The gourmet food scene in Nice is perhaps the most exciting on the Côte d’Azur. No longer can restaurants rely on a historic name or excellent address to get guests through their doors (although many great examples still remain). The city is being opened up for opportunity, and the owners of La Langouste saw just that when this vast restaurant space became available little over two years ago.
True, it owns a prime location mere minutes from Place Masséna and even less from the shops of Jean Médécin, but is tucked away from the hustle and bustle of the city centre on the peaceful Avenue Georges Clemenceau. In addition to the stylish main dining room, there is also a light-filled veranda that can be privatised for events of up to 30 people and an enclosed garden area.
“We can manage 70 covers inside and 70 outside simultaneously,” explains Sébastien Lopez, La Langouste’s young head chef, who joined the energetic team in September 2017. “That’s one of the reasons that we aren’t focusing on getting a Michelin star just yet. We’d need a whole extra team to handle it!”
The high level of service is immediately noticeable. It’s clearly not something La Langouste is willing to sacrifice to get ahead.
Even if it was to, the restaurant hardly seems to need the extra renown that an étoile could bring. When we visit in early June, the weather is uncharacteristically poor and the streets of central Nice are near empty. But behind the elegant grey entrance, La Langouste is brimming with activity. Almost all of the tables are taken so we are thrilled to find we’ve been seated in a prime position on the veranda.
Sébastien, like much of the staff, is a proud Niçois who has remained in the region throughout his career. Preferring to stay close to his roots – rather than travel to Paris, London or still further afield like many budding chefs – has allowed him to work with some of the region’s most accomplished culinary personalities, such as Philippe Joannès, the current executive chef of the Fairmont Monte Carlo, and Alain Llorca. He has come into his own at La Langouste: “I’m largely free to do what I want.”
A sophisticated Mediterranean menu
Langoustes are, of course, a principal part of the restaurant’s proposition and can be handpicked from the tank in the main room that the impressive creatures share with lobsters. Sébastien prefers the restaurant’s name sake – “The flesh is more subtle and refined...” – which is available from €119. The seafood comes grilled, served with linguine and sautéed vegetables, and in two sizes to be enjoyed by one or between two.
The most popular choice during the daytime is the generous lunch menu: an entrée and main (or main and dessert) for €19 or €24 for the very affordable three course carte. We choose a mushroom velouté with hazelnut oil, seabream with crushed dill potatoes and butter infused with orange blossom, and strawberry biscuit with lemony cream. Other options include a sardine pissaladière, lamb cutlets with herby semolina and thyme jus, and a melon gazpacho. The menu changes daily.
The menu has equally seductive dishes: an artichoke salad with fresh parmesan and citron oil (€16); foie gras terrine, port jelly and homemade bread (€19); John Dory with black venere rice and champagne emulsion (€30); octopus, soft potato, artichokes and smoked bacon powder (€25); creamy risotto and scallops (€30); rack of lamb in a dried fruits crust, semolina and spices (€32); and beef tagliata, button mushrooms and parmesan shavings (€24).
Sébastien’s cuisine is varied and inclusive. There are several vegetarian plats and he’s not a chef to shy away from gluten-free diners. For him, it is about providing pleasure for each and every guest.
7 Avenue Georges Clémenceau, Nice
Open from Monday to Saturday