This week I’m on a three-day trip to visit my customers and contacts on the Cote d’Azur. Not a trip I do every year, but it’s always “un vrai plaisir“. The locals are friendly, the climate is agreeable, the customers are generally “sympa“.
The drive to Nice is around 550 km. I leave at 8:30 and at a steady pace arrive at 15:00, with a short lunch stop before Genova. Weather good, temperature about 12C, not exactly balmy, but certainly warmer than back home. On the way to France I pass the dozens of greenhouses on the coast of Liguria, housing the famed Sanremo flowers. Mimosas in full bloom bedeck the hillsides.
Quick meeting with a small customer in the industrial area outside Nice, longer meeting at the airport with a potential agent for Poland, but who lives in Cagnes-sur-Mer. Claims to be able to sell millions but requires rock-bottom prices. Hrrumph! Then I drive along the Promenade des Anglais to my hotel, near the old town. It is dark, but the immense crescent of the Baie des Anges is impressive as ever: lined with fine hotels, the Negresco in primis, the West End, the La Pérouse just at the end beside the castle, where many, many years ago I spent my wedding night!
Tonight’s dining choice is an old-time favourite of mine, Flo in rue Sacha-Guitry 2, just round the corner from the hotel. It is a 1920s theatre that has been converted in a restaurant, whilst still maintaining it’s original structure. The foyer has become the bench for the huitrier, on the stage, beyond a huge red curtain and a plate glass window, is the kitchen with the bustling chefs and the diners are seated at tables where the audience would normally be.
I decide to eat fish: as a starter Tartare de saumon mi-fumé, jeunes pousses, parfum exotique. As expected, the classic minced salmon with a baby spinach leaf salad, but hey, what’s this?? A mango sauce! Strangely enough, the smoky, salty salmon is well matched to the sweet mango! What a surprise!
As main course I chose a Nage crémeuse de joues de lotte, ravioles au basilic. I am presented with a mysterious black cast-iron cocotte, the waiter opens it with a flourish, and proceeds to ladle out the contents. I have a delicious creamy monkfish stew, with tiny basil-filled ravioli, with morel mushrooms, a sprig of rosemary and a dried tomato. Incredibly tasty – only the French could make a dish of such perfection!
As a wine I choose a dry Muscadet sur Lie, 2001, but a red would have gone down equally well with the monkfish.
Dessert: being a chocaholic, I am sorely tempted by the Croustillant de Chocolat amer, crème anglaise à la vanille, but after much indecision I decide on the Croustade de Pommes gasconne au jus du vieil Armagnac. A worthy choice: I get a crunchy puff pastry castle with a puréed apple filling, the alcoholic aroma of Armagnac wafting all over. An excellent meal!
To aid digestion, a brisk walk up to the seaside, I watch for a few moments the bright lights of the planes landing at the airport on the other side of the bay, then on to bed.