Chateau des Ollières

39 Avenue des Baumettes-06000, Nice.

In the never ending search for unique and high quality dining experiences for discerning Dine On Line readers, Chateau des Ollières in Nice must rate as a real find. The eight room hotel cum museum in the Baumette area of central Nice was the former home of Prince Lobanov-Rostowsky, a member of the Russian aristocracy at the turn of the century. Set in a three acre park, it is only a five minute walk from the Promenade des Anglais and the glamour of the sea front. The Chateau is a treasure trove of antiques, fine paintings and sculptures, tapestries and stained glass windows. After the Russian revolution it was the home of opera singer Azahit Nahapiet, and now her husband has restored the mini-palace to its Belle Epoque grandeur with painstaking attention to detail and at great expense.

The chateau has now been open about three years. You can hire rooms and suites at prices between 900 francs and 2500 francs a night. After staying there for a couple of nights on a recent visit to Nice, I realised why celebrities as diverse as Placido Domingo and Liverpool footballer Steve McManaman feel quite at home here. There are plans to add an additional 25 rooms in the future because of the increased demand from all over the world as the word gets out, but up until now it has remained a wonderful secret.

The restaurant has been open for a short time only, and after several false starts with the wrong chefs and some teething troubles it is now getting a reputation amongst gourmets on the Cote D'Azur as a serious contender for serious awards. The kitchen is run by a small team with chef Patrick Bor and his assistant Stefan Curt, who both keep a low profile behind the stoves. Patrick trained in Paris, worked in Maxims as well as the one Michelin star Grand Cascade also in Paris.

The menu changes weekly with dishes that depend on the season and availability of produce. Meals are served in an elegant dining room that simply oozes class. Although not being an expert on antiques, I could not fail to notice in particular a sedan chair that has been modified into a drinks cabinet and a wrought iron gate with gold inlay.

Choosing from the A la Carte section I started with the Quail with a vinaigrette salad and foie gras at 85 francs. It was almost big enough to be a main course and it turned out to be the latest creation of the chef. When quails are in season in France during the winter and spring their flesh has a lovely delicate flavour. Quails are best when they are roasted rapidly having been wrapped in vine leaves and thin bacon strips. Whatever the method, these were the tastiest quails I had ever had. To choose a wine for both the quail and the obligatory lamb dish that was to follow was a teaser. Eventually I settled for Chateau Tour Pibran 1996 from the small but carefully selected wine list. Full of depth and colour, this was a red that really needs to be aged in bottle for rather longer, in addition to its initial 12 months in one year old oak.

For the fish course the roasted striped sea bass came with fried leeks on top infused with balsamic vinegar, (130 francs). This was a truly original creation that was just right with the leeks providing a counterbalance to the fish which was extremely succulent. This is a dish well worth trying at home, and if it comes out half as good as this one then I will be very happy. The white wine selected to accompany this little masterpiece was a Sauvignon Blanc Sancerre Jolivet. A lively and fresh wine, full of fragrance and fruit.

Lamb from the mountains of Provence with lots of rosemary came up next (98 francs). Again very generous portions not only of the lamb, but of the Niçois of fresh seasonal vegetables consisting mainly of tomatoes and courgettes. The lamb sauce was also nice and strong, red wine reduced and plenty of extra-virgin olive oil. The whole ensemble tasted delicious and blended perfectly with the red Pauillac mentioned earlier.

This well rounded meal came to an finale with the Creme Brulée, which was just right after the superb and rather more elaborate dishes that preceded it. Top this all off with coffee in the lounge of this totally unique establishment and you have a night to truly remember - at a very reasonable price too!

Go there as soon as possible before it becomes difficult to get a reservation, that is all I can say!

Michael Hepworth April 1999

Tel 04 92 15 77 99 Fax 04 92 15 77 98
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This article reprinted from Dine Online