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Saviour of L’Univers

The south-eastern French city of Nice is within a half-hour’s drive of the Italian border and is France’s fifth biggest city. With an official population of 340,000 and being located on the built-up strip that is the Cote d’Azur, it is a large and busy place. A stroll around its attractive city centre quickly gives you clues about its cultural heritage that are writ large in the wide 19thcentury boulevards, grand piazzas and narrow streets with yellow ochre walls and green shutters. This is by far the most Italian-looking city in France. Formerly part of the Kingdom of Savoy, it only became part of the French Republic in 1860, after a plebiscite in which the people (i.e. the aristocracy, not the ordinary folk) were given the choice of becoming part of Italy or part of France. The great Italian patriot and father of the Italian Republic Giuseppe Garibaldi was born here and a large statue stands in honour of him in the middle of Place Garibaldi - a huge and very Italianlooking square. 36


This is, in short, a city where France blends seamlessly with Italy and the resulting fusion has given rise to an exciting culinary heritage that is as healthy and nourishing as it is important. Apart from Lyon, Nice is the only city in France that enjoys its own official AOC classification for its cuisine. There are four establishments in the The décor is arguably city that have been honoured with a Michelin star. One of the most the most unexciting thing consistent and popular is “L’Univers” on about the restaurant. Not the broad Avenue Jean-Jaurès that that it’s boring or anything straddles the divide between the “Vieux like that, it’s just that it Nice” and the more modern city built up seems to be the one thing in the 19th century. It has had one star consistently over the last 12 years. missing and the effect of Christian Plumail is owner and head the experience of eating chef of establishment which has been a there is all the more restaurant under that name as long as powerful for it. Nice has existed as a French city, despite, as he points out, the name of the street on which it stands having changed name three times in the interim. On the day I visited, it was full with neatly dressed patrons during a working day. The décor is arguably the most unexciting thing about the restaurant. Not that it’s boring or anything like that, it’s just that it seems to be the one thing missing and the effect of the experience of eating there is all the more powerful for it. Plumail speaks a fluent, clear brand of French-accented English. He sits at our table immediately after the meal, giving the time to talk to an Irish journalist. An

Hotel & Restaurant Times 201203 Feb/Mar  
Hotel & Restaurant Times 201203 Feb/Mar