Pastry and Pebbles

Pastry and Pebbles

I try to reduce my calorie count to an all-time low in the run-up to a trip to Nice, so that on arrival I can start at the food-and-flower marché in Cours Saleya and sample as many mouthwatering local delicacies as possible. A significant quantity of Nice’s gourmet goodies can actually be wrapped up and brought home in a suitcase, along with Provençal soaps and oils, fresh lavender sachets and lovely table linens. The market is open 8 a.m.-1 p.m. Tues-Sun; on Mondays it’s an antiques/flea market, also a lot of fun.

After the marché, my second port of call is Alziari, purveyor of the Riviera’s smoothest olive oils. Monsieur Alziari’s huile d’olive vierge is still pressed the old-fashioned way in a 19th-century mill, but it’s the stylish packaging with gorgeously retro design that really does it for me. Auer is another must for retro fans. The boutique’s sublime rococo interior, with antique bonbonnières and crystal chandeliers, is a feast for the eyes-even before you see the smorgasbord of chocolates and candied fruits. The pâtisserie opened in 1820, and the fruits confits à l’ancienne are made according to a secret recipe passed down through five generations.

I press on to Terre de Truffes, an elegant boutique dégustation opened by legendary chef and truffle expert Clément Bruno (see France Today December 2007, “Truffle Trail”). Pick up a tub of white-truffle cheese fondue or choose a truffle-oil gift set for a foodie friend. Next stop: Sirop T, one of the latest additions to Nice’s gourmet scene. Proprietor Hervé Vincent comes from the Paris fashion world, and his tiny boutique is pleasingly design conscious-think anthracite-grey walls, inspired by the city’s pebble beach, and shelves of syrups, jams, compotes and chutneys in vintage-style bottles and jars. Vincent promotes products by local artisans from the arrière-pays free of artificial preservatives and coloring. Sirops are traditionally mixed with water, lemonade or champagne, but Vincent encourages customers to use his products in cooking, perhaps flavoring a dessert with a few teaspoons of sirop hibiscus aux roses de Grasse or spicing up a roast with sirop masala, an enticing mix of cumin, cardamom, cinnamon and ginger.

Nice is every bit as stimulating on the design front, too. Stéphanie Marin, who was born down the coast in Marseille, is one of the most exciting young creators to emerge from the South of France in recent years. Her Living Stones, giant pebble cushions that add a Surrealist touch to any home, are a huge hit. Outdoor versions bring a piece of the beach to private pools or garden terraces. They can now be lounged upon in Nice’s Hôtel Beau Rivage restaurant, purchased from Loft or tested directly at Marin’s atelier.

Another Nice-based designer who puts innovative spin on classic home accessories is Valérie Arboireau. Long before the Baroque revival in interior design, the flame-haired Arboireau dusted off the staid bourgeois concept of the chandelier. Hand-painting individual teardrops of Bohemian crystal, she uses outrageous colors including opera red, pistachio and shocking pink. Custom-made creations from her atelier-boutique Merry Crystal now grace international celebrities’ and rock stars’ homes. If your ceiling can’t accommodate a full-blown pearl necklace-draped chandelier, snap up one of Arboireau’s lampes-foulards-ultra-fashionable lampshades made of vintage Hermès, Lanvin and Givenchy silk scarves.

If shopping time is limited, head to one of Nice’s new multibrand design shops. Lifestylebazaar, the brainchild of interior designer Laurent Nurisso and marketing wizard Chris Curtis, is a cutting-edge concept store showcasing contemporary design objects ranging from china and glassware to lighting and furniture. Here you can browse through the work of young European designers like Qubus and Matière Grise, the silk-screened textiles of Léonor Mataillet and items by such confirmed design stars as Inga Sempé and Olivier Gagnère. At Akseswar (as in accessoire), Julien Malterre also turns the spotlight on young designers, filling his immense showroom with aesthetic, affordable and highly original objects. End your shopping spree here by picking up a doggie pouf for a pampered pooch or a designer bag to pack your Niçoise loot.

Alziari 14 rue St-François-de-Paule,

Auer 7 rue St-François-de-Paule,

Terre de Truffes 11 rue St-François-de-Paule,

Sirop T 4 rue de la Poissonnerie,

Stéphanie Marin 32 ave Henri-Dunant. By appt.:

Loft 25 rue de la Buffa,

Merry Crystal 11 rue Parmentier

Lifestylebazaar 35 rue Droite

Akseswar 28 rue Lamartine,

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