Greens for the Future
The great and the good of French hospitality turned out en masse at a recent press conference in Monaco to discuss food trends for the forthcoming trade fair Agecotel 2014. I was dozing off to the usual spectacle of up-and-coming chefs vying for attention and swapping gastronomic in-jokes, when there was a sudden lull as the godlike Joël Robuchon took to the stage. The assembled press corps gazed adoringly while the darling of Michelin-starred French cuisine made his prediction: the next decade of gastronomy will be all about vegetarian cuisine. Coming from the chef who made his name by serving up foie gras-stuffed quail, I nearly fell off my chair. Though Robuchon can make most diners swoon with his butter-rich mashed potato, can he really persuade red-blooded Frenchmen to forgo their steak tartare?
For as long as I have lived here, the French Riviera has provided meager choices for vegetarians. Apart from the successful vegetarian chain Loving Hut (649 Promenade du Soleil, Menton; +33-4-92-07-32-57), the only notable green haunt has been La Zucca Magica (an eccentric bastion of vegetarian cuisine run by the much-loved Italian chef Marco who was allegedly a relative of the late Luciano Pavarotti) and that closed sadly this summer.
In the hope that Robuchon’s comments prove prescient, I decided to check out the latest newcomer to the Riviera’s vegetarian scene. Nice Life Concept (15 boulevard Lech Walesa, Nice) is run by well-travelled Suede, Sophie, who worked at the Ritz in Paris before setting up her healthy food café in Nice. As well as copious smoothies, juices, teas and coffees, she prepares a daily vegetarian platter that usually includes a soup and several dishes. Since opening in September, the place is already alive with events such as weekend brunch clubs and monthly book clubs.
Conscious of the need to balance out my meat and fish-based diet with more vegetable-only dishes, Sophie’s imaginative vegetarian cuisine could be just the tonic I need to give my digestive system a rest from time to time. However, I am the first to admit that I’ll never turn vegetarian. As Gordon Ramsay once famously said: “It’s hard to get excited about a nut cutlet.”
Talking of Ramsay, my recommendation this month for Monaco’s many international commuters is to try his on-board picnics. For my flight home from London to Nice this week, I grabbed one of his Plane Food picnics in an insulated cooler bag ready for me to dine onboard. As I tucked into my beautifully prepared three-course meal, my neighbor baulked at his tired-looking inflight chicken tikka wrap. You can reserve a picnic by phone +44 208 8974545, email email@example.com or just pop into Ramsay’s Terminal 5 restaurant on your way through.