As part of Provence, the Côte d’Azur shares its culinary fundamentals of olive oil, garlic and herbs, gorgeous vegetables and fruits, goat’s cheeses and, of course, the predominance of fish. The fish soups – Marseille’s bouillabaisse, and bourride, accompanied by a garlic and chilli-flavoured mayonnaise known as rouille – are served all along the coast, as are fish covered with Provençal herbs and grilled over an open flame. Seafood – from spider crabs to clams, sea urchins to crayfish, crabs, lobster, mussels and oysters – are piled onto huge plateaux de fruits de mer, which may not reflect this coast’s harvest but do demonstrate the luxury associated with it.
The Italian influence is strong, from ravioli stuffed with spinach to thin-crust pizzas and every sort of pasta as a vehicle for anchovies, olives, garlic and tomatoes. Nice has its own specialities, such as socca, a chickpea flour pancake, pissaladière, a pizza-like tart with anchovies and black olives, salade niçoise and pan bagnat, both of which combine egg, olives, salad, tuna and olive oil, and mesclun, a salad of bitter leaves: consequently, Nice is about as good a spot to enjoy cheap street food as you’ll find. Petits farcis – stuffed aubergines, peppers or tomatoes – are a standard feature on Côte d’Azur menus.
The best of the Côte wines come from Bandol: Cassis too has its own appellation, and around Nice the Bellet wines are worth discovering. Fancy cocktails are a Côte speciality, but pastis is the preferred tipple.