I returned here after several years with a memory of one of the most remarkable eating experiences that I’ve had in my 30 years of living in Europe. However, this time it was a mixed experience.
If stars are given based on food alone, then the Negresco truly deserves a few stars. And the value of the Sunday lunch menu is without parallel. Menu Plasir: 58 Euros for amuse bouche, starter, main, light refresher before dessert, dessert and coffee. Wine included for 12 euros more. Considering the venue and the kitchen, the price is remarkable.
Here is why it deserves two stars.
The amuse bouche was a mousse with diced salmon and dill; very light and refreshing. Then, a choice of two starters. A large gambas roasted in a crust of nuts and dried fruit surrounded by Crème Dubarry. Wonderful. The other was an egg yolk floating in a Jerusalem artichoke mousseline sauce with thin crunchy cheese sticks. Very imaginative and nicely served. Again, wonderful. Both dishes were mixtures of distinct tastes and textures that complimented one another.
There were also two choices of mains. The first was scallops with fennel in a thick crème sauce. Very good. The other a capon (boned) with mushrooms; equally good.
Prior to dessert, we were served a thick crème (perhaps a mazacan) over candied pineapples and a crumbly bisquet. Very refreshing.
As with other courses, two choices of desert. A brioche with a tasty filling and a spoonful of ice cream on the side. The other a white chocolate cup surrounded by meringue drops on the rim filled with a layer of white chocolate mousse and lemon mouse. Very creative. Both were very good.
Followed by coffee. No refills and thought the coffee nibbles were sparse. About 8-10 items, but only one of each for the three of us.
It is impossible to fault the kitchen in any aspect of this meal. Wonderful.
However, stars are not given for food alone and how we were treated is another story. Here is why it doesn’t merit two stars.
We made a reservation for three (my wife and I and our 21 year old son) one month before our visit. We know that the lunch is popular on Sunday and didn’t want to be turned away. We stopped by the day before to ensure they had the reservation and found they had spelled my name so incorrectly, it was hard to find it. But it was there. We arrived at noon and sat by the inner door waiting for the 12:30 opening. They had a “staff” meeting in the dining room that went on until 12:40, upon which time they opened the doors. We went through the door and presented ourselves, but before I could say a word, I was asked to stand to one side. So we stood until an elderly couple was seated. OK, maybe they were the royal family of food and had christening rights to the place. After that, two different people asked me my name and just walked on when I replied. Hum…. so we waited while a few other parties were seated. Finally a gentleman seated us not in the main dining room, but in the “overflow” room. There were eventually three parties in the room. A group of about 16 from the nearby Keisuke Matsushima, the one star Michelin restaurant where we ate a few days prior, and a casually dressed family of three with a ten year old p[laying a hand held video game. So even though we reserved a month prior and were the first ones to arrive, we were asked to wait and then seated in the less desirable room. The room, actually, was very nice, but not as nice as the main room and with a great deal less activity. It was a boring room. That treatment is not representative of the grace and style of what one would expect for two Michelin stars.
The handling of the wine was both good and bad. There was a choice of red or white for the wine inclusive with the meal and both were very nice. White was poured early (with the amuse bouche) - a plus since it’s normally commences with the starter. And it continued leading up to the main course. Strangely, the person in our party who ordered the capon was not offered a choice of red or white with the main. We noticed that other diners in the other room were offered a choice. White continued until the refreshing item prior to dessert; then it changed to red. This was a bit surprising since wine inclusive with a menu normally ends when the main has finished, unless you have established a repport with the server, or there is to be a considerable wait before the next course. So this was a plus. And it continued red throughout and after the dessert. Finally, although we were presented with the label, there was no explanation of the wine itself. Thought that to be a bit odd. So while the wine was good and the volume very good, the identification of the wine as well as not offering a choice was odd- especially for a two star Michelin restaurant.
Two final things. It took some time for someone to take payment. The bill came promptly when asked, but after I put my credit card on top, we sat there for some time. Servers came by, but apparently they weren’t authorized to touch it. Finally one of the floor managers came over with a remote charge machine and we paid. It took him a while since he was predominantly in the nice dining room, rather than ours. So I attribute this to our being seated in the overflow room staffed by the “B” Team.
And finally, while the servers addressed my wife and I as madame and monsieur, they never addressed our son. They would just place the plate in front of him. While we didn’t have suits, we did wear dress shirts and ties. And we were better dressed than many people in the main dining room.
So the food merits the two stars, but the service and staff, although good, were not at the level of elegance for even one star. Cumulatively, it was a disappointment when compared to my previous visit.
I must say, however, that when the floor manager was available, he was very well mannered and helpful. We spoke a bit about restaurants in Nice and he convinced us to cancel our reservation with a notable place the follwoing day and instead go Le Bistro Gourmand – which was an outstanding recommendation.
Would I go back? Of course. But I would go just for the food. And I would prepare myself to be treated as less that desirable - at least by Negresco. The experience was lacking.
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