It started out as a search for Wayne’s favourite – ‘moules et frites’…mussels and fries. A classic bistro meal, it pairs perfectly with an icy cold beer, or in Wayne’s case, wine. French wine. Preferably local.
We wandered down a busy Nice pedestrian street lined with restaurants and shops and started reading menus. It wasn’t the place Wayne had in mind, but moules – and plenty of other seafood options – were on the menu. Oh, and even the outdoor tables had white linen napkins. Also Wayne’s favourite.
No tables for two outside, so we were sent inside and led to an elevator. The decor was contemporary, upscale, and the glass-walled elevator was very slow. Our patience was later most definitely rewarded.
Waiters in white shirts and long beige aprons, three maitre ds in dark suits, a medium-sized room lined in mirrors…it all felt quite posh. A tank of tropical fish in the center of the room anchored several tables of diners. We were led to a corner table, slightly elevated, and invited to sit side by side, backs to the wall, facing the room, like other diners around the perimeter. It felt quite intimate.
A dark-suited man took our order – moules for Wayne, crevettes for me, a bottle of Perrier for the table. And of course, a wine.
Within minutes, like a carefully choreographed performance, a server appeared with our water and our wine, and of course a basket of fresh bread.
Then came the amuse-bouche. A chilled, tomato-based soup in a tiny bowl. Flavourful, but not overly spiced. We loved it, and I loved the tiny spoons.
Empty bowls were whisked away, silently, almost stealthily. Then came a big ring stand for me, with a tiny bowl of mayonnaise underneath. Oh my. I’m guessing I’m not getting shrimp after all. Something more grand, perhaps?
Meanwhile the Sancerre was going down nicely and I’d started taking photos, very discreetly of course, as our meal unfolded. It’s quite a unique dining experience when you’re seated two steps up from most of the other diners, and facing the room. We watched the waiters moving effortlessly with large platters of paella, big bowls destined for one person, and the swift skill with which they relieved a large fish of all its bones.
And then, there they were, our server gliding up with our delicacies.
Wayne definitely enjoyed his mussels in white wine sauce, although it’s possible he enjoyed the Sancerre just as much…or more. He barely spoke as he poked the tender mussels out of their shells. Normally we’d share these kinds of offerings, and we did exchange a couple of small bites. But we’d each chosen our favourite, they’d arrived in perfect order, and well…to each their own!
My prawns were ‘superbe’. Perfectly cooked and chilled. I’d never dipped them in mayonnaise before, but this was lovely, creamy mayonnaise clearly made on-site by some competent chefs.
That was it. My lunch. Sweet, tender prawns lightly dipped in creamy mayonnaise, chunks of fresh, crusty bread, and sips of cold, crisp Sancerre. A couple of times I even ate the prawns naked. No mayonnaise. Even sweeter.
The server had left us two plates for shells. And as the piles on them grew, there he was quietly removing them and setting down another.
It was quite perfect. And as that was all there was, well there was room for dessert, wasn’t there.
We’d seen a large Creme Brulee arrive for the elderly man and his young granddaughter two tables over. Clearly good for sharing, and we love Creme Brulee.
There was no moelleux on the menu, that chocolate lava cake oozing with warm chocolate sauce we’d seen frquently on restaurant menus and tried several times, usually with vanilla bean ice cream melting all over it.
What to choose? Wayne deferred to me, and chocolate gets me every time. Profiteroles, if you please, served with vanilla bean ice cream and chantilly. (That’s whip cream in our language.). The menu had made a point of telling us that all desserts were hand-made by top patissiers right there in the restaurant. How could we go wrong.
Well, if I thought the prawns were sweet and tender and perfect, look what arrived next.
Tiny crisp bits of choux pastry sliced in half and filled with a perfect little ball of cold, creamy ice cream, topped with a wafer of dark chocolate and a swirl of chantilly. Warm chocolate sauce stood at the ready.
We each removed one to our plate, still standing as it arrived, and I presided over the chocolate sauce.
We were transported. Well I was anyways. Wayne usually just enjoys a little of whatever dessert I order, (well, unless of course it’s Creme Brulee). But after one, he was like ‘hmmm, I think I might have another.’
We each chased the last bites of pastry, ice cream, and sauce around the plate, not wanting to leave anything behind. Clearly licking the plate was not in the cards here.
And then we settled back to enjoy the Muscat de Beaumes de Venise we’d ordered, a throwback to our 2004 trip to Haute Provence where we’d visited this winery for a degustation, and promptly bought a bottle to take home. We’d saved it for several years before reminding ourselves it was to enjoy, not look at, and so it was long gone.
This was a meal to remember. For its simplicity and it’s perfection, for the effortless service we know takes great skill and teamwork to execute. Our server was most gracious and complimentary when he learned we were from Canada, which ended our last lunch in France on a lovely note.
The price, you say? We hadn’t looked at prices first, and by the time the bill came we really didn’t care. Boccaccio, it turns out, is highly rated online. I’m sure if we’d gone looking for it we might not have found it. So this was all meant to be, and another meal in France we will always remember.