Best Restaurants in Old Nice: Medium Price Range

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 Old Nice offer a level of quality exceeding their price range.

Several 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 3-star prices and an unflagging commitment to quality and inspiration:

Foody mainstay Bistrot d’Antoine 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.

Seafood and ceviche platter from PeixesPeixes (Pronounced ‘Pesh‘ and means ‘Fish’ in Portuguese) specializes in delicious Lisbon-inspired creative ceviches and tartares.  They now have two locations, the original at 4 rue de la Opera (just behind Place Massena’s infamous Apollo fountain, tram stop Jean Médecin, and 5 rue Bonaparte, tram stop Garibaldi.  At the rue Bonaparte location they serve non-stop between lunch and dinner, so great for a late lunch, and this location has a fantastic tasting platter for 2 on the menu for 50€ (pictured). Both closed Sunday and Monday.

The Bar des Oiseaux (The Bird Bar) specializes in creative riffs on an array of fresh pastas, and has a super weekday lunch deal of 3 courses for 22€.  In the 1960’s this used to be a much-loved bar, literally filled with birds, and now its interior is an homage to local lore and artists.  No website, reservations a must +33 4 93 80 27 33, 5 rue Saint Vincent, tram stop Opera or Cathédrale,  Closed Sunday and Monday.

Exterior of La Lavomatique restaurantLe Lavomatique opened in what used to be… my old laundromat!  They kept the funky blue industrial/laundromat decor and transformed it into a trendy French-style tapas bar/show kitchen.  Everything is meant to be shared and comes to the table in the order that it is cooked.  Excellent selection of wines that you won’t see elsewhere. Fun, hip, and always packed… reservations online only, and requires a card.  11 rue Pont Vieux, tram stop Cathédrale, +33 4 93 55 54 18. Closed Saturday and Sunday.

Exterior of La Bocca restaurant with rooftop gardenAnother 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).  They don’t take reservations by phone, but you can book online via their website. 3 Rue Saint-François de Paule, tram stop Opera.  They have a sister restaurant on the beach, Bocca Mar, that I recommend as well: it has a smaller menu but offers a good multi-course lunch deal from the daily specials.   Both open 7/7

Bicycle outside restaurant La MerendaLa Merenda is a tiny 20-seat hole-in-the-wall, cooking traditional Niçoise cuisine out of a miniscule kitchen …but it is the best Niçoise cuisine you will ever eat, I promise. Chef Dominique Le Stanc, former two-Michelin-star chef (two!) of the famed Hotel Negresco, who 25 years ago was the absolute toast of the Riviera culinary scene, spectacularly chucked it all to get out of the rat race and back to his roots.  Ever since, he and his wife Danielle have been running things own way: simple food, best ingredients, moderate prices (around 16€ for each menu item), and customers packed in tight on tiny tables, perched on small hard backless stools… The foodies absolutely flock to this homey little shack …and you should too.  Open Tues-Fri lunch and dinner. Cash only, no credit cards, no phone, reserve via their webpage.  4 Rue Raoul Bosio, tram stop Opera.

The  Comptoir du Marché (the Market Counter), 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.

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, reservations a must +33 4 93 80 95 39.  4 rue du Pontin,  tram stop Opera.

NadimL’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 4 93 13 06 45. Closed Sunday and Monday.

Promenade des Anglais as seen through a glass of white wineIt’s rare to find, but here are two excellent choices for sea views and good food!   Babel Babel at 2 cours Jacques Chirac has creative home-made Mediterranean tapas and a great wine selection, +33 4 93 55 74 19.   Le Sunset lives up to its name with great views and food to match, at 69 Quai des États-Unis, +33 4 93 62 87 28.

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.

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 a fiercely loyal local following.   La Storia is also good, and next to the church, the upscale La Cambuse has 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.

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Photo credits: Lavomatique courtesy of Lavomatique, all the rest by Best of Nice

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