Eat, Drink, & Chill Like a Local in Nice, France
On the list of places that still evokes warm memories and pangs of wanderlust, few European cities hit quite like the mediterranean port town of Nice. Yes, Nice can at times be filled with tourists — often Brits and Eastern Europeans — but so can any little corner of paradise on the Med. The days where one could find an untrodden gem on any corner of its coast are long gone, for which we can mostly thank the blogosphere and social media.
All that in mind, these better known destinations certainly aren’t “ruined” by having an economy fed by tourism; it’s quite the contrary, really. Bars, restaurants, and other entertainment venues are cropping up more and more frequently in places where they previously may have been unlikely to survive.
Back in 2022 I was fortunate enough to return and explore the city after a decade of hiatus, prior to which, the city had been a regular and frequent destination. As a Torontonian, sitting at my desk facing as yet another winter blizzard takes settles in, it seemed as good a time as any to reflect on warmer times, and daydream of another trek to the Côte d’Azur. While not a tip-to-tail guide (we’d rather you embrace the adventure and explore unguided), consider this your handful of “must eat/drink/visit” stops on your next trip.
Plage Beau Rivage
One of the things you’ll immediately notice as you drive along the waterfront from the airport is the sheer volume of serviced beach properties in Nice. While some are standalone businesses, offering lounge chair rentals, drinks, and snacks, others — like the Plage Beau Rivage — are tied to hotel properties in the city. I’ve hopped from one beach to the other over many a visit, and without a doubt the Plage Beau Rivage blows its competition out of the water. Better food, better drinks, better service, DJs playing beach house sets on many afternoon/evenings, the Beau Rivage just does things different. It’s also one of the only beaches (perhaps even the only beach) that offers rentable private cabanas, which are absolutely worth the splurge.
Tucked into a space that almost looks abandoned on a corner of Rue de la Buffa, Pablo Bar was one of the best little surprises the city provided on my last visit. The covert cocktail bar takes the overplayed “speakeasy” model and flips it on its head, delivering a vibe you’d expect if it had been Pablo Escobar’s secret hideaway in Nice. Even though it runs adjacent the city’s tourist-laden pedestrian zone, Pablo Bar is more of a spot for locals.
Another relative newcomer, Le Canon delivers an impeccable locally-sourced farm to table menu paired with one of the more extensive organic and biodynamic wine lists I’ve seen in ages. Its small crew of staff are incredibly well-versed in what’s on offer, so don’t shy away from asking for recommendations — a lot of the wines don’t see export outside of France. It’s not especially easy to get a table, so you’re best to try for a reservation ahead of travel if you can.
Le Chantecler, Negresco Hotel
There’s no building more iconic on the French Riviera than the Negresco Hotel, and no more legendary a restaurant in Nice than Le Chantecler, which graces the hotel’s main floor. The room itself and the level of service it provides is a time capsule of a bygone era of luxury, and the dichotomy created between this and its modern fine dining menu makes for a remarkable and memorable experience. After a change in staffing, the restaurant moved from two Michelin stars to one, but under the guidance of Chef Virginie Basselot there’s little doubt the second star will be reclaimed before long.
Making the case for Le Plongeoir is going to be debated by some, but the location and view combined with a healthy wine list and a great meal means it’s still deserving of recognition. Over a century ago, someone had the peculiar idea of building a fake ship on a little coastal rock spire. Much more recently (ahead of its opening in 2015), the iconic outpost was rebuilt into the stunning outdoor dining location that thrives to this day. It’s by no means a “hidden gem”, but rather an icon for good reason.