French in France: 10 Best Places for Francophone Cuisine in Nice

When it comes to eating French food, Nice doesn't disappoint and even delivers its own style of cooking, Nicoise, which includes way more than just the famous salad. As the largest and most vibrant city in the French Riviera, Nice also has a lot of variety when it comes to eating French – from the plethora of food stalls scattered about the cobbled Old Town to modern and classic takes on haute gourmet created by chefs with Michelin stars by their names. One such restaurant is Le Chantecler inside the palatial Hotel Negresco. With two Michelin stars, chef Jean-Denis Rieubland's menu is famous for its take on Provencal and Nicoise fare. For something less formal, check out Les Epicureans, where the food provides a good intro to haute gourmet French fare as the dishes are pretty conventional for the uninitiated palette. The Port of Nice is also home to some excellent French restaurants, like the trendy Jan Restaurant. One of the hottest spots in town, Jan, is named after its South African chef owner Jan Jan Hendrick van der Westhuizen, and focuses on modern French fare that gets an A+ for flavor. 


Le Merenda
Photo courtesy of La Merenda

This petite bistro in Old Town is the work of a former Michelin-starred chef, Dominic Le Stanc, it attracts throngs of hungry locals who come for the dishes chalked up on a board each day – there is no formal menu. Although the offerings change with the day of the week, the food is simple but solid Nicois fare that is cooked in an open kitchen at the back of the tiny dining room. You'll be rubbing body parts with diners at nearby tables when eating here – don't expect space to sprawl – but the food is good enough that you probably won't care. It's known for its unpretentious ambiance and amazing homemade food, but don't expect much elbow room – the dining room is very small and chaotic.

Recommended for French because: It's the work of a former Michelin-starred chef and does simple Nicoise dishes.

Becca's expert tip: It is very hard to secure a table at Le Merenda without an advance reservation.

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Le Safari
Photo courtesy of Le Safari Restaurant

In Vieux Nice (the Old Town), Le Safari serves a mix of French and Italian fare, including some excellent seafood options in a lively heart of Old Town locale right by the Opera. There is al fresco sidewalk seating for sunny days, as well as an interior dining room. When it comes to ordering, the octopus salad is fresh and delicious if you're an adventurous seafood eater. Easier on tender tastebuds are the pizza and pasta choices, which are tasty and authentic. While more in the middle are daily fresh fish choices and a range of appetizers designed for sharing. Grab a seat outside when the weather is nice as it is great for people watching.

Recommended for French because: French (and some Italian) fare right by the Opera House, it's great for people watching too.

Becca's expert tip: Try the seafood options, including the delicious and fresh octopus salad.

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Lou Bistrot Nissart
Photo courtesy of Lou Nissart

Near the Port of Nice, this restaurant specializes in local Nicoise fare and is far enough removed from the main tourist areas to feel local and off-the-beaten path (although it is near the flower market, so convenient to reach from the port side of the city). The food can feel a bit rough – this isn't French gastro fare for beginners – but foodies who remember the now closed Lou Nissart will dig its successor restaurant. The ambiance is also appealing here and the house wine is worth ordering a carafe or two. Try the pasta, which is made from scratch and cooked up with fresh seafood and roasted meats.

Recommended for French because: It does excellent Nicoise and Provencal cooking including excellent made-from-scratch French pasta dishes.

Becca's expert tip: If you remember the famed (but now shuttered) Lou Nissart restaurant from a previous trip, this is its successor. Reservations are recommended. It fills quickly.

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La Chantecler

Famed for its palatial setting and Chef Jean-Denis Rieubland's menu, Le Chantecler in the grand dame Hotel Negrosco is worthy of the two Michelin stars it has been bestowed. When asked to describe his menu Rieubland says his style is "inspired by Provence, with the respect of its products and traditions". He also enjoys transmitting his taste of "the true" and his menu sticks close to the traditional French gastronomical classics. Don't skip the wine when dining in the formal elegant dining room with pink table clothes and cushioned magenta chairs. The wine cellar here is also renowned, having 15,000 bottles in storage and some impressive woodwork that dates back to 1751.

Recommended for French because: The food at this two Michelin star restaurant is classic gastro French.

Becca's expert tip: The wine cellar here is also renowned, having 15,000 bottles in storage and some impressive woodwork that dates back to 1751.

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Jan Restaurant
Photo courtesy of Jan Restaurant

Named for its creator, South African chef Jan Hendrick van der Westhuizen, Jan's is easily one of Nice's hot eats du jour. Despite the fact that the proprietor hails from Africa, and from a former British colony to boot, does nothing to hinder the modern French gastro creations served here. Each dish is a work of art with ingredients and flavors inspired by the regional markets found around Nice and the South of France and changing with the season – everything tastes fresh and complimentary to the month in which you are dining. The dining room is another perk. Despite being aquamarine in color it works and offers an elegant atmospheric experience to complement the food. Look for the restaurant just a few minute's walk from the chic Port of Nice. Dress to impress, leave the kids at home and make a reservation well in advance or you won't get a seat.

Recommended for French because: Modern French fare with flavors inspired by the regional markets of the South of France.

Becca's expert tip: Look for the restaurant just a few minute's walk from the chic Port of Nice. You'll need to dress smartly.

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Photo courtesy of L'Escalinada

This restaurant has been popular with tourists and locals alike for the last five decades now – some people love it, others hate it. Yes it is touristy, and often packed, but it also serves consistently good Nicoise fare including some of the best grilled prawns with garlic and herbs in town. Other not to miss dishes are the homemade gnocchi and the Marsala veal stew. If you are in search of very traditional Nicoise cooking, you can also find dishes like sheep testicles on the menu here. Try to sit outside where the red table clothes and candles crowding the narrow street in Old Town feels cheerfully romantic.

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Airport - Nce
Photo courtesy of L'Univers

Connoisseurs flock to this restaurant in the heart of town to enjoy timeless classics from the Provence region – think lamb prepared with cream, artichokes roasted with peppers, and fresh fish and shellfish from the sea infused with local herbs and spices. The restaurant has been around since the 1990s and is the creation of renowned chef Christian Plumail who is known for ignoring the trend du jour and instead focusing on fresh locally sourced ingredients and consistent dedication to the dishes he's been doing flawlessly for more than two decades. Best of all the prices are reasonable despite the talents of the chef, and L'Univers is one of the only places in Nice where you can grab a full lunch for less than 25 euros.

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Airport - Nce

Sophisticated and posh with curved lines of the Art Deco style, this distinct restaurant serves traditional Nice cuisine of fresh raviolis and seafood that is both delicious and fairly priced. The service is also friendly and efficient and whether you come for lunch or dinner you can expect it to be crowded (but not to the point that the food or service suffers). Although there isn't anything bad on the menu here, where Le Comptoir really shines dessert. Make sure to leave some space in your stomach to sample the sweet stuff as the Ile Flotante, a traditional Nicoise dessert, is especially sumptuous.

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Airport - Nce

A local favorite for years now, Au Petit Gari is located in the center of Old Nice, right on Garibaldi Square, behind the Museum of Modern Art. The dining area is cozy and chef Eric dishes up excellent Provencal home cooking at fare prices. Come for the fresh baked break and traditional regional dishes such as fish soup, escargot raviolis, and smoked foie gras. When the weather cooperates ask to be seated outside on the terrace, where you can people watch to your hearts content. The space is small and very popular with locals; reservations are recommended if stopping by for dinner.

Recommended for French because: Affordable French bistro fare served in the heart of Old Town

Becca's expert tip: Look for it behind the Museum of Modern Art.

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Airport - Nce
Les Epicuriens
Photo courtesy of Restaurant Les Epicuriens

The word has slowly spread about this truly epicurean restaurant. Simply decorated, the dishes prepared here use traditional bistro fare like braised beef cheeks, foie gras with mushrooms and cote d'beuf in a sophisticated setting. The food is a good intro to haute gourmet French fare as the dishes are pretty conventional for the uninitiated palette. Conventional doesn't mean under par, however, and while this isn't the best French restaurant in Nice, it is a very good one. The dishes also focus on locally sourced ingredients and produce, and these are the choices that really star here. The wine list is also good, with a number of selections, including champagne choices, by the glass. It gets crowded so reservations are recommended, especially for dinner.

Recommended for French because: The food is a good intro to haute gourmet French.

Becca's expert tip: Their is a good selection of wines by the glass plus gastronomic fare that isn't too avant garde for a nouveau palette.

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Meet Becca Blond

Becca Blond is an award-winning Denver based freelance travel writer. She has authored more than 30 Lonely Planet guides on five continents. She also writes about Colorado and the world for...  More About Becca