Last weekend, my mum and I went to Nice. Originally, we had planned a weekend of Christmas shopping in London, but in a last minute decision to evade the festive season crowds, we booked a trip to the winter sun. I had expected the weather to be much milder and sunnier than in the UK – not difficult – but sat outside a little cafe, enjoying a glass of wine and a plate of tartines without the need to wear a jacket, I was surprised at just how warm it was! Not packing my sunglasses turned out to be a huge mistake.
This was my 6th or 7th trip to Nice – I’m fortunate enough to have a very good friend from the area with whom I spend a week or two almost every summer – but this was my first time visiting in the low season. The streets were calm, roads clear and restaurants deserted. Well, almost… Where there is great food, you will always find people. After wandering around the streets of central Nice, we stumbled upon a gem. Tucked away just off of the main square, Place Massena, through a little archway, the warm glow of La Maison de Marie pulled in locals and the few low season tourists alike. I believe that the atmosphere of a restaurant is equally important as the food and Le Maison de Marie felt like home. It had exceptional service, friendly staff, the hum of chatter from joyful diners and the clinking of pots and pans from the kitchen .
The waiter took our coats, brought us an amuse-bouche of black olive tapenade and mini crostini, and talked us through the menu before leaving us to make our choices. Mum and I shared two starters. A lover of seafood, the scallop carpaccio (€17) with coriander and crunchy julienne carrot, drizzled with olive oil, immediately stood out. And one of my favourite Provençale dishes, petits farcis (€14), was also on the menu, something I insisted my mum had to try. The scallop dish was melt in the mouth, beautifully complemented by the fragrant coriander and sweet carrot. The farcis were juicy, rich and packed with flavour. There was a selection of courgette, tomato, onion, pepper and baby aubergine, all roasted to sweetness and accompanied by a fresh green salad and crispy crêpe (which it didn’t really need, but made for an elegant plate decoration).
An irresistible description of the seafood cassoulet (€30) – traditionally a sausage and bean dish from Toulouse – by our waiter had both mum and I choosing this dish as our main. The portion was extremely generous – with enough fish for two, if not three, people – but it was so delicious that I finished every mouthful and forewent dessert. A base of creamy butter beans in a herby tomato and thyme sauce, infused with smokey pork belly, was topped with a delicate scallop, three large mussels, a fillet of salmon and a fillet of smoked sea bream, both with a wonderfully crispy skin and all pan-fried in silky butter. Thyme is not a flavour I would usually pair with seafood, but it worked well with the sweet smoked fish and punchy seafood flavours.
We paired our meal with a bottle of Corsican Domaine de la Punta white; a dry yet fruity and lively wine.
We ended the evening with a stroll along with beachfront – the perfect end to a wonderful meal and our last day in the Côte d’Azur.
La Maison de Marie
5 Rue Massena
T: 0033 (0)4 93 82 15 93
Open 12:00pm-14:00-pm and 19:00pm-23:00pm daily