La Petite Maison: Looking good (June 2017)

Even when the weather is grey outside, it still feels like the sun is shining in La Petite Maison. On this occasion, as on every other when I have visited, the place was packed, the atmosphere buzzing and everyone seemed to be enjoying what can only be described as top-quality, flawlessly executed food – albeit at a price. The original Maison is in Nice and the Mediterranean influence is evident both in menu composition and ambience – close your eyes and you could almost imagine being on the Cote d’Azur. The ingredients are fresh and prepared to a high standard; the tomatoes actually taste like tomatoes, the lemons like lemons and so on. My comrade and I shared three starters – fried calamari, beignets (courgette flowers with sage and anchovies) and a thinly sliced octopus in lemon oil. From the three, it would be hard to identify the winner. Each dish is brought to the table when ready and things simply got better, reaching a crescendo with the pitch-perfect, intensely flavoursome octopus. For the mains, we both opted for fish dishes. These again arrived beautifully presented and the intensity of my sea bass served with artichokes and tomatoes lingered long after the meal was over. For those keen on meats, a good selection is also provided and the duck in orange sauce – not sampled this time – must rank among the best duck dishes I have enjoyed anywhere. We just stuck to water with the meal, but the wine list does impress, particularly with bottles from the Rhone and Provence. Warning, none of this comes cheap – starters price at an average of c£15 and mains at up to £40 – but it is worth every penny. To use the phrase that decorates the restaurant’s door, everyone is ‘a celebrity here,’ or at least can pretend to be, for the length of a meal.