Initially when I decided to spend the day with my brother and sister-in-law in Nice, I thought I would let the day take us where it would and that we would stumble on a restaurant to try out for dinner. As the day got closer, I thought it would be good to ask my friend and concierge intern Martin for advice since he is quite familiar with Nice.
I happened to ask Martin—for some reason in French though we usually speak English—as he was grabbing food for dinner while we were at work. The stars must have aligned because just at that moment Chef Steve walked behind me and said “Franchin, Maddie.” I was confused and whipped around, and Chef again repeated “Go eat at Franchin in Nice.”
A bit later during the service I wrote down the name of the restaurant to make sure I remembered, and Chef counseled me to go and tell the chef at Franchin that I was his intern.
Martin, being an amazing friend and also perfectly suited to his role as concierge, messaged me the next morning with a list of other restaurants in the area that he enjoys and that he thought I might like. As tempted as I was to go with his suggestions, the intrigue and weight of Chef’s suggestion which had been so spontaneous and immediate kept tugging at my mind, and so I sucked up the nerve to make a phone call in French to reserve a table for three for the night. (And I hate speaking on the phone in another language because I rely so heavily on facial cues, so this was a highly triumphant moment for me).
After a day of adventuring around Nice and one final coffee shop to make sure we were all awake and ready to enjoy our meal, we meandered over to the restaurant.
Before even going to our table I nervously told the server that my sister-in-law was vegetarian and that if it wasn’t possible to eat here it would be okay, but we would have to go somewhere else. Having seen the small menu with exclusively meat and sea food options for the starters and main courses, I was worried.
We sat down—the first to arrive for the evening—and I hesitantly told the server that it was my chef over at hotel belles rives who had recommended the restaurant to me, that he knew the chef. “Okay” she replied “I don’t know him but maybe my chef does!” she said brightly.
…okay…. that went differently than I expected.
Turns out I’m more similar to my mother than I would sometimes like to admit, and even before receiving the starter dish I had found out that our server’s mom was Filipino but that she had moved to France to marry a French man—and that while our server grew up speaking French her mother had learned the language through pop music, and that our server was still quite timid speaking English despite having a relatively good grip on the language.
A bottle of wine on the table, successfully conversing in French, and sharing stories and laughs with family as dusk fell around us I couldn’t have been more content.
Our first course of the night was quite lovely—for Alex and I it was a fish stew using local flavors and ingredients, and for Caitlin it was a perfect egg with vegetables. I am so sad that I didn’t get a picture of the soup pot before the server deconstructed it and set it on the table in front of me, so you will have to take my word that it was adorable and creative. Basically the bowl of soup had a perfectly flat cover, where the little bowls of toppings were placed in order to bring everything to the table and present it in one go. The soup was served with thin slices of crusty bread, cheese and some sort of aoli or mayo sauce. To be honest, I am not sure exactly how the extra additions were supposed to be eaten with the soup—and I went for a sprinkling-in-the-cheese-in-small-bits-while-dipping-the-bread-and-ignoring-the-random-sauce method. It worked for me.
The main course was absolutely to die for delicious. Seriously. It was so good.
I had the braised veal cheeks and Alex had the five-hour-roasted lamb shank, while Caitlin had a vegetarian risotto.
The meat was basically butter. They served us fancy sharp knives, but there was absolutely no reason other than for show to put them on the table, as I don’t think Alex or I had any need to use anything but our forks since the meat was so tender. Suffice it to say we finished everything on our plates.
The restaurant is known for their cuisine, so while obviously we had to order dessert, I really wasn’t looking forward to it any more than I would at another restaurant. Despite the desserts being relatively simple though, they were quite delicious!
I ordered a strawberry and basil meringue, while Alex got the dessert-of-the-day which was a tart tatin served with vanilla ice cream, and Caitlin got a pistachio creme brûlée served with roasted raspberries.
I think what I liked best about the entire meal—desserts included—in the end was that there was a high level of attention to detail and excellence in execution while keeping a relaxed atmosphere and avoiding being too pretentious. We had an amazing meal that really focused on local ingredients and spices and didn’t waste time trying new things just for the sake of being avant garde or haute couture. It was simply good—the Chef and the restaurant don’t need to spend time trying to prove themselves, because obviously they have already achieved success.
Without a doubt I would go back and I would certainly recommend it to friends and people traveling in the area—even if you happen to be a vegetarian (though let me tell you, you are missing out if you don’t try the meat).