I last went to Musee Matisse in 2006 with my daughter, and as I love Matisse’s work so much, it was definitely time for a revisit. The museum is in Cimiez, about 3km north of Nice. The hotel were very helpful about how to get there, telling me I could take a No.5 bus from a stop just round the corner and giving me a printed copy of the route with the names of stops and timetable. The buses tend to stop only if you request them to so it’s useful to know when your stop is coming up. It was about a 20-minute ride.
It turned out entrance was free today (and at all of Nice’s museums for the weekend, due to some special anniversary).
Once inside there was a free guide and the route round was clearly marked.
The Museum is a 17th century Genoese residence, Villa des Arene, which has housed the museum since 1963. Matisse (1869-1954) discovered Nice in 1917 and created most of his major works here. He loved the city and said he couldn’t imagine leaving it.
Matisse opened an art school in Paris in 1908 and the museum has its own ‘Little Matisse Academy’. Some children were painting and the teacher in charge seemed happy for me to take a photo but first – and very responsibly – moved them out of my camera’s sight.
I really enjoyed going round the museum. It doesn’t have a huge collection of Matisse’s works but lots of other interesting things related to his life and work. I love his vibrancy and the zest for life that comes through.
Back outside I spied a cafe in the park area. It turned out to be excellent: a very good croissant and coffee that was even brought to my table.
The No.5 bus runs about every 12 minutes so I didn’t have long to wait to head back to Nice. By now it was lunchtime. Although tempting, I decided not to return again to Peixes but instead try another of Armand Crespo’s restaurants – Bar des Oiseaux. Crespo is known as one of Nice’s most pioneering restaurateurs. Apart from Oiseaux and Peixes, he owns Le Bistrot d’Antoine and Le Comptoir du Marche.
Housed in what was once, in the 1960s, a nightclub it’s attractive inside – rather Art Deco – but also outside, where I chose to sit. I was lucky to get a table for many prospective diners came after me and were redirected to the Comptoir du Marche.
With a table booked for tonight, I didn’t want a huge meal and Oiseaux served many small plates like Peixes. I ordered the prawn risotto (€17) and a glass of white wine (€4). The wine came with the same gorgeous bread from Patisserie Chez Maitre Pierre (where I also had breakfast this morning). Also like Peixes, the service was both wonderfully efficient and very friendly.
When my risotto arrived a loud Wow! erupted in my head. It looked fabulous. It tasted wonderful. I WhatsApped to my son and daughter that these were possibly the best prawns I’ve ever had (perhaps an exaggeration given the good food I’ve enjoyed in my life, but certainly recently), and the risotto was cooked to creamy perfection. It was sublime cooking.
Given how good the risotto was, I just had to break my intention of eating just one small course for lunch. I had to have a dessert too. I chose Tart Tartin (€7). That it was freshly baked to order was apparent from the wait involved (but not too long) and its obvious warm freshness. It was superb.
I finished with an espresso and the bill was €30.
More traditional than Peixes, Bar des Oiseaux still offers a great modern touch to classic Nicoise cooking. Like other Crespo restaurants, it’s closed on Sundays and Mondays. I might have to come back to Nice just to eat at them all – but obviously avoid the ‘closed’ days next time! I knew I’d find good food here – a big part of my choosing to come to Nice – but it’s been exciting to find such inventive and brilliant cooking at reasonable prices.
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