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It may be the capital of the French Riviera, but Nice does boast a very healthy choice when it comes to international cuisine, including tapas.
Back to school may be upon us but it does not mean that we should forget all the summer fun, and now with most tourists having left the French Riviera, it is actually the perfect time to sit with friends at the terraces of restaurantsand watch the world pass by, while sipping a glass of wine and nibbling on some finger food.
Always solicitous to give the best advice possible to our readers, we have taken upon ourselves to try for you the various tapas bars and restaurants in Nice and after some serious research, here are our top five places.
Looking for a place to eat or just have a drink with a view? Look no further than l’Ark. Located on the Quai des États-Unis, directly opposite Castel Plage, this is THE place to be to enjoy a panoramic view over the “baie des Anges” in all its glory.
Since it opened over a year ago, this concept restaurant has never ceased to attract tourists and locals alike, in search of a different experience. First of all, because it is fun and trendy: A tiny, yet beautiful terrace on the first floor allows customers to take advantage of the many sunny days, the interior design is modern and a few nights a week a DJ provides the musical entertainment. But also because the food is very good. The house specialty is the hamburger but many tapas are also on offer. Most of them are Spanish (patatas bravas, fried calamaris, tortillas) but they are prepared with fresh ingredients and a local twist. And to accompany the food, a great choice of wines and cocktails is proposed.
Beach restaurants often have a bad reputation but l’Ark is a prime example that sometimes you can have it all: theview, the atmosphere and the food.
Not so long ago, this tiny restaurant on rue Dalpozzo was known as l’instant présent, but earlier this year the owner decided to turn it into a tapas bar, and what was just a local eatery has now become one of the best places for these speciality dishes. There are still main courses on offer (paella for instance), but the goal is to take you on a trip around the world and to delight all your senses.
This is reflected in a menu that includes Thai (shrimps with thai curry sauce), Spanish (chorizo and onion torillas)and of course, French (oven-baked St. Marcellin with honey and thyme, homemade blinis or smoked salmon with aneth herbs and lemon).
Using fresh and local produce, the cuisine is always creative yet unpretentious, and everything is done in such a way so that you can have a good time in a laid-back atmosphere. A small terrace outside can seat a few people and the interior is very intimate with its wooden panels and spiral staircase. And the icing on the cake, the staff are also very welcoming. So really, what else do you need?
Don’t be fooled by the name. The McMahon may at first seem like one of the many Irish pubs in Old Nice, but once you take a look inside, you will step back in time. With its old wood paneling, it is indeed an institution with a 100-year plus history of serving great traditional food.
Successively a restaurant and a pub, it is a convivial place that adapts to your needs and desires. Wine lovershave a chance to sample local vintages, food connaisseurs can chose from seasonal menus, and those looking to just have a snack and share a drink with friends have a nice selection of amuse-bouche or amuse-vin. Tuna rillettes, humus with pita bread, cheese plates, delicatesen, socca…all the small plates have a local flavour and make for a perfect apéro.
With the newly opened Promenade du Paillon as a backdrop, the McMahon is definitely the perfect place to sit back and relax.
Stepping inside this busy restaurant in the heart of Vieux Nice is like entering a friend’s living room. The interior is funky but welcoming with its mismatched chairs, sofas and coffee tables, inviting the guests to immediately become comfortable. There are even some board games for those who are in a playful mood. Outside, there is a very generous terrace, right in the middle of all the action of the nearby Cours Saleya.
At El Merkado they definitely take their tapas seriousl,y with a menu that includes all the traditional small plates you might expect from a Spanish restaurant (jamón Serrano, tortilla española, calamaris…), all made with local and seasonal products.
Of course, sangría is part of the package but for the full El Merkado experience, be sure to order one of the many original cocktails, especially the Don Quichotte, a vodka-based drink that is already a classic.
Probably one of Nice’s best kept secrets, this restaurant transforms into a great place for a relaxing evening, swaying to the sounds of jazz or bossa nova come 6pm.
The wines come from all over the world. The tapas are Spanish (Lomito Bellota cullar, chorizo) as well as French (foie gras, jambon de Bayonne, terrine forestière) and vegetarian (caviar d’aubergines, houmous, legumes confits à l’huile d’olive). And for those with a big appetite, the menu also offers some hot dishes (petits farcis niçois au pistou, gratin de poulet jaune au munster) and some delicious desserts (lemon tarts, tiramisu au nutella).
Opened in 2004 by Stéphane Guini, a local chef and his wife Sophie, Le Tono is one of those places were you immediately feel at home. Just a short distance away from the busy avenue Jean Médecin, it would be a shame not to give it a try!
L’Ark : 41-43, Quai des États-Unis; 06300 Nice
Lou Tapas : rue Dalpozzo; 06000 Nice
McMahon’s Pub: 50 Boulevard Jean Jaurès; 06300 Nice
El Merkado: 12 rue St-François de Paule ; 06300 Nice
Le Tono: 18 Avenue Georges Clemenceau; 06000 Nice
Photos © Mike Colquhoun