Famous amongst locals, L’Acchiardo is as family-run as it gets and you truly feel a sense of family, community and friendliness here. The restaurant has been passed down the generations, and is currently run by an 82 year-old gentleman and his son, who I am told lived in London for a short while, working in a restaurant, then returned to L’Acchiardo to bring it into the 21st century, but without losing the restaurant’s much-loved charm, tradition, culture and homely feel. The father stood front and centre at the front of the restaurant, behind the bar, all evening, greeting customers and overseeing the smooth running of the evening, while chatting with regulars who had become old friends. It seems the family gets the next generation started very young – the son’s adorable daughter – who can’t have been more than 10 years old – was helping out behind the bar.
The interiors at L’Acchiardo have a warmth and rustic-ness, with brick walls, tiled floors, wooden tables and chairs, a dark wood bar and framed photographs and artworks covering the walls. There is a great balance between sophistication and humbleness. The restaurant is void of any pretentiousness or ostentation, to the point where I didn’t mind that my table-for-one was pushed right up against my neighbours. I could almost have joined in with their meal – it felt as though we were dining together and I could have quite naturally started a conversation with them. In fact, two ladies, both looking for a table for one, decided to dine together in order to bag the last available table, rather than return another night to dine alone.
The food at L’Acchiardo is exceptional. To start, I ordered the farcis faites maison – a local speciality of roasted vegetables stuffed with a mix of meat, herbs and onion. L’Acchiardo’s version featured onion, courgette, aubergine, tomato and yellow bell pepper, each generously stuffed with a succulent, flavoursome and well-seasoned mix of pork, onion and herbes de provence. The vegetables were wonderfully soft and served on a bed of mixed leaves, including peppery rocket and sweet baby leaf. The portion was big enough for two hungry diners, let alone just me, but I did finish the entire plate. The family sat next to me ordered a couple of assiète Provençale: a selection of local bites, including the farcis, along with a slice of pissaladière (essentially an onion pizza garnished with anchovies and olives) and panisse (chickpea fries).
For my main, I chose the rouget à la Provençale. I first tried rouget when my mum’s friend cooked it on the barbecue one summer, but had no idea what kind of fish it was. I have in since discovered that it’s red mullet, a fish I wouldn’t normally buy in the UK, but that is eaten regularly in this part of France. Red mullet has a delicate, sweet white flesh that melts in the mouth. I enjoyed this fish when my friend’s mum cooked it, but I enjoyed it so much more at L’Acchiardo. In fact, I would go as far as to say that this is the best fish dish I have ever eaten. I could taste the sea. Blindfolded, I would have mistaken the fish for some sort of crustacean – perhaps it had been cooked in a seafood broth? Served in a pool of fruity olive oil, with crisp skin, a garnish of fresh diced tomato and parsley and an accompaniment of both green and black olive tapenades, the dish was both simple yet complex, and celebrated the flavours of the region.
Another fantastic dish you must try here is the daube provençale à la merda de can. It’s a Niçoise speciality; a meat stew – much akin to a boeuf Bourguignon – served with either plain or spinach gnocchi (the latter oddly named merda de can, which quite literally means ‘dog poop’ in the local3 dialect, to put it politely – they look just about as appetising a they sound, but I guess it’s the taste that counts…!)
Desserts range from a classic French tarte tatin and chocolat fondant, to sweets from across the border, such as an indulgent tiramisù (Nice’s cuisine is strongly influenced by the proximity of the Italian coast).
38 Rue Droite
Open 12:00-14:00 & 19:00-22:00 (Mon-Fri); closed Sat & Sun
Very limited tables available on the door for smaller parties if you arrive at 7pm sharp! Otherwise, booking is essential.