La Reserve – Nice

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The Location 

So here we are in Nice where we spend some time admiring the port before making our way to a very special location for lunch. Its a restaurant situated on the cliff of the Riviera overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.

I have to say it is such a wonder to gaze at the expansive deep blue sea, as the coastline is painted with white foamy waves which meet their end on the limestone rocks that surround the bay. As you can see from the pictures below, the restaurant is perfectly situated on the edge of the cliff and is the setting for this exquisite lunch.

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We arrive early and are seated at our tables by the friendly staff (who are just excellent at what they do). This is the view from our tables… its just amazing.

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Apertivo 

We start with some light snacks – Tapenade, Bread Crisps and of course I insist we have a Campari to dull the senses to commence the afternoon. My dining companion finds it too strong, but agrees to go along with it.

The lunch is off to the perfect start as the sun paints a beautiful white glow over the sea, the fluffy white clouds clear the way for the pale blue sky peppered with a range of beautiful aircraft making the scenic journey into Nice. The musical symphony that is the sound of the wavy sea colliding with the Rivera limestone rocks below us is therapeutic… it is a moment where time stands still and the beauty of the moment is etched in your memory forever.

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finally remember why we are here, and that is for lunch of course. We remove the glazed look in our eyes and focus on the menu. We opt for the fixed price Riviera Menu and I am given the liberty of choosing a bottle wine. Although most of the dishes are seafood, I am given permission from my dining companion to choose a red wine on the menu which captures my heart. 

The Wine 

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A stunning Bordeaux wine with 50% Cabernet Sauvignon and 50% Merlot. The beautiful purple colour glares at you through the glass with blue ocean providing a lovely backdrop. The waft of cherries escapes the glass to provide a sensuous feeling. I love this wine, however there was a soft tannin bite to begin as the wine leaves the glass, but thankfully it quickly dissipates to ensure an easier drinking experience. The delicious red fruit flavours define the wine, but there are hints of chocolates in the finish to round out a rich tasting experience.

Appetizer

Crespeu niçois (cake of omelettes), fresh herbs salad, aceto balsamico dressing & bread croustille, tapenade of Mr Giauffret pepper coulis and pesto of riquette

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The fluffy light jelly texture of the omelette cake is beautiful as its layers provide the perfect aesthetic starting experience. It is paired with the salty tang of the tapanade, while the pesto providing a beautiful mix rich oils and herbs to appropriately season the omelette cake. The herbs are dressed in a tangy balsamic and provide a light summer feel to the dish.

Entree

Fresh tomato soup spiced up with chorizo Iberico, tartar of tomato and marjoram concassée, small red mullet fillet, olive oil and garlic toast of focaccia.

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The gazpacho-like tomato soup is cold with a refreshing juicy flavour with the salt from the Iberico providing a flavoursome base. The rich juicy beef tomato is situated in the middle with the soft tangy puree concasse on top. The red mullet is succulent with the crispy skin providing a texture respite from the soft juiciness of the tomato based dish. The dish is light with the extra olive oil providing some light Provencal style charm to the dish. This perfectly chilled Mediterranean dish is paired with the setting, as the soft sea breeze of the Riviera strokes your hair with its gentle brush.

Main Course

Tub Gunard fish stuffed with anchovies and roasted in a thyme foamy butter on a risotto carnaroli à la milanaise, squids & mussels à la persillade, saffron bouillon flavoured with orange zests.

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The main course arrives and I know the sea has my attention, but my eyes immediately depart from the view to focus its gaze on this dish. The fish (which is very similar to a snapper) is placed on a risotto cake and surrounded by a saffron and orange broth with crispy calamari and a juicy open mussel with herb dressing. The fish was also roasted in anchovies and a foamy butter sauce which continues to form a key plank of the dishes flavour.

I continue to gaze at the beauty of this dish, admiring the layout, contemplating the quality of the ingredients (the fish was probably swimming in the sea I was gazing a short-while ago – the Riviera is about fresh produce). The fish is succulent with a crispy skin providing a lovely contrast of textures and the roasting process has been done so well that the flavour of the fish is retained. The anchovy does not overpower the fish but adds a gentle saline flavour.

The texture of the risotto firm on the outside and al dente on the inside. The saffron broth is rich and full of herbs, oils and citrus flavours and then the succulent crispy calamari introduces itself in perfect harmony to the rest of the dish. The mussel has its distinct flavour with the (à la persillade) herb dressing adding a light overture of tang without overpowering the mussel.

My dining companion agrees the dish is excellent and I am of the same view. I couldn’t think anything could captivate me more than the view, but this dish has!

Dessert

La Tourta de Blea: Soaked grapes & swiss-chards, olive oil ice cream and pine nuts.

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Now in life I have always been taught to count my blessings and given how well the afternoon had gone, I probably would have been okay if the dessert was a little sub-par. However when it came to creativity, this dessert took it to new levels.

This tart is a traditional Nice dish, however its presentation is so creative. The juicy grapes, crunchy pine nuts, the soft chards and soft savoury taste of the olive ice cream on a crumbly base of the tart and the crispy pastry inserted on top all combine for a mix of textures, sweet and light savoury flavours to deliver in this finale. The dish was the definition of creativity. There was a soft mild flavoured green paste on top of the tart with a light savoury which was probably the highlight of the dish.

We have a coffee (not pictured, as I was engrossed in conversation) and as we exit the view from the bar downstairs is just as spectacular. We say our farewells to the beautiful staff, who have been so hospitable to us today. Such an amazing lunch at a spectacular location.

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