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Le Chantecler

37, Promenade des Anglais, 06000 Nice
+33 (0)4 93 16 64 00

We’ve lived here for over five years, had visited regularly for many before that, and, until now, have never been to the Hotel Negresco’s Le Chantecler. It’s one of those places we’ve always saved for a special occasion and never quite got round to. When it was suggested by our friends, Tristan and Kathryn, that we try Sunday Lunch there, we looked at them a little nonplussed. However, our minds were quickly changed when they explained that Sunday Lunch at the hotel’s Michelin starred, flagship restaurant is a mere 55€ if you opt for the Menu ‘Plaisir’. To top it off, for an extra 10€ they will throw in unlimited wine and coffee. Sold!

Considered by many as the most prestigious restaurant around, this enchanting palace of fine dining has helped restore the Negresco to its early 20th century glory. Its popularity has spread far and wide, so it’s no surprise that you have to book ahead. We should have known that we wouldn’t be the only ones in the know, and sure enough they were fully booked. Three attempts later and we were in!

A tip: We found that booking on the Internet resulted in a ‘sorry we’re full’, but calling them for the same time and date worked. Perhaps we were lucky to get a cancelled table.

From the moment we were politely welcomed through the grand entrance by the Empire-cloaked doorman, we bubbled with excitement. The opulent (and opulent really is an understatement) Salon Royal hallway triumphantly reminds you that you are dining somewhere exceptional. The breath-taking lobby felt more like a gallery. There are modern art installations, including “The Nana Jaune”, a rotund brightly coloured revolving sculpture by Niki de Saint Phalle. Alongside these are numerous oil paintings that pay a respectful nod to those who have contributed to the Negresco over the decades. The piece that steals the show, however, is the impressive Baccarat chandelier, which unapologetically displays its crystals (all 16,309 of them), in the centre of the Salon Royal. I couldn’t help but wonder how many millions of photos had been taken under this remarkable centrepiece over the years.

The magnificent Regency style dining room, encompassed by extravagant 18th century wood panelling and featuring a striking portrait of Louis XV's daughter, the Duchess of Orleans room, is no less impressive. The early 20th century décor and Aubusson carpet certainly makes you feel as though you’ve travelled through time.

But whilst the décor may not have evolved in this prestigious institution, the cuisine certainly has. Under the artistic eye of head chef Jean-Denis Rieubland, the nouvelle French cuisine is an extravagant mix of inspiring flavours and refined presentation that will impress even the most refined palettes. Contradictory to many other chefs of his time, Rieubland does not intend for the tastes to blow you away, but merely to transport you from one course to the next in a subtle, yet pleasurable, fashion. With a menu that changes fortnightly to suit the seasonal produce, diners are guaranteed an innovative, gastronomic journey each time they eat here. To see the menus, visit their website www.hotel-negresco-nice.com/en.

Be sure to leave about three hours for the full dining experience, as the service is never rushed. This to us however made it feel all the more special. In fact we would have stayed all day—we were the last to leave, but the friendly and attentive staff would have been far too polite to even cough in our direction. We were enjoying ourselves too much to notice that it was time to ask for the bill.

The staff deserve a special mention all of their own. The outstanding service felt relaxed and friendly compared to the formality and intimidation encouraged by some top restaurants. The multilingual staff was welcoming, and, once we were seated, the waiter helpfully explained the differences between the menus on offer, and the sommelier proudly recommended wines that complimented our food perfectly (and were most surprisingly not overpriced). The fact that the staff really cares about the customer’s experience simply shines through at Le Chantecler.

Perhaps half the reason Matthew and I had been saving this for a special occasion is that when you build yourself up for a fine dining experience at the oldest and most reputed hotel in Nice, sometimes the dream can be better than the reality and we’d rather keep that alive than end up disappointed. Well, we certainly weren’t the least bit disappointed and, from the moment we left, repeatedly asked ourselves why we hadn’t gone sooner.

Aside from Sunday Lunch, the restaurant is open Wednesday to Sunday for dinner, offering mouth-watering à la carte options, and two, slightly more expensive, set menus. I’m certain that most people who have been fortunate enough to experience this gastronomic dream would agree that it really is worth every single penny.

– Gayle, Nice Pebbles. If you would like to contact Gayle, you can email her at gayle@nicepebbles.com.