Being a regular visitor to France, Nice in particular, then I thought it was about time we compared the Michelin Starriness of haute-cuisine to it’s English competitors. Over the last few years, we’ve been lucky enough to visit several starred restaurants in the UK but our visit to Christian Plumail’s L’Univers was our first European experience.
The restaurants is tucked just outside of the old town and facing the Place Massena with it’s strong, structural fountains (and the trams). It doesn’t look like anything special from the outside, or inside, with a series of bright, but slightly strange paintings are displayed: Those ‘love or hate’ types of slightly overweight figures.
To have with our aperitifs, we were served a slice of traditional pissaladiere and some lovely, small black Nicoise olives.
We were seated quickly at a lunch service and began choosing our food! They offer a fantastically priced lunch menu of two courses for just 20 Euros, but since it was our first visit, we opted for more varied dishes on the Menu Saveurs d’Ete, Flavours of Summer.
I’m not going to comment on the plates individually, except to say it was delicious. The flavours were fresh and local, textures well combined, and all beautifully presented.
To begin, the OH opted for Courgette with courgette mousse, a vegetable type salad and crispy sea food. Mine was the more conservative Crab and tomato roll with a citrus fruit summer salad, comprising grapefruit and fennel!
Main courses were Monkfish served with a Mushroom Fregola Risotto (sort of a Sardinian pasta risotto!) and Iberian Pork Chip topped with onions and cheese, served with a puree of Cocos de Paimpol, a type of bean.
The cheese course was a simple (I say simple, but would find it difficult to make!) goat’s cheese panacotta served with cereal toast and Muscat grapes.
Puddings were excellent: Figs wrapped and toasted in gingerbread, a nutty nougat and rhubarb sorbet, or in my case, Lemon Verbena cream with brandy snaps, poached white peaches and lemon sorbet. Mmmm…
Served with coffee were a few other delights and the chef even came out for a chat, before, strangely, getting involved in some broadcast with sound people all over the place! Service was good, but not excellent, then, we are in France, and it was at least very friendly! I’m not sure the Michelin inspectors would have appreciated the phaff at the end of the lunch service with the sound men, wires, headphones and general kerfuffle that went on, but we certainly did!
There is a more expensive menu (ours was 44 Euros) at 70, with a great choice and based around flavours from the market in the Cours Saleya, but ours was perfect for a lunchtime treat. With a bottle of Rose to counteract the heat of summer, it was a perfect introduction to the starred restaurants of the South of France. Now, where next?!