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The Best Value 3-Course Set Menu in Vieux Nice

Bien Venue: Place St Francois, Nice, 04.93.79.84.40

Just about any ex-pat living in Nice and will know, and usually have eaten, at Bien Venue. Last winter the local Anglo bar staff gathered here weekly for the infamous Sunday Roast, more classily served than at your average English restaurant. There were also several international dishes alongside more southern French offerings.

bien_venue_nice_franceWhilst the ex-pat community loved it, Bien Venue didnít seem to fare so well with the tourists. Though it was busy enough, we often saw tourists peering outside at the display menu and then moving on. We put this down to a preference for more local cuisine and the prices Ė Bien Venue was a little more expensive than a lot of its competitors. It was a shame: had they given it a try, we donít think they would have left disappointed.

Jon South, the owner, apparently saw what we saw and decided it was time for a change. So, in the spring of 2008, the menu was revamped and it was out with Sunday Roasts (along with the Sunday opening) and in with a more French-inspired cuisine. The best improvement was the very competitively priced set menus for both lunch and dinner.

Though it was risky to turn away from a successful formula, we think it is an improvement and it seems to have paid off. We now donít think you can beat the three course dinner menu for the set price of 22 euros. There is also always a decent plat offered for lunch and sometimes a set lunch menu. We think the wine list is decent and fairly priced. Should you opt to eat ŗ la carte, make sure you arrive hungry. The portions are huge.

Our favourite dishes are the Mediterranean salad (goat cheese, pineapple and pine nuts Ė trust us it works!), scallops, seafood chowder and fillet steak with prawns. The food is always well presented and nice touches are the sorbet between dishes and complementary appetizers on arrival. Service is invariably friendly.

bien_venue_nice_franceI asked Jon which of their dishes he was most proud of. After some thought, he decided it was their chicken Cordon Bleu. He said that he would never generally order chicken in a restaurant as it is the cheaper staple that most people make at home. He likes to think they have turned it into a special dish, something that is backed up by its popularity. We havenít tried it, for the exact reason Jon cites. Perhaps next time.

Bien Venue receives a lot of good feedback from our guests and has appeared in more than one of our apartment guest books over the last couple of years. Most of the Nice Pebbles team and Riviera Pebbles Team have eaten here more than once in the last 3 months, and will reserve a table here again before the end of the year.

– Gayle, Riviera Pebbles. If you would like to contact Gayle, you can email her at gayle@nicepebbles.com.

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If you think of chicken as banal fare, youíll think again once youíve seen the pedigreed poultry on display at butcher shops in Nice. Here, chickens are displayed with the head and feet still on: not for dramatic effect, but to show you what breed of chicken you are buying (the poulet noir has black feet and feathers, for instance) and what it has been eating (a corn-fed chicken will have yellow feet). If youíre planning to cook one, donít worry, staff will chop these off for you and hand you the bird ready for roasting. Around Christmas, youíll see an incredible display of turkeys, capons, geese and guinea hens dangling from hooks; if you like, you can ask to the butcher to prepare just the right amount of stuffing (farce) for the bird you buy.