Ecole de Nice / Vieux Nice

One of a couple of bistro-style restaurants recently opened by Michelin-starred chefs in Nice, Ecole de Nice serves quality Niçois food – farcis, grilled fish, baked southern vegetables and lashings of olive oil – for people without a yacht-sized budget. The fact that it was opened by one-star Japanese chef Keisuke Matsushima (owner of Saison and the eponymous Keisuke Matsushima) only adds to the intrigue.  I chose farcis – southern vegetables stuffed with veal and pork mixed with breadcrumbs – which came in a Miso-like cloud of vegetable stock, followed by roast duck with a balsamic cherry sauce, with all the punch and texture of traditional Chinese hoisin sauce, without the heavy starchiness. Paired with feathery tempura-style courgette flower beignets and finished with a torte de blette, a traditional sweet Swiss chard tart, which was surprisingly light and crumbly, this is fusion food with a reserved and respectful edge.  The only thing I don’t like is the art gallery lighting, although in the restaurant’s defence, it is co-owned by an art collector who has generously displayed some of his collection – all by members of the Ecole de Nice art movement (Ben, Arman, etc.) – around the room. Located in the residential Musiciens neighbourhood, it has struggled to attract custom and dropped its prices to €18 for two courses and €25 for three. A bargain. However, recent coverage in the Wall Street Journal and local word of mouth has made it tough to get a table, so it’s advisable to book.

Upside: Matsushima often waits the tables on busy nights. A rare opportunity to meet the man himself before he climbs too far up the ladder.

Downside: Tripadvisor gives a thumbs down to the regular Savoie-born waiter, but this isn’t the States. He knows his stockfish from his socca. And if you’re visiting from Tokyo, he speaks Japanese.

16, rue de la Buffa, Nice
Tel. 04 93 81 39 30