Le Chantecler, Nice 5

January 15, 2019

On December 20, 2018, Linda and I returned to Le Chantecler for dinner. Since our last visit, Virginie Basselot had taken over as chef. She was born in Normandy, where her father had a restaurant. After apprenticing at Le Crillon in Paris, she worked in several restaurants, recently as chef at La Réserve in Geneva. Most notably, she is the second woman to have earned the prestigious title of Meilleur Ouvrier de France.  She was at a MOF event in Paris the evening of our dinner so we did not get to meet her.

We were seated at the side of the still ornate dining room. There were only twelve diners that evening. This is the view from my seat.

We ordered glasses of 2011 R. Pouillon & Fils “Brut Nature” Grand Cru Champagne. Chalky and good.

Three little hors d’œuvres were presented on a spîdery rack.

There was tapenade in the spiral grissini. The shiny tartelette at the bottom had an onion gel over anchovy and thus was dubbed a mini-pissaladière.

We chose the Menu Signature de Virgine Basselot. The wine list is enormous and is presented on a tableside stand. We ordered a bottle of 2015 Gangloff Condrieu. It had a pronounced Condrieu flavor which went well with the cuisine.

The varied bread tray was passed.

The appetizer was a refined soupe au pistou, reflecting the chef’s adaption to her new region. This diced vegetable and basil dish is typically Provençale, but a bit out of season. The server ladled the soup into our bowls, added the pistou and grated the cheese onto it.


The first menu course was
Bar et huître
en tartare, crème citron et caviar de Sologne.

A disk of diced, raw sea bass and oysters was topped with a lemon cream and French caviar. There were good, elegant flavors on the salty side. We were wishing that we had started with a bottle of Champagne, instead of glasses.

Blettes et espadon
en tagliatelles et crème d’espadon fumé.

A round of narrow pasta ribbons was immersed in a frothy cream of smoked swordfish. It was topped with a layer of chopped chard and thinly sliced swordfish.  This was good, but did not move on enough from the first course.

Dos de cabillaud
cuit au plat, légumes de saison et beurre citron-mélisse.

A chunk of cod  was dressed with a lemon balm butter. Alongside was a mixture of vegetables braised in butter. This dish was pleasant enough, but not really what we were expecting in a menu at this price and, presumably, ambition. The background saltiness had accumulated on our palates at this point after the first three dishes.

The sommelier served me a glass of Saint Emilion, a traditional match with lamb.

Filet d’agneau
au vadouvan, artichaut et gnocchis aux herbes.

This was excellent, unusual for the meat course in a tasting menu. The chef showed her talent in the fragrant franco-indian spice mix which dressed the good lamb loin.  The herb gnocchis and the artichoke variations: braised, puréed and deep-fried, were good accompaniments.

Fromages affinés d’ici et d’ailleurs.

The cheese trolley was wheeled over. It had a sensible, modest number of cheeses in good condition. My plate included two little scoops of mango/grapefruit confiture.

Pomme et pamplemousse rose
pris en gelée de gingembre, sorbet pomme calvados.

Pieces of apple and grapefruit were in a ginger gel. An apple sorbet topped the dessert.

Chocolat, caramel et cacahuètes
caramel de cacahuètes à la fleur de sel,
sorbet au chocolat noir 70 % du Venezuela.

Rich dark chocolate was prepared in various ways with peanuts and caramel. Luscious and good.

Une fin de douceurs.

The mignardises trolley was wheeled up to our table. My selection was a chocolate, a nougat and a hazelnut macaron.

In my blogpost six months ago I concluded: “Our meal was generally good and enjoyable, but not at all up to Le Chantecler’s two-Michelin star status. It will be interesting to see what evolves under the new chef. The service and pace were fine this evening.”

Well, we were disappointed. With this menu Mme Basselot has not yet raised the level of cuisine to what I am sure are her and the Negresco’s ambitions or to its two-Michelin star status. Only the tartare/caviar course and the lamb were at that level. The service was good except for one major service problem: we waited a long time for the desserts to emerge from the kitchen. This is curious as the first one was obviously prepared and ready; there were only twelve diners. 


To see all of our blogposts on Le Chantecler click here.


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