Dining Review · France

Le Côté Délicieux de France

Being fans of the French cuisine and knowing that we were entering the country with the most number of Michelin star restaurants, Ms Gan and I started off our French leg with much anticipation. I was all ready for an exciting gastronomic experience, and was all out to discover le côté délicieux de France, or the delicious side of France 😉

Carcassonne

We started out our French food journey in Carcassonne for a very late dinner. Hungry and tired, we just settled on a random bistro on the way to the Medieval City. It was quiet and the surrounding streets were dark, and there were only 2 other diners at that time – didn’t seem a very good start to our French foodie quest!

Our 1st meal in France
Our 1st meal in France

I spotted Duck Leg Confit on the menu and decided to go with it anyway. I had a good experience with the duck confit at Singapore’s Au Petit Salut and a disappointing one at Melbourne’s Bistro Vue. Au Petit Salut’s duck had a crispy skin on the outside and the meat inside was a little dry but still tender. Whereas Bistro Vue’s version was really salty and when I asked the waiter, he said that this was the way duck confit is meant to be.

With these 2 extreme experiences at hand, I wanted to find out what would be an actual French take on this dish!

This was €15 from memory
This was €12 from memory

Folks, beyond this humble looking dish lies a meltingly tender duck under that crispy skin exterior. I was shocked to find my first mouthful of duck melting in my mouth! It also had the right amount of salt. Ms Gan stole a bite and she found it good too.

What – the best duck confit I had so far, in a random bistro with no Michelin stars?? That’s ridiculous!

(Unfortunately, I didn’t take a picture of the restaurant and menu so I won’t be able to tell you where this place is!)

So being fed with such a good French duck on our 1st night, as well as the beautiful night view of the Medieval City, I went to bed happy and satisfied 🙂

The next morning, we went out with a mission – not just to explore the Medieval City by day but to also look for croissants for breakfast!

We found this random bakery... less than €1 for each pastry!
We found this random bakery… check out how cheap those pastries are!

Again, this humble bakery housed the best croissants I’ve ever tasted – I’m serious!! The layers were flaky on the outside and had a chewy texture on the inside. The butter flavour was also not overpowering, given it an overall light feel. Wow such cheap and good croissants!

Within the Medieval City, there are many restaurants that offer a 3-course lunch option. We just chose this random one:

Auberge Le Plo

23 rue du Plo, 11000 Carcassonne

DSCN2886

Our entree of French Onion Soup... Unfortunately, I kinda preferred my homecooked version of Shannon Bennett's recipe!
Our entree of French Onion Soup… Unfortunately, I preferred my homecooked version of Shannon Bennett’s recipe!
Ms Gan's steak... which was  a little dry
Ms Gan’s steak… which was a little dry
I quite enjoyed my Cassoulet! But it was very buttery and full of beans, so it got abit too heavy for me towards the end
I quite enjoyed my Cassoulet! But it was very buttery and full of beans, so it got abit too heavy for me towards the end
Our panna cotta & creme brulee which were just average. Bistro Guillaume does a better creme brulee!
Our panna cotta & creme brulee which were just average. Melbourne’s Bistro Guillaume does a better creme brulee!

Unfortunately, this meal was nothing to shout about but the price was really reasonable! And we were really stuffed after that meal.

Avignon

After that, it was a late arrival again into Avignon and we had a simple pizza just round the corner from our accommodation.

Felt a little strange having pizza in France but this was really good! Lovely thin crust and the cheese was yuuummm
Felt a little strange having pizza in France but this was really good! Lovely thin crust and the cheese was yuuummm

Our host in Avignon was really friendly and she provided us such a big breakfast spread for the 2 days that we were there! Who said the French were snobby and cold?

Croissants, Au Pain Chocolat, Orange cake, 3 types of jam
Croissants, Au Pain Chocolat, Orange cake, bread rolls, 3 types of jam, honey & butter.. ahh where to start??

But yea, between you and me, we much preferred the croissants we had in Carcassonne and we missed them very much!

And here’s what we had for lunch in Avignon!

AOC

5 Place Jerusalem, Avigno

It didn’t occur to us that France, having that many Michelin-star restaurants in their country, would have some in Avignon too. So when we found some of these restaurants while walking around, we were told that they were fully booked, d’oh! So we settled for this bistro after I read a good review online.

Our starter of gravlax - it was so fresh and I like the way they cut it, makes every bite juicy and meaty!
Our starter of gravlax – it was so fresh and I like the way the fish is cut, makes every bite juicy and meaty!
Ms Gan's main.. I think it was pork? I remembered she said the meat was abit dry
Ms Gan’s main.. I think it was pork? I remembered she said the meat was abit dry
I went for the fish and I enjoyed it! The fish was nicely pan-fried and there was a burst of fresh flavours with the tomatoes.
I went for the fish and I enjoyed it! The fish was nicely pan-fried and there was a burst of fresh flavours with the tomatoes.

I can’t remember the exact price of our lunch (yea go me) but in total, it was less than €20 per person – not bad, I would say!

On our last day in Avignon, we checked out this bakery near our accommodation, as recommended by our host.

DSCN3144

Yay finally an encounter with a French patisserie!
Yay finally an encounter with a French patisserie!

I’ve never had a fig tart before and the figs looked so fat and juicy that I just had to get it!

DSCN3145

This tart, ladies and gentlemen, is da bomb. The figs were as juicy as they looked, the tart pastry was a crusty and buttery perfection, and that dollop of custard under the figs just tied everything together. Si délicieux! Can anyone find a fig tart like this in Melbourne?? Please let me know!

Nice

Ah again, we arrived at our next destination in time for dinner. We asked our host for a recommended place and he immediately pin-pointed this restaurant so off we went!

Carre Llorca

3 Rue de la Prefecture, 06300 Nice

Guess what's this?
Guess what’s this?
The menu!
The menu!

We decided to skip the entrees and go straight to the mains. As you can tell, the menu was all in French so we needed some guidance!

Ms Gan felt like lamb so the Tagine d’agneau it was!

DSCN3155

The lamb was slow braised but Ms Gan didn’t find it as tender as she wanted. I also wasn’t that keen on the couscous at the bottom. But overall, not a bad dish.

As Ms Gan already chosen lamb and I wanted some red meat too, I decided to try the veau, or veal 😉

DSCN3154

Now, this veal was outstanding. It was crumbed on the outside with sweetbreads and inside, it was so SO tender. I never had veal like this before! The veal didn’t taste as gamey at all and I loved EVERY element on the dish – the roasted fennel, the airy crunchy seaweed on the side that just disintegrates in your mouth without effort, the mash and the jus all over. I think Ms Gan had a bit of a dish envy whoops! 😛 But yes, this was one unforgettable dish!

We saw the nice array of desserts on display and decided to share one 🙂

Lemon tart
Lemon meringue tart

The lemon meringue tart was beautiful, with the nice acidic tang of the lemon curd, balanced out with some sweetness and lovely pastry. Great way to end the night!

We had such a good impression of this place that we came back for our last lunch in Nice!

Back for another meal!
Back for another meal!
Amuse bouche - think this was yoghurt at the bottom with tomato puree
Amuse bouche – think this was goat’s cheese at the bottom with tomato puree

Ms Gan had a craving for steak so steak it was!

Ms Gan said that this was a good piece of steak and she really enjoyed it :)
Ms Gan said that this was a good piece of steak and she really enjoyed it 🙂

As for me, I chose fish.

DSCN3314

The fish was beautifully cooked, with a hint of translucency in the flesh. Again, every element on the dish was enjoyable – the juicy pan-seared scallop, the delicate bacon strip, the shavings of cabbage, the mash and peas, and the jus. Yum!

And because we were still in France, we looked for more croissants for breakfast!

Brunet Boulanger Patissier

3-4 rue Alsace Lorraine, Nice

DSCN3170

€0.80 or €0.90 (the extra €0.10 is for extra buttery goodness) croissants again? yes please!
€0.80 or €0.90 (the extra €0.10 is for extra buttery goodness) croissants again? yes please!

The croissants turned out beautiful again… the only difference is that the top layer of these croissants were slightly more charred than the 1s we had in Carcassonne. Still tasted good though!

Ahhh we resisted getting a sweet treat the 1st time we came here...
Ahhh we resisted getting a sweet treat the 1st time we came here…
but on our last day in Nice, Ms Gan & I went ahead n got a slice of raspberry tart (€2.60 per slice) each!
But on our last day in Nice, Ms Gan & I went ahead n got a slice of raspberry tart (€2.60 per slice) each!

Haha so much for keeping our sweet tooth in. That raspberry tart was absolutely delish – love the generous serving of raspberries, not too overly sweet glaze on the top, and the well-baked pastry. The only problem was that 1 slice was too big for 1 person so Ms Gan actually didn’t finish hers!

And of course, in a beachside town like Nice, you gotta have some ice cream right?

Fenocchio

2 Place Rossetti, 06300 Nice

France's version of gelato
France’s version of gelato
I got Nocciolato, hazelnut dark choc
I got Nocciolato, hazelnut dark choc

The gelato had a good texture and the dark chocolate was spot-on, rich and indulgent.

My only complaint would be that the gelato stalls in Europe don’t allow free sampling (unlike Melbourne) and that makes it hard to decide on which flavours to get! Oh well, I guess it’s because they are quite confident of their gelato quality!

Okay moving on with my French foodie journey. On 1 of our days in Nice, Ms Gan decided to be a hardworking student and stay in to do her assignment. So I wandered around the city by myself, inadvertently making it a self-foodie tour of Nice!

I decided to start out the day with a good cup of espresso coffee, as I haven’t had one since the start of our European tour. So after some Googling, I came to this place:

Caffe Vergnano 1882

Rue Halevy 11, Nice

DSCN3293

The reviews said that the coffee was good and this cafe seemed to be Italian-owned so all looks promising!

Can never tire of croissants for breakfast in France!
Can never tire of croissants for breakfast in France!

Verdict? Yup, my cappuccino was strong and smooth, and definitely alot better than the espresso coffee I got from McDonald’s the day before! Definitely would recommend this place if you’re craving for an espresso coffee in Nice.

But I would have to say that the price was a little steep, at €3.20 per cup, especially when you think of the conversion rate back to the Aussie dollar! (As I found out later, the coffees get alot cheaper when we got to the actual birthplace of espresso coffee, Italy!)

After that nice peaceful morning to myself with a good coffee hit, I wandered around the streets and found myself inside Galeries Lafayette, where the designer clothes didn’t quite interest me, but something else…

Pierre Herme

Ground floor of Galeries Lafayette

6 av Jean Medecin, Nice

Ahhh can't believe I chanced upon these famous macarons!
Ahhh can’t believe I chanced upon these famous macarons!

The guy at the counter was very helpful, because I seriously couldn’t decide which 1 to choose (hey, I gotta spend my €2.10 wisely yah??). He patiently went through all the flavours with me hehe.

I asked him which 1s were the more popular flavours, and he said the top 3 were the Milk Chocolate & Passionfruit, Rose & Raspberry, and Raspberry & Pistachio. Guess which 1 I got?

Ahhh the guy packed it so nicely that I felt almost sorry to eat it!
Ahhh the guy packed it so nicely that I felt almost sorry to eat it! I brought Ms Gan here later and the lady handed out her macaron on a tissue -_-

Yup, I got the Montebello macaron i.e. Raspberry & Pistachio!

Wow, the flavours were amazing and the texture of the macarons surpasses all that I’ve eaten so far – soft, chewy and with that subtle crunch at the end. If only its price wasn’t so dear and can only keep for 3 days (as told to me by the guy), I would have bought a whole box back!!

So after more walking about and souvenir shopping, I was stopped in my tracks by this:

I guess the picture is not very clear but I can assure you that those oysters were huge!
I guess the picture is not very clear but I can assure you that those oysters were huge!

I’ve heard alot about the oysters in France but didn’t think I would find them in this part of France!

The display of seafood enjoyed by the diners at this cafe looked so fresh and good and that got me drooling, and Googling. I found that reviews of this place were good, but service was questionable. The other problem was, these aren’t exactly the $1 South Melbourne oysters and the price tag ain’t cheap!

I did walk away for awhile and had this internal debate within myself. Finally, I went, Aiyah so far shopping hasn’t cost me much and who knows when I’ll come back to France?? Let’s just try!

Cafe de Turin

5 Place Garibaldi, 06300 Nice

DSCN3368

Decided to go for the No 2 Claires, 1/2 a dozen
Decided to go for the No 2 Claires, 1/2 a dozen

As the reviews said, service was a little brusque, even though the restaurant wasn’t crowded. But that wasn’t enough to dampen my excitement!

Some warm fresh bread & butter to start off with
Some warm fresh bread & butter to start off with
Yay yay my oysters are here!
Yay yay my oysters are here!
Compare the oysters to the oyster fork to get an idea of how big they were!
Compare the oysters to the oyster fork to get an idea of how big they were!

As imagined, the oysters were creamy and the size of it meant that I had to eat them in 2 bites instead of the usual 1!

Enjoyed these 6 oysters at leisure :)
Enjoyed these 6 oysters at leisure 🙂

Yes, I did splash out a little on these oysters but I actually didn’t regret it – the French oysters are quite something else! If you are ever in Nice and can afford it, the other seafood offerings look good as well!

And finally, we had our last dinner in France at a 1-Michelin star restaurant…

L’Univers de Christian Plumail

54 Boulevard Jean-Jaures, 06300 Nice

DSCN3371

Following our disappointment at Avignon, we actually booked ahead at this place while we were still in Avignon. So we arrived here with high expectations, wondering what a 1-Michelin star quality dining experience would be…

Our amuse boche which was pate on a biscuit
Our amuse boche which was pate on a biscuit
As usual, the bread was good - served warm, had incredible fluffiness on the inside with olives inside, and wonderful crust on the outside
As usual, the bread was good – served warm, had incredible fluffiness on the inside with olives, and wonderful crust on the outside

We decided to go for their Weekly Menu Special, which was actually the cheapest set – a 3-course meal at €35 (from memory).

I guess at that time, we were thinking of saving abit of money and thought that a 1-Michelin star restaurant could still do a spin to a simple menu. But as we found out, that wasn’t the case!

Ms Gan's starter - Roasted tomatoes & a fried egg. Perhaps just a glamorised breakfast??
Ms Gan’s starter – Roasted tomatoes & a fried egg. Perhaps just a glamorised breakfast??
My entree of rock melon & jamon. I mean the dish was pleasant but I guess that's something you can do at home right?
My entree of rock melon & jamon. I mean the dish was pleasant but I guess that’s something you can do at home too right?
For the main, both of us went for the rabbit with wild mushrooms risotto
For the main, both of us went for the rabbit with pine nuts & wild mushroom risotto

We actually both quite enjoyed our main. Although it was tad too salty (as we found with most food in Europe!), the rabbit meat was not tough and the risotto was cooked al-dente with the mushroom flavours coming through. The dish looked small but was quite filling!

Overall, it was a good dish but was it great? Was it a 1-Michelin star quality dish? I wasn’t too sure about that – honestly, I thought the veal at Carrellorca was more special!

We were stuffed by the end of our main course but there was still dessert to go!

I went onto the dark side - A dark choc biscuit with choc & vanilla bean mousse
I went onto the dark side – A dark choc hazelnut biscuit with choc & vanilla bean mousse
While Ms Gan had something lighter - Raspberries on a crumble with a Creme Brulee top, served with raspberry sorbet. Ahhh I couldn't get over how raspberryish this dessert was!
While Ms Gan had something lighter – Raspberries on a crumble with a Creme Brulee top, served with raspberry sorbet. Ahhh I couldn’t get over how raspberryish this dessert was!

Again, while the desserts were pleasant, we didn’t find them very unique or special. While this was definitely value for money (we were SO stuffed by the end of it), I wouldn’t think this was a Michelin-star place based on the dishes served.

Perhaps it was because we went for the cheaper menu but then again, I can think of many other Melbourne restaurants that can give you the ‘wow’ factor at this price range – seriously, the Michelin star panel should consider some of our Melburnian establishments!

Okay, disappointments aside, I would have to say that the French food we sampled was delicieux enough to make my South of France experience pretty memorable and our palates were definitely spoilt enough 🙂

But guess what, that wasn’t all for well-fed palates because following this, we went into the place of my 2nd favourite cuisine – Italy! So stay tuned!

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s