Hidden in the maze of narrow cobblestone streets, Chez Palmyre was one of Vieux Nice’s long-standing family-style institutions, presided over by the late, grandmotherly chef Palmyre Moni, who opened the 25-seat bistrot in 1926. In the old days, I used to drop in as Palmyre and her daughter Suzanne toiled away in their tiny kitchen, producing simple but tasty traditional Niçois dishes—three courses for €13—for local old-timers who gossiped in their nissart patois under the neon glare. It was homey food and a hole-inthe- wall atmosphere. Trendy it wasn’t.
Taken over in 2010 by 28-year-old chef Vincent Verneveaux, who trained with Guy Savoy and Jacques Maximin, and his associate Philippe Terranova, the old favorite has seen a few changes: The three-course menu has gone up to €15, and the outstanding quality of the cuisine is nothing less than miraculous. “There’s no freezer and no microwave,” says Verneveaux, who heads for the market at 6:30 every morning.
The cozy brick-walled bistrot decor has been spruced up with cloth napkins, orange checked tablecloths, silver cutlery and a colorful vintage-style “grocery corner” behind the zinc bar. The menu, scrawled on an antique mirror, now changes every two weeks. It’s hard not to nibble on the delicious sourdough baguette while waiting, but doing it didn’t stop us from tucking into our most recent meal with great gusto.
We began with a warm potato salad with duck confit, a flaky girolle mushroom tart topped with a soft-boiled egg, and a terrine of smoked salmon and goat cheese. The generously served main dishes included beef daube with gnocchi; chestnut- studded sausage with lentils; and rabbit topped with tomatoes, peppers and olives— all simmered, tender and tasty. Desserts vary from homemade cakes—pear clafoutis with chocolate sauce—to such simple delights as fromage blanc with raspberry coulis or winepoached pears.
The regional wines are gently priced (pitchers are only €3–€5) too, so reserving far in advance is a must.
5 rue Droite, Nice.
Fixed price 3-course menu: €15. Wines start at €12.
Prices are approximate, per person without wine.
Originally published in the February 2013 of France Today
Photo under creative commons license by david.james.harris via flickr