Saturday, May 12, 2007

Nice is nice

i had been looking forward to lunch at le chantecler since december last year when in a fit of insanity i signed up to do the half-marathon in Nice.

I felt immediately under-dressed as I stepped into the rather plush room which had a portrait of louis xv smirking rather condescendingly at the diners. the other diners in the restaurant were decked out in suits and formal wear which I thought rather odd until I realized they were having a celebratory post-wedding lunch of some sort when the wedding cake was wheeled out. any initial discomfort soon disappeared as the lovely maitre’d brought me to my table and explained the menu to me in perfect English, thus eliminating need for embarrassing myself with my extremely limited french or the use of babelfish which I had saved onto my blingberry.

lunch started with an amuse bouche of a shotglass of cold gazpacho and basil cream, a tiny tapenade topped toast and a pastry straw. I couldn’t help myself as I dunked the pastry straw into the shot glass and was pleasantly surprised to come across meaty chunks of shrimp embedded at the bottom of the shot. the waiters must have thought me mad as I was grinning with pleasure after that lovely shot of refreshment. i started with a trio of farçis – little tomatoes stuffed with tomato mousse, tapanade and basil cream in a tomato sauce, this was followed by braised beef with summer vegetables and a zucchini pissalidiere. for pudding i chose a lovely chocolate fondant with its melty middle and vanilla ice-cream. they brought out a tiered tray of petit fours at the end but I was much too full to eat any of it, which was a real shame. I did think about it, but decided in the interests of not inducing further bemused looks from the waiters against sweeping the petit fours into my handbag. apart from the beef and pissalidiere being a tad too salty, the meal was an absolute pleasure and a lovely way to start my weekend in nice.

the half-marathon had long ceased to be the focus of my weekend when i realized my general slothful lack of self discipline left me ill-prepared and under-trained. as such, i threw out all basic principles of pre-race nutrition as i went in search of socca for dinner. socca is a provençal pancake dating from 1860 made from chickpea flour cooked over a copper pan. wandering amongst the cobbled streets of vieux nice, i finally settled upon one of the many purveyors, and ate the whole socca made for deux personnes on a wooden bench in place rossetti which admittedly I settled upon because it was where Glacier Fenocchio was situated. it was a hard choice, choosing from the range available which spanned from the more conventional chocolate, to the rather bold beer, tomato and rosemary flavours. i settled in the end for vanilla, poive, rose. i had misread poive for poire and was expecting bits of pear, and so was extremely surprised when the first lick left a peppery aftertaste. the flavours did work, despite my initial skepticism as I realized my error. the bits of pepper adding a subtle sharpness against the softness of vanilla and rose.

I treated myself to a post-race pizza, and after a nap on the pebbled beach, took further advantage of the prevalent italian influences and had a daube of beef with gnocchi for dinner before I reluctantly left the sunshine of Nice and flew back to london.

Nice is nice. I loved wandering amongst the little streets in vieux nice, walking along the promenade, and just sitting on the pebbled beach looking out into the Mediterranean. I met lovely locals went out of their way to give me directions and point me to the right places to go, including a really lovely lady whom I chatted with on the airport express who was so eager to show me where to go that she left her luggage on the bus. my very slow jog gave me the pleasure of running the last couple of miles with two lovely veterans, who, despite my very best efforts and stuttering french, persisted in thinking that singapore was part of china. they were perfect gentlemen, and at the finish line, insisted that I go first. it was all a laugh really, as they kissed me after the race and we looked out into the sea eating post-race bananas and stretching and I gave up arguing as they continued insisting on their flawed geographical views.


Blogger leymondcha said...

Hi dear, I say this all the time and I say it again- you have the most amazing, interesting life!! :D So happy to read new updates in your blog. Keep up the good work!

7:26 PM  

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