La Merenda: Authentic Cuisine Nicoise

Introduction to La Merenda and Cuisine Nicoise

La Merenda, the restaurant of chef Dominique Le Stanc, precisely captures what the site is all about! We are not primarily concerned by the ambience of a restaurant, how easy it is to book, whether there is valet parking available or even whether there are convenient toilets.

What we are primarily looking for is good food that reflects the stated intentions of the owners. At Le Merenda we find exactly that. Perfectly cooked, honest food that uses the best ingredients and reflects the soul of the cuisine of the region.

There are some drawbacks. There is no telephone so it is difficult to reserve a table. And, the stools do not have backs on them, so they are not conducive to long lunches! However after almost two decades of first eating here, we are drawn back time and time again to experience the honesty and deliciousness of the food.
The restaurant is very small and you could easily miss it as you walk up rue Raoul Bosio, unless you look for the push bike parked outside.

The food and ambience at La Merenda

The tables are placed so close together that the only way to be seated is to pull the table right out. At the back of the room is the open, tiny kitchen where you can see the chef at work.

Many of the locals engage him in discussions about the food. On our most recent meal we sat next to a very regal local lady who was interested that we had travelled so far to revisit the food. She seemed almost anxious that we would again like it! When we pronounced the tomato tart to be a tour de force she let out a sigh of delight.

La Merenda Menu Blackboard Cuisine Nicoise
Blackboard Menu

You find out what is available from a tiny blackboard menu that is brought to your table (there is a larger menu shown above but not everyone can see it clearly). Another, with the extra dishes, is placed above the door. Some slices of good, strong bread are placed on the table.

You will notice on the menu above that there are four “rules” at the top and sides of the blackboard. “Pas de CB” means no credit cards – you must take enough cash to cover your meal. “Pas de téléphone” means that there is no telephone – you cannot phone for a booking. “Fermé le week-end” says that it is closed at the weekend. “Reservation sur place” means that you can reserve a table by dropping in before service and asking for a table.

On one occasion we started with a simple salad of roquet and goats cheese with three tiny olives and a dish of stuffed sardines done in the nicoise style. Both dishes were prime examples of simplicity and honesty in food. Perfect flavours and perfect technique.

On our most recent visit we returned to the Beignets de Fleur de Courgette (fried zucchini flowers stuffed with ricotta cheese) and a slice of the most incredible Pissaladiere, one of anchor dishes of Cuisine Nicoise, where the subtle taste of the anchovy that infused the thick layer of perfectly caramelised onions sitting on a base of perfect, crumbly dough was an exercise in balance and perfection.

For main course we once tried one of the best examples of daube of beef that we have experienced anywhere in France. It was long cooked, flavourful and simply melted in the mouth. Accompanying the daube were chick pea ‘chips’ – a classic dish of the area known as panisse. They were stunning.

A dish of tripe (also accompanied by the chick pea dish) was similarly a classic which we tried once again on our recent visit.

On one of our previous visits we ordered the stockfish stew. The waiter seemed concerned that we might not understand what we were ordering. When we explained that we understood the strong flavours of this dish and were looking for an authentic example he relaxed. He needn’t have worried. We loved it. It is a dish of very strong and complex flavours but it is definitely ‘worth a journey’! We were delighted on our recent visit to see that it was again on the menu and just as satisfying as always.

It is rare in a small restaurant for the chef to be proficient at all facets of a meal. Often they fail when it comes to dessert. Not here. A perfect piece of lemon tart with absolutely stunning pastry and a vanilla cream (like a crème brulee without the caramelised top) were both a lovely end to the meal.

We were lucky on the most recent visit to find Tourte de Blette on the dessert list. This is a tart made from Swiss chard and pine nuts. Our slice of this compelling dish was even better than the examples we have tried here in the past. Pure perfection!

On our first visit, a bottle of vin de pays from the Var area accompanied the dishes and Badoit mineral water was also served. On our next visit the offering was a Cotes de Provence appellation from Domaine de Matourne which is near the pleasant village of Flayosc.

Now the offering has expanded slightly with a naturally-fermented white, red and rose from Domaine Toasc from the little known nearby Bellet appellation that lies within the city boundaries. We enjoyed a bottle of the Vermentino that has sufficient acid to work with the tripe and the stockfish.

We can unreservedly recommend this restaurant to all those who value exciting food experiences.

You can read more about Cuisine Nicoise by reading our story about Jacques Medecin, the former mayor of Nice who wrote a book about the dishes of Nice because he was afraid that the younger generation were no longer learning how to cook the dishes.

Jacques Medecin’s detailed book on the cuisine of Nice

You can also link to Dominique Stanc’s Web site, some of the pages are only in French:

La Merenda Web Site