Upon more research, we decided to dine at the renowned Le Merenda in Nice’s old town in the South of France. Owned by Dominique Le Stanc, he gave up his status as a 2-star Michelin chef to buy this tiny bistro to serve up the sort of traditional French and Niçios food he is so passionate about. In the little open kitchen you can see him and his team working away, as if you were in someone’s house.
You can’t book in advance, there’s no phone number, and they only take cash. Turn up and you will be told what time you can have a table, if at all. With just 24 seats, tables are so close to each other that they need to be moved so diners can get in and to of their seats. This was our second attempt at trying to get in, and thankfully our persistence paid off.
The blackboard menu lists six, five, and four choices for entree, main and desserts respectively. I chose deep fried zucchini flowers that were crisp and not at all oily. Zorba had stuffed sardines and they were packed full of flavour.
For main, I chose the lentils and sausage. It was like eating mum’s soup. Each mouthful felt wholesome, healthy, and nourishing. The salty sausage flavour was soaked in by the puy lentils that were further enhanced with aromatics of celery and carrot. I loved this dish.
Zorba had Stockfish – dried salted cod that was reconstituted and cooked in a stew. Dominique’s wife who works the floor brought him over a little taste to check that he liked it first and offered for him to change his order if he didn’t. It does have a particular taste, and it tasted good. Zorba said his dish had a similar effect, it felt nourishing to eat.
With lunch, we had a bottle of white wine (28 euro), and the total bill came to a nice clean 100 euro (A$160). I was happy to pay that for a lunch that felt like it had been cooked with love.
Verdict: 9/10 – nothing fancy, simple plain good wholesome food that will have you wanting more.
4, Rue Raoul Bosio – 06300 Nice
It’s open Monday to Friday – turn up to be told what time you can have a table. Tip: get there early.