If I was to give this restaurant in the heart of Antibes’ old town a tagline, it would have to be ‘cuisine sous le soleil’. Nacional specialises in high quality meats, but it also has a robust Mediterranean menu bursting with flavours of the region: truffles, fresh fish, burratas, and — of course — rosé.
Located in Place Nationale of Antibes’ vieille ville, the Restaurant Nacional has a modest, even humble, entrance. Beyond its covered terrace extends an ample indoor dining area with dusky lighting and rough stone walls before you arrive at the main event: a vast open space beneath an open sky. Above the tables and chairs, vines creep along a fluid metal structure and in the centre of the patio, a beautiful stone fountain is adorned with brass taps and organic glass ornaments. Richly-coloured terracotta walls and leafy green verdure only add to the classically Mediterranean décor.
Nacional has made its name on the back of its extensive and diverse hand-selected wines (many of which you won’t find elsewhere in the port city) and its gourmet selection of meat, from Galician to aged Irish beef and Ibérico de Bellota, a pork from pigs nourished by a foraged and acorn-based diet. The restaurant has even been known to offer Wagyu, that fabled marbled beef, on certain occasions. Here, however, you will find something to suit every palate. The cuisine is simple, as good ‘cuisine du soleil’ should be.
Starters include the likes of foie gras mi-cuit in a Sauternes wine (16€) and mature French and Italian cheeses accompanied by charcuterie (14€). We have a preference for the gambas in a light and pleasantly crunchy batter (14€), but would recommend the Grand Plateau de Tapas à Partager (45€) if you are dining in a large group. For a meat-focused restaurant, you would, of course, expect a strong carte des viandes: Galician fillet of beef (45€), Rossini (38€), a rack of lamb with a full-bodied jus (28€), and a moist caramelised pork rib plate (22€) to name just a few. A menu featuring specialty beef is also available. For fish: a risotto with asparagus cream topped with pan-fried sea bass (27€) or the lightly cooked scallops with a sumptuous truffle mass and mushrooms fried with parsley (29€). A range of pizzas (such as the Pêcheur with calamari, mussels, fresh tomato, lime and mizuna on a squid ink base) and burgers are also on offer for a less refined, but nonetheless tasty, meal.
The wine list offers the best of France and the Côtes-de-Provence, and we are happy to leave the choice largely in the hands of the server.
We have been regular visitors to this restaurant for sometime now and have never been disappointed by its cuisine or service (in fluent English), although its setting could possibly make up for it even if we were. It is a breath of fresh air in Antibe,which can be rare to find in a city dominated by small, dark spaces and tourist-targeted menus, and comes highly recommended if you are looking to dine al fresco in a memorable locale.