there are a few decent ones, all mostly grouped together on the same side near the top: the newest Carmela is at the top of the street, then Le Safari for the oldest with excellent food and a fiercely loyal local following. (…Or try its less expensive little sister next door, La Civette du Cours by the same owner, but only for the daily blackboard specials). La Storia is also good, and next to the church, the upscale La Cambuse has excellent high quality cuisine. At the very bottom of Cours Saleya, try La Voglia and La Favola (same owner) for enormous portions of fresh Italian fare.
- Nice’s Top-tier restaurants
- Cheap Eats in Nice
- Local Nice Specialties and where to try them
- Food Finds in the Old Town
- Where to Eat on Sunday and Monday in Nice when most restaurants are closed
- In the Kitchen with the Chef: Cooking Classes in Nice
- The Best Top-End Lunch Deals in Nice (Michelin edition)
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