Bienvenue dans ma ville!
Over the years – through my tours and special features in JAN the Journal – I’ve loved sharing my experiences of the Beautiful City with you. I’ve lived here for almost a decade, but only recently realised that, yes, this is home – just as much as South Africa is.
It occurred to me then that perhaps the time had come to bring all those experiences I’ve captured into one, dedicated time capsule. Call me old fashioned, but I still love the idea of slipping a little easy-to-manage city guide into my bag when visiting a new city – or one that I’m discovering all over again.
As much as things have changed over the last few years, so much has remained the same, and the true gems are the ones that have stood the test of time. So, in a way, this little keepsake is a homage to all those Niçoise establishments that got it right, and that remind me why I love this city!
Whether you’ve been to Nice, plan to visit, or just want to embark on a spell of armchair travel, I hope this guide brings you the inspiration the city of Nice has brought me.
As a French city that only officially became French in 1860, there is something unmistakable about the mélange (hey, when in France!) of cultural influences so evident in Nice – from its eclectic building styles to its people and cuisine. The Belle Epoque architecture of the mansions along the Promenade des Anglais – suffused with the sensibilities of their English architects – engages in a tug-of-war with the Italian flair of the buildings lining the narrow streets of Vieille Ville in the old town. French Riviera glamour is offset by the natural, rugged terrain surrounding the city, which has been cherished by centuries of artists, including Matisse and Chagall. And the cuisine…mon dieu! Every layer of this city reveals something new and surprising, so what better way to explore Nice than through the experiences of those who have lived in this extraordinary city?
The home of Restaurant JAN strikes something of a chord with my other hometown of Cape Town. The mountainous topography breaks up the structured urban landscape, creating multiple vantage points from which to soak up the scenery, which ranges from breathtaking vistas of the Baie des Anges to elevated views of Nice’s many boulevards and promenades. And as a port city, Nice is home to a colourful mix of people from far and wide – whether recently arrived or part of the furniture. The noon gun gets me every day at 12, just when I’m about to take a bite of my daily religious baguette with so much butter on it that you can see your teeth marks after each bite.
I’m a sceptical coffee drinker in France. As I always say, “You leave some things for the experts” (in a nice way). I refer, of course, to the Italians. There are so many good places to grab something quick, but what I found incredible is that when you get to know the people who make them, it tastes even better.
This reminds me of a friend who once said, “I can’t cook for strangers.” Quite the statement to chew on when all you do is cook for strangers, but what it is and how special it is to get to know your grumpy veg dealer better and, ironically, how much nicer he becomes if you give him a stark look back on occasion and offer him a biltong lamington – just to try it – and hearing him tell you how he loves South African food, makes it all worthwhile.
When I arrived in Nice I was a cheeky foreigner who thought I could speak fluent French with only 5 words in my vocabulary. (Come on! It can’t be that difficult with all the pouting and oh la las) Then I realised, my life here would only become meaningful (and real connections can only be made) once you immerse yourself in the two million cigarette buds on the pavements, the “le chien poo-poo” that no one really cares to pick up and the tonnes of furniture that get thrown out of apartments on a daily basis (which, by the way, is one of my favourite things about Nice, as I have an absolute addiction to old and used things). But in between all of this, the big old church bells ring on the hour and everything is fine again. It’s like a reset button to make you realise that you are in one of the world’s most beautiful cities.
So over the nearly seven years of slowly becoming Niçoise (which I think will take another seven), I have realised that you have to create your own village. You have to find your boulanger, your fruit et legumerie, poissonnerie, le coiffeur that makes you feel like a million dollars, your whiskey shop and the fromagerie, wine cave and your favourite café or bistrot where you can stop and have a short glass of red after a busy service. The monsieur that you buy your rotisserie chicken from and the patisserie where you know you get the perfect flan.
Business hours are different all the time. When they want to close, they close. If there is something more important to do (like going to the beach), the Niçoise close the shop door with a sign that reads, Revenir dans 10 minute…
The longer you stay in Nice, the more of these fascinating souls you meet – and the more people, places and perspectives you discover. Having a restaurant in Nice also means that people find you – and whether they are here to stay or are simply passing through, they each discover something new about this city that you never knew was there. I asked a few of my colleagues and friends to also list their favourite spots.
FAVOURITE WINE SHOP
French wine needs no introduction, but moreover, Nice boasts a wealth of top Mediterranean wineries on its very doorstep. The vineyards along the Côtes de Provence have been producing wines for over 2300 years, including Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre and Cabernet Sauvignon red varieties and among the white; Rolle, Ugni Blanc, Clairette and Semillon. But when a trip to the vineyards is not on the cards, where do you get your wine?
The Bespoke Choice: Côté Vin 14 Rue Saint-François de Paule | cotevin-.ch
There are more publicised wine shops (or caves) in Nice, but Côté Vin usually reaches the top spot on many local sommeliers’ lists. Visiting the shop, it’s easy to understand why. Apart from the staff’s excellent knowledge of the country’s exceptionally vast wine repertoire, they’re brilliant at making suggestions according to your preferences – no matter how personal – and they specialise in lesser-known gems from the country’s top appellations.
Inspiration for Every Season: Cours Saleya | nice-tourism.com
After living in Nice for almost a decade, the Cours Saleya remains one of my greatest sources of inspiration. And for that reason, I now live just a few blocks up from this vibrant pedestrianised street, which plays host to three different markets every week. The most popular is the flower market (marché aux fleurs), filling the street with an abundance of fragrances and colours from Tuesday to Sunday. Despite its name, the flower market also includes fresh produce, herbs, spices and soaps. These stalls pack up at around 13:30 while the flower stalls stay open until 17:30.
On Mondays, the market transforms into a marché à la brocante, with food and flowers making way for the most incredible array of antiques (I source a lot of my vintage finds here for my online shop) ranging from furniture, jewellery and books to vintage vinyl, clothing, and ornaments from a bygone age. From June through September, the Cours Saleya also hosts an evening craft market (marché artisanale nocturne) where you can admire the creations of local artisans.
A Street with Plenty of Stories to Tell: Marché de la Libération Place du Général de Gaulle | provence-guide.net
Situated in the city’s well-to-do Libération neighbourhood, this market is the best source of fresh seafood in Nice, although the colourful varieties of fruits and vegetables – not to mention the colourful vendors, local farmers and clientele that frequent it – are actually what Marché de la Libération is known for. You don’t need to cook a bouillabaisse during your visit to Nice to simply enjoy a walk down the street. The stalls operate Tuesdays to Sundays from about 8:30 to 12:30.
Favourite places to eat
Best Coffee in Town: Deli Bo 5 Rue Bonaparte | delibo.fr
Just around the corner from Restaurant JAN, Deli Bo is to the JAN team what Central Perk is to Friends and serves the best coffee in town – hands down – with lots of breakfast options. Closed on Sundays and Mondays.
Your Morning Brew: Ho Bo Coffee 5 Bis Rue Sainte-Reparate | hoboshop.fr
Good coffee is not one of Nice’s strong suits, so when you find a spot that measures up to the task, you treasure it. Although more of a shop than a café, you can do a coffee tasting here before you buy.
Le Clay 3 Rue Bonaparte | leclay.fr
As you can tell, Rue Bonaparte is a hot favourite, and this cute little brunch place is just irresistible. Closed on Wednesdays.
L’Uzine 18 Rue François Guisol | luzine-restaurant.com
This is one of my go-to places for working lunch meetings, and with their “business lunch” priced at €18, L’Uzine is the one to beat budget wise.
Babel Babel 2 Cours Jacques Chirac | babelbabel.fr
True to form, this casual eatery draws the inspiration for its tapas-style menu from all along the Mediterranean coastline – from Israel to Greece and everywhere in between – with a view to kill.
Le Safari 1 Cours Saleya | restaurantsafari.fr
Over the years, this classic brasserie specialising in local dishes has become like my own personal canteen.
A Big Treat: La Pinède 10 Ave Raymond Gramaglia | restaurantlapinede.com
Situated in the scenic commune of Cap d’Ail next to Monaco, this hidden little gem is on the pricey side, but worth every Euro cent for the unforgettable experience it offers.
People Watching on the Square: Babbo Mio 4 Rue Emmanuel Philibert | babbomio.com
The square at Place du Pin flanks the entrance to L’Abeille Nice, where the JAN Garden is situated. Amongst the array of bars, eateries and boutiques, there’s a shoe shop (Lucien Chaussure) that has come to know me very well, and Atélier Bonaparte, a furniture restorer and wandmaker. Babbo Mio on the corner is one of those places where you can drop in at the spur of the moment for a fresh seafood pasta and a glass of wine… for the sole purpose of people watching, of course.
A Street Food Feast: Socca du Cours Place Charles Félix
A bucket-list experience just off the Cours Saleya, treat yourself to their pan bagnat (a Niçois tuna sandwich), but the pissaladière is also not to be missed, although if you’ve never tried socca, this is the one to beat.
Local Delights: Oliviera 8 Bis Rue du Collet | oliviera.com
You’d be hard-pressed (if you’ll pardon the pun) to find a more locally minded eatery in Nice. As the name suggests, Oliviera is a celebration of local olive producers from the Provence-Côte d’Azur region and makes some of the most delicious salads in the city. The restaurant’s Palestinian-Niçois owner Nadim Beyrouti’s effervescent personality and encyclopaedic knowledge of the region’s produce makes for a rich and unique experience.
A Niçoise Institution: Chez Davia 11 Bis Rue Grimaldi | chezdavia.com
When ambling through the streets of France, your eye often catches the names of businesses christened so-and-so et fils, meaning “and sons”. Yes, a certain patriarchy still dominates French trade, but when you find an establishment that has been in women’s hands for a couple of generations or more, you know you’ve found a true gem. Chez Davia was founded by its namesake (grand-mère Davia) in 1953 and was taken over by her daughter, Alda – who still greets you as you enter – in 1985. In 2016, they welcomed Chef Pierre Altobelli to their kitchen. He has worked at a number of Michelin-star establishments across France and Asia, however here he indulges in authentically Niçoise flavours. Everything about this old-fashioned bistro is simply perfect.
The Best Pasta in Town: Epiro 53 Boulevard Stalingrad | epironice.com
Call me prejudiced, but I still believe the Italians make the best pastas. Epiro was founded by two young cool dudes from none other than the ancient city of Rome. Need one say more?
Bistro Dining: Bistrot d’Antoine 27 Rue de la Prefecture
Armand Crespo, the bistro’s owner, is one of the Riviera’s rock star restaurateurs. His secret, in my opinion, is that he keeps things simple – no unnecessary bells and whistles – and in so doing, every bar or eatery he opens turns to gold. Bistrot d’Antoine was his first eatery in Nice and remains one of the Old Town’s best bistro dining experiences that sources all its ingredients locally and by the season. Book in advance to avoid disappointment.
As French as They Come: Comptoir du Marché 8 Rue du Marché | comptoirdumarche.fr
When the vibe is this good, you know it comes with clout. This restaurant literally doesn’t put a foot wrong and is one of the most authentically French eateries in town.
Fresh Seafood: Café de Turin 5 Place Rue Garibaldi | cafedeturin.fr
Visiting a French seaside city would not be complete without indulging in les fruits de mer. Established in 1908, Café de Turin is famed for the impeccable quality of its seafood – sourced from all along the French coast. The menu is extensive, and adaptable to any appetite or table size. The maritime delights here are served on simple but abundant platters boasting anything from langoustines and crab to periwinkle and oysters, and everything in between.
Pizza Night: Au Vieux Four 1 Rue Emmanuel Philibert | auvieuxfour-nice.com
Not the most French option – or indeed local – but pizza is universal, and I just love the vibe in this part of town. If you’re not up for a sit-down lunch or dinner, get your pizza to go and enjoy it at home.
Romantic Fine Dining: Restaurant JAN 12 Rue Lascaris | janonline.com
You’re right. I’m biased. But if you’re looking for an intimate night out – to be spoiled by one of the warmest welcomes on the Riviera – JAN is the one to beat. Famous for its unique blend of South African flavours and local French produce, the restaurant remains a Niçoise institution that, five years after first receiving its Michelin star, continues to charm locals, travellers and South Africans alike.
A Chic Affair: La Petite Maison 11 Rue Saint-François de Paule
With elegance and charm to spare, this Michelin-star establishment is no stranger to a celebrity visit, so Francophile cinephiles and music fans, keep a look out, but keep it cool.
Bonjour Bangkok: Le Banthai 29 Rue Droite | lebanthai.fr
With Thai chefs at the helm, Le Banthai’s menu, though limited, packs a distinctly Thai punch, especially if you let it drop that you can handle your spices. A great option for dinner.
Salut Saigon: Banh Mei 6 Rue Rossetti
A nice lunch spot to keep in mind for a bright and sunny day, this hole-in-the-wall restaurant is an Old Town delight.
Mouth-watering Breads and Pastries: Maison Jean Marc Bordonnat Boulangerie 19 Rue Barla | facebook.com/MaisonJeanMarcBordonnat
In modern day France, while a boulangerie is never more than a stone’s throw away, it’s not always easy finding one that exudes that old-fashioned Parisian charm – and lives up to its reputation. But with their slow-fermented baguettes often nominated as the best in France and an apple pie that simply melts away the moment you take your first bite, it’s clear why Jean Marc has secured its status as the best boulanger in Nice.
Artisanal Breads and Pastries Made of Ancient Grains: Zielinska 4-6 Rue Jules Gilly | zielinska.fr
Domenika Zielinska’s story reads like something out of a Kieślowski film (more on that on page 200 of JAN the Journal Volume 9). Originally from Poland, she has integrated into Niçoise society so completely over the last 17 years that she now has her very own bakery in the city’s Old Town – and a very unique one at that. Every bread and pastry she bakes is made from ancient grain flour, ranging from einkorn and fleur de berry to polka and petanielle noire de Nice, a locally grown ancient grain that only occurs in the region surrounding Nice. Zielinska is a tour of bread as it used to be!
FAVOURITE GIFT OPTIONS
Soaps and Fragrances: Parfumerie Fragonard 11 Cours Saleya | fragonard.com
The Savon de Marseille soaps you buy at the markets and in the streets and alleys of the Old Town are really great and they’re often available for a steal. But if you’re looking for something a touch more luxurious, Fragonard is quite special, with many of its fragrances derived from flowers that are locally grown in Grasse, not far from Nice. The parfumerie was established in Grasse (still the perfume capital of France) in 1926, and three generations later, is still in family hands. If you don’t get around to popping into their flagship store on the Cours Saleya, there’s a smaller outlet in the Airport’s Duty-Free shopping area before you reach customs.
Artisanal Jewellery: Monolyt 18 Bis Rue Benoît Bunico | monolyt.fr
The bohemian air that pervades the city’s aesthetic can be beguiling, but it can easily become a touch too boho. Tucked away in the folds of Nice’s Old Town, it’s easy to miss this elegant joaillier. Walking through the door, you enter a clean white space, not unlike a modern art gallery, where the atelier’s unique and imaginative pieces are framed on minimalist surfaces. The perfect gift for someone special in your life who likes something a little different.
The Most Unique Gift in Town: Atelier Bonaparte 6 Rue Bonaparte | atelierbonaparte.com
For someone who can appreciate the whimsy of it all, can there be a more appropriate gift than a magic wand? David Mournard, the owner of Atelier Bonaparte, is actually a furniture restorer by trade, but crafts the most beautiful wands out of wood, found antlers and even pieces of coral in his spare time. Just visiting the shop is an experience in itself and can feel like stumbling upon Ollivander’s (the wand shop in Harry Potter) French counterpart. He plans on moving soon, so be sure to visit his website if the shop has left Rue Bonaparte by the time you want to pay him a visit. Read his story on page 252 of JAN the Journal Volume 9.
A Bit of Brocante: Troc Azur 23 Rue Scaliero | trocazur.com
The Cours Saleya’s Monday antiques market is a treasure trove for sure, but can get a little pricey. In my opinion the best place to go bargain hunting for brocante is Troc Azur, which is not that far from JAN. This is the kind of place where locals discard all their antique furniture and porcelain. The owners, Rosie and Pascal, have become like family to me, and when I still lived just around the corner, I used to visit them every other day of the week.
FAVOURITE PLACES FOR DRINKS
A Pub with a Story: Les Distilleries Idéales 24 Rue de la Préfecture
I always look for authenticity when getting a drink, and although the concept of the pub is a fairly recent addition to the French social scene, Les Distilleries Idéales is the perfect example of a quintessentially French pub. There’s nothing English or Irish about Idéales. Instead, when stepping through its doors, it feels like walking into something out of a Victor Hugo novel – a little bohemian with a touch of the fantastical. Every nook and cranny of this Old Town bar has a story to tell, and it is one of the best places in the city to sample regional wine. Their extensive beer-on-tap roundup also deserves mentioning, along with happy hour, which runs from 18:00 to 20:00.
A Great Glass of Wine: La Part des Anges 17 Rue Gubernatis | lapartdesanges-nice.com
The name, French for “the angels share”, alludes to the alcohol that evaporates through the wine barrel during the fermentation process. This quaint wine shop is also a bar where you can discover a range of organic wines by small, interesting vineyards that you wouldn’t necessarily find elsewhere. The passionate owners also love helping you develop your taste and knowledge of wine.
Authentically Niçois: La Cave de la Tour 3 Rue de la Tour | cavedelatour.com
Inside, La Cave feels like the kind of place that, since its founding in 1947, has never had a renovation. Instead, layer upon layer of history (and personality) have been added to this Niçoise institution through the decades and have resisted being peeled back. You’ll find some of the best wines from the Alpes-Maritimes and Var here, and will most likely make an old friend before you leave. Jean Philippe, the owner, took over the business from his grandfather Eugene (the founder) in 2001, and has since perpetuated La Cave’s charm. The dishes, prepared by Jean Philippe’s wife and daughters, are typically local, and include stockfish, stuffed capons and polenta stew, to name a few favourites. But no visit to La Cave is complete without an immersive tour of local appellations.
FAVOURITE OPTIONS FOR EATING IN
Fine Cheese: Fromagerie Métin 13 Rue Pairolière | fromageriemetin.fr
Tomas Métin, the fromagerie’s owner, opened his first cheese shop in Vence – a 40-minute drive from Nice – in 2016. Just over a year ago, he opened his second shop in Nice. His cheeses are simply fantastic, more what you’d expect of a Parisian fromagerie, and generally less rustic than most other fromageries in Nice.
Fresh Ravioli: Barale Raviolis 7 Rue Sainte-Reparate | maison-barale.fr
Short of making your own pasta, you won’t get fresher than this. Barale is a family business that has perpetuated its traditions for four generations since its founding in 1892. One particular delicacy worth mentioning is their traditional Niçois ravioli stuffed with stew, but also try their lemon zest ravioli.
All Things Truffle: Signorini Tartufi 1 Rue Sainte-Reparate | signorinitartufi.com
A truffle taste sensation, if ever there was one. It’s not where you go for fresh truffles, which you can’t take back home with you anyway, but with all the truffle impostors out there, Tartufi is where you stock up on oils, pastes and other real truffle products to elevate your pastas, platters, and Saturday morning eggs when you get back home. Signature products to look out for are their truffles preserved in olive oil, parmesan and white truffle cream, a truffle gorgonzola cream and, of course, truffle salt. And there’s always someone in the store ready to help you choose the right truffle-icious creation to suit your tastes.
FAVOURITE NATURAL REMEDIES
Herbs, Teas and Tisanes: La Maison des Plantes 20 Rue Gubernatis | maisondesplantes.fr
Some of us are keen medicators and others take a more natural approach. Nice is home to a slew of herboristeries (health shops), shelves lined with every imaginable essential oil, herb, tea and tisane you can think of, but few are quite as charming as La Maison des Plantes, which seems to hail from a time when no remedies bore the name Pfizer. Dried herbs and tisanes can be sourced here by the gram, and there is plenty of eavesdropping to be done while you peruse the myriad drawers and jars. The background conversations can range from themes like digestive issues to natural skincare regimens.
FAVOURITE COOKING EXPERIENCES
Learn to Cook Niçois Cuisine: Les Petits Farcis 12 Rue Saint-Joseph | petitsfarcis.com
While living in Paris in the mid-1990s, owner Rosa Jackson became the first to offer tours of the city’s food markets. Since moving to Nice, she has combined her market tours with cooking classes, and has been teaching visitors to the Beautiful City how to make local cuisine for more than a decade. In Nice, Rosa facilitates tours of both the Cours Saleya and Libération markets – with accompanying cooking classes – as well as private street tours, and runs pastry workshops in mastering the choux and the macaron. Read her story on page 204 of JAN the Journal Volume 9.
Try Your Hand at Making Socca: Chez Fabienne Ambrosio 8 Rue Catherine Segurane | city-life.fr
Founded over 80 years ago, you’ll find all manner of kitchen utensils, appliances and homeware at Chez Fabienne, but this cookware store is most famous for its selection of socca pans, which are used to make the traditional chickpea pancake so popular in Nice. If you happen to find Fabienne, the owner, present and accounted for, ask her about her recipes for Niçoise olives, orange wine and vinegar. She might just share them with you.
FAVOURITE SWEET FIXES
Journey Back in Time: Maison Auer 7 Rue Saint-François de Paule | maison-auer.com
Founded in 1820, this chocolatier and confectioner is a local treasure a stone’s throw from the Opera House. From the outside, Auer looks like an ornate relic from a gilded age when Europe’s wealthiest families flocked to Nice for their midwinter sojourns to enjoy the city’s moderate climate. Walking through the front door, the illusion is by no means diminished, as you are greeted by wall-to-wall displays of candied fruits, chocolates, fruit pastes and glazed chestnuts, all crafted with the highest attention to detail.
Candied Delights: Confisserie Florian 14 Quay Papacino | confisserieflorian.com
Although one might be tempted to cast Confisserie Florian into the same candy jar as Maison Auer, the experience is quite different. When it opened as a chocolaterie in 1921 (a century after Auer), it became an overnight sensation, and was frequented by a slew of famous Niçois personalities, including the painter Henri Matisse. It expanded into a perfumery in 1941, and only began to candy fruits, fruit peels and flower petals according to the age-old Arabian tradition in 1974. You can even catch a glimpse of the confectioners in action when you visit Florian at the right time.
FAVOURITE PLACE TO STAY
Your Own Private Apartment: L’Abeille Nice 4 Rue Bonaparte | labeillenice.com
Right in the heart of the city just off Rue Bonaparte, there’s a secret entrance leading to a private courtyard where you enter a totally modernised entrance hall, which is the lobby to the beautifully restored boutique apartments that overlook the garden. All of this, added to L’Abbeile’s independent self-service approach and their sustainability ethos, means there’s no better place to come home to at the end of a day of adventure.