We've had more than our share of dramatic downpours this month, but the sun came out long enough for me to spend Sunday morning drinking cappuccino with friends at Opéra plage while foamy waves crashed on the pebble beach. It felt so good to be wearing sunglasses again that I was reluctant to drag myself and Sam away for lunch with another friend across town. Still, I wasn't going to miss the opportunity to visit Holland Park, an intriguing new garden center/restaurant that has been open just a couple of months.
Sam and I hopped on the tram heading north and got off at Libération, where the sprawling food market was wrapping up for the day. Even though I had stocked up on organic fruits and vegetables the day before at the same market, I couldn't help glancing at the stalls as we walked by since experience has taught me that every day brings surprises. Sure enough, here was a table bearing nothing but purple-topped turnips the size of healthy pumpkins and cardoons, an under-appreciated vegetable from the artichoke family.
I couldn't walk any further without owning one of those gigantic turnips, and for €1.60 it was mine. Into Sam's bag of rubber spiders and scorpions it went, and we continued past the market to our destination. Here the neighborhood becomes more residential, and rue Michel-Ange is one of its prettier streets even if there is really no reason to wander down it unless you know about Holland Park.
Finally I spotted the inconspicuous entrance and found myself in a stylish, loft-like space that reminded me of the recently opened concept store Merci in Paris and, as the name suggests, had a bit of a London feel to it. This being Nice, the emphasis is on objects for outdoors rather than indoors, and the courtyard is filled with subtropical plants: Sam heaven. He wandered off with my camera while my friend and I perused the menu.
The waiter won me over instantly by falling in love with my turnip, which looked perfectly at home as a centerpiece on the table here. "Everything on the menu is made with fresh ingredients," he told us proudly. Though I was tempted by the andouillette (mostly for the sautéed potatoes and mustard that came with it) and by the steak with roquefort sauce, I followed his advice and went for the salad with chili-spiced scallops and crayfish. My friend chose another so-called "salad," which came with rabbit pâté on toasts, rounds of breaded andouillette and warm goat cheese. For Sam, who recently declared himself a determined vegetarian, the kitchen put together a plate of rosemary focaccia, buffalo mozzarella, salad and sautéed potatoes.
Though not cheap (my plate cost €25), the food was generously served and nicely seasoned: my giant scallops were nearly translucent in the center, the way I like them, with just enough chili to give them a bite without taking away from their delicate taste. For dessert, my friend and I shared a chocolate-coconut brownie - so rich that half was plenty - and Sam polished off most of a warm chocolate-banana tart topped with lashings of whipped cream. It was good to see the restaurant full on a Sunday lunch, and they are now serving dinner from Thursday to Saturday (it's closed on Mondays).
For those lucky enough to have outdoor space at home, even if it's no more than a small balcony, Holland Park offers a personalized "green coaching" service with an emphasis on natural treatments to keep the plants healthy. I left (taking my turnip with me) feeling just as well-fed and cared for as the happy plants on display.
Update: Holland Park has unfortunately closed.
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Sigh, Rosa, would you adopt me? I will tutor Sam on the finer points of street English. I also know some Greek and Latin--your son should not neglect the classics.
Connaissez-vous le restuarant "Le Baratin" a Paris?
Votre ami de loin, Jim