Cote d'Azur Travel Guide
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- 86%Business Travelers
- 86%Family Travelers
- 83%Outdoor Enthusiasts
- 83%Luxury Travelers
- 83%Art & Design Lovers
Member Reviews (45)
- Cote d'AzurJan 15, 2014
Côte d'Azur – Tips for the Foodies
Exploring the region’s best restaurants
The myriad stars in the night sky over the Côte d'Azur are almost outnumbered by the concentration of stars in the region's restaurants. Chefs from all over the world come to this blessed land of milk and honey. The South of France enjoys a micro-climate ideal for winegrowing and the plentiful harvests that turn market stalls into cornucopias of nature's offerings. It's the only part of France where bananas can ripen outdoors, and the Mediterranean is a veritable treasure trove of edibles: lobster, langoustines, red mullet, monkfish…
The street was the rue Saint Antoine, the gauntlet was made up of restaurant owners, chefs, waiters, maître d's, all flashing at me with their menu cards promising me the best bouillabaisse in town. "Baby octopuses cooked in ginger!" I heard from one man. Sounded vile. "Veal kidneys in sherry vinegar!" came another cry. Then a waiter leaped in front of me and yelled: "Red mullet you'd sell your sister for!" But I had to press on and get past these hounds of hospitality to reach my destination at the top of the hill: Mantel's Restaurant.
Rue Saint Antoine is the main eat street of Cannes and a battleground of the bons vivants, where restaurant owners wage war against their neighbours, trying to outdo one another with the most mouth-watering dishes. Unsuspecting tourists have been known to fall prey to these ravenous menu-touting waiters, who are always ready to pounce on you and spoil you with their four-course gourmet meals that are guaranteed to leave you with a full belly and an empty wallet. I got to the top of the rue Saint Antoine in one piece, feeling as if I'd just been fleeced by a hundred restaurateurs.
As I stepped inside Mantel's, I was greeted by the ever-smiling Demetrio Argibay, the establishment's maître d' who doubles up as a sommelier, and a smattering of "bonsoirs" and "bienvenus". I'd booked in advance, so my table was reserved for me – the other 69 seats already taken. I decided to go for the springtime theme: flowers and rabbits – cooked to perfection. Here's how it went:
I started with a lush salad decorated with fried zucchini flowers. It was fragrant and refreshing and tickled with a few local herbs that smelled of freshly-cut grass in a spring meadow. Provençe on a plate. Market cooking with seasonal sensitivity is perhaps the best way to sum up chef Noël Mantel's culinary treats. My neighbours at the next table were watching Noël, who had emerged from the kitchen and was carving slices off a mouth-watering Spanish Serrano ham as the guests waited impatiently with their chunks of freshly toasted farm bread. After my green salad had brought out the bunny in me, I decided I was ready to eat one. My plate arrived with roasted rabbit on a bed of juicy olives and creamy polenta, washed down with a red Château Rasque that blossomed in the glass to reveal notes of exotic fruits. The meal was rounded off with pears in champagne and a hint of mint. The whole affair cost just €35, excluding the wine. Mantel's is regarded by many as an insider's tip - and with such friendly service, delicious fare and reasonable prices, it was easy to see why.
Noël Mantel was a disciple of multi-Michelin-starred chef Alain Ducasse. He is easily one of the most creative chefs on the French Riviera – and the competition is tough. His restaurant does not have the showy interior of many other eateries on the azure coast, and it also lacks a terrace – but you'll hardly miss it as you're tucking into a divine John Dory in olive sauce, savouring those grilled scallops in a nut-brown butter served with fried leeks, or staring with curiosity as Noël brings out a steaming bowl of risotto in ink sauce with sautéed Mediterranean squid. The menu's fish dishes are decided the moment Noël returns from the nearby market with his "catch of the day" - live. With lunch menus from €25 and the chef's special from €58, Mantel's is a gourmet retreat tucked away in the most atmospheric part of Le Suquet.
My quest to find the best bouillabaisse on the French Riviera took me to a town called Le Lavandou, where I heard a story of how France's most famous fish stew had actually been invented by the Romans, and that it had played a significant part in Venus's sex games.
Lying in the west of the French Riviera, 25 km from St. Tropez, Le Lavandou usually gets overlooked by most visitors, who tend to stay in Cannes – the Beverly Hills of France – or "St. Trop" for a round of A-lister spotting. There are 12 beaches in Le Lavandou, sandy and sheltered from the wind at the foot of the Massif des Maures. It's a family place, unpretentious and relatively cheap for the French Riviera. Every morning as the sun rises, a forest of yellow sunshades and sunloungers springs up on beaches such as the Plage de St. Clair. Locals and connoisseurs come to the little place to eat at Les Tamaris, which really does make the best bouillabaisse anywhere. The odour of pine trees on the slopes of the massif mingled with the salty smell of the sea as I made my way to Les Tamaris, which is run by 45-year-old Raymond Viale, whose father was a fisherman. It was his father who initiated Raymond into the secret art of bouillabaisse-making.
The dish comes from the Provençal word "abaissar", meaning to reduce by boiling. Various fish find their way into this dish, from tiny tiddlers to conga eels, and an equally varied mix of vegetables including leeks, celery and onions. The whole thing is spiced up and boiled down to create a rich fish stew – the sauce served separately so that you can dunk your bread in it and savour the flavour of the sea. Before sampling the delicacy, Raymond took me into his kitchen to show me where the magic was being made.
Turning my head momentarily from a twitching eel that was about to be bludgeoned to death by the cook's assistant (they get all the best jobs), I was taken through a forest of hanging ladles and pans to a wooden fire where head chef Patrick Marinoni was peering over a huge bowl out of which the most alluring aroma was emerging. "The bouillabaisse was invented by the Romans when they founded Marseille," explained Raymond, taking a critical sip of the stew. "Did you know that Venus fed her husband Vulcan with a bowl of bouillabaisse to lull him into a sated stupor? As soon as he was asleep, the goddess of love went off for a romp with Mars." I didn't know that, or that the heady smell of the stew was about to send me to hedonist's heaven. The restaurant itself is somewhat reminiscent of a greenhouse, but the luxuriant vegetation outside offers a lovely shady spot to escape the summer heat.
A pilgrimage to the gastronomic temples of the French Riviera should be interspersed with plenty of long walks in the countryside – to enjoy the idyllic scenery and picturesque medieval and baroque towns, and also to work up an appetite for the next temple visit. I headed for the Cap Ferrat peninsula and spent a day following the walking trails; the whole of the promontory is encircled by the "sentier littoral" – a coastal road from which the eye is beguiled by the stunning vistas of the Mediterranean on one side, and even more stunning villas on the other. There's the small fishing village of Saint-Jean nestled in a sheltered cove on the eastern side of the peninsula, and further down there's a flashy marina where the rich villa-owners park their yachts. The harbour is lined with restaurants that all have delightful views of the swanky boats. At the "Capitaine Cook" the chef can be seen more often in the dining room than in the kitchen, mingling with the guests and explaining the best way to cook a royal dorade.
On my way around the peninsula I wondered which of the villas behind those dense hedges and tall walls had once belonged to Somerset Maugham, Isadora Duncan and Coco Chanel. Today most of the villas are owned by French politicians and actors who come here in search of refuge from public life. At Les Cèdres botanical garden you can still find the Villa des Cèdres – home of the makers of Grand Marnier since 1924. But walking down from the palaces of the well-heeled, one soon returns to proletarian normality: families picnicking under cypress trees along the coast, young men playing volleyball, girls topping up their tans. The burning sun had left me lobster red – and with a craving for said beast.
Next day I headed east of Nice to one of the most unusual restaurants on the Côte d'Azur, "La Fille du Pêcheur", situated in the pretty town of Villefranche that just oozes forgotten-world charm. The fisherman's daughter in the restaurant's name is Kristel Roux. She came up with the idea that her guests would enjoy their maritime menu more if they felt they were dining on a boat on the Med, so she had the whole joint covered with polished mahogany boards to resemble the bow of a ship. And coming from a long line of fishermen, she knew a thing or two about fish. Happily installed in Kristel's boat, I ordered a "pyramid of crabs". Half-expecting to be served a seafood cirque du soleil, I was pleasantly surprised when the dish arrived – a consummately sculpted crab mousse on a bed of truffles. I decided against the baby octopuses boiled in garlic. I have an aversion to eating "baby" anything. There's something disturbing about our predilection for devouring an animal's young. The circus act was followed by a mélange of lobster and salmon with tartar and lemon.
Kristel's menu is very much marine-oriented and with a mouth-watering array of alcoholic treats such as shrimps in cognac and mussels in white wine. And Kristal also caters for lovers of Spanish fare, offering her guests tapas made with baby octopus. She seems to have an ax to grind against these unfortunate tentacled ocean travellers. After my Jules Verne journey to the bottom of Kristal's cooking pot, I succumbed to the allure of the nearby c
- Cote d'AzurMember ofLocal CultureOutdoor EnthusiastsFamily Travelers+ 4Oct 29, 2013
France's Blue Coast is 40 miles of some of the most celebrated beaches in the world. You've got Nice, Antibes, the Principality of Monaco and Cannes, lined up nicely for short train hops.
- Cote d'AzurMember ofLocal CultureOutdoor EnthusiastsBudget Travelers+ 7Sep 15, 2013
it is a area in the south of France everyone has to visit once at least in there lifetime. it tells romantic stories of the past and present, famous for its luxuries hotels, festivals, yacht clubs blue sea and food ...lavender smells and Cyclades noises in the evening...so much to do and see and relax...
- Cote d'AzurApr 20, 2013
Absolutely mesmerizing locale. Make sure you rent a "small" car with GPS to drive the cliffs. It's hard to enjoy all that Nice has to offer via public transport. Stay the night in Beaulieu-sur-Mer if you can. Short drive to Monaco to the east and Nice to the west.
- Cote d'Azur
- Cote d'AzurMember ofFoodiesStudentsLuxury Travelers+ 2Oct 21, 2012
The cote d'azur deserves to be planned as a trip alone and I think it's the seond most visited after Paris, since there is to much to see, specially Nice, Marseilles, Monaco, Saint Tropez and Monaco. The Mediterraneans are always the best for beach getaways.
- Cote d'AzurMember ofFoodiesAug 08, 2012
One of the most beautiful places in the world… That's for sure. Some might say that in summer, the beaches are full and popular, a lot of luxury and wealth in an elitist atmosphere, at the same time, chic and elegantly decadent.
In winter, extremely nice and quiet, only the night is cold, the sun and light are wonderful, and glow in the Mediterranean Sea like no other place in europe. The landscape is magical, the city is beautiful and the surroundings out from Nice to Monaco, is a wonderful way to travel by bike or car.
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