Cookbook author Rachel Khoo on her favourite destination

Cookbook author Rachel Khoo on her favourite destination

Who: Rachel Khoo, 34, is a cookbook author and host of Rachel Khoo's Kitchen Notebook: Cosmopolitan Cooks, currently airing every Tuesday at 8pm on BBC Lifestyle (StarHub TV Channel 432).

Favourite destination: Nice, France.

Why: I love that Nice has an old-fashioned, glamorous Riviera feel, with the palm trees, beach and the backdrop of mountains. I have been to Nice half a dozen times over the last five years.

I usually travel on my own to visit friends there.

Favourite place to stay

Le Negresco (www.hotel-negresco-nice.com/en/37; Promenade des Anglais, 06000 Nice, France; tel: +33-4931- 6640).

Both the exterior and interior exude old-school glamour.

Rooms start at €185 (S$296) a night.

Favourite restaurant

Restaurant Chat Noir Chat Blanc (chatnoir-chatblanc. fr/; 20 Rue Barillerie, Vielle Ville, 06300 Nice). I love the laid-back vibe and the seasonal, classic bistro menu with a little twist.

Chef-owners Giorgio Grilenzoni and Nicolas Sikic make you feel at home with their friendly service and party atmosphere. Giorgio sometimes sings in the open kitchen and Nicolas breaks into a little dance.

They go to the market every day and the menu varies, depending on what is in season. The last time I was there, I had a fantastic petits farcis (stuffed tomatoes, courgettes and peppers) and delicious peach tatin.

A meal here will cost €36 to €50.

Rachel Khoo's TRAVEL BLACK BOOK

Favourite museum

Musee d'Art Moderne et d'Art Contemporain (www.mamac-nice.org). It is the perfect place to spend a rainy afternoon, with its eclectic mix of modern and contemporary art collection.

Favourite tourist site

Place Massena at night-time, with its black-and-white chequered floor and Nicoise buildings. I enjoy the contrast between the old buildings that surround the square and the seven resin sculptures that illuminate its centre. They change colours throughout the day, adding a pop-art element to the square.

Favourite market

Marche aux fleurs cours saleya (Cours Saleya) where you will find a stunning array of flowers, fruit, vegetables and delicious treats. If you go in winter, be sure to buy citrus fruit. Nice's orchards grow delicious oranges, lemons and other citrus fruits.

Best local treats

Fenocchio (www.fenocchio.fr/; 2 Place Rossetti, Nice) is probably the most famous ice cream shop in Nice.

Flavours include tomato basil and sweet chard pie, but I prefer the amarena and nougat flavours.

Be sure to try the local snack, socca, a chickpea flour pancake baked in a woodfired oven. Chez Pipo (13 Rue Bavastro) does a perfectly crispy socca, slightly charred from the aromatic wood fire.

Best hidden find

In Bis Rue du Collet, a tight cobbled street, you will find a tiny shop-restaurant Oliviera (oliviera.com), which specialises in locally produced olive oils. Owner Nadim Beyrout has a wealth of knowledge on Nicoise olive oil. It is produced in small quantities, which means it is uncommon to find it outside Nice. Nice also has its own type of olive, a small black olive called Nicoise olive.

The bijoux-sized restaurant that adjoins the shop serves simple seasonal dishes.

Necessary day trips

The 30-minute drive along the winding road from Nice to Menton is beautiful. Menton, situated on the French-Italian border, is a laid-back little town by the sea. It is also nicknamed "la perle de France", which means the pearl of France.

In the town centre, there is a small market. Be sure to pick up some of the famous Menton lemons, which are apparently juicier than regular ones, if they are in season (late November to January).

Event to bookmark

The Nice Jazz Festival (www.nicejazzfestival.fr) is one of the largest jazz festivals in Europe. It usually takes place over several days in July. This year's line-up was quite amazing, from contemporary French dance DJ duo Cassius to French old-timers, the Gipsy Kings. There is a band for every musical taste.

Best guide

I follow Rosa Jackson's blog (www.rosajackson.com). She is originally from Canada but has been living in France since 1995. She runs a cookery school and food tours in Nice.

Best advice

Go during the off-season from November to March when there are fewer tourists and accommodation will be cheaper.


This article was first published on November 16, 2014.
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