Chevre d’Or (The Golden Goat of Provencal legend) has a remarkable location in Eze, a fortified medieval city perched 1,400 feet above sea level on a hilltop near Nice. The building was a group of dwellings restored in the early 1920s by the American violinist and composer Balakovic, and later converted to a hotel and restaurant.
The property has hotel rooms and three other restaurants, but its flagship restaurant is known as Chevre d’Or. The view from the restaurant’s roof terrace is spectacular, and gained some free publicity by being featured in the 2007 movie “Bucket List”, with Jack Nicholson’s character listing dining here as one of the things to do before you die. The restaurant is open for dinner only between May and October. It has a panoramic view over the Mediterranean. I should actually say it usually panoramic, as with unerring accuracy I managed to pick probably the only day of the year in which Eze was wreathed in thick fog, despite there having been sunny weather in Monaco below just hours earlier.
The hotel has vertiginous gardens clinging to the cliff face, the dining room having picture windows looking down over the Mediterranean, or this evening directly out into the fog. The room has well-spaced tables with impeccably ironed white tablecloths, with thick carpet meaning pleasantly low noise levels. The room can seat 45 diners at any one time, and there is also a private dining room seating up to 25. The restaurant opened in 1953, gaining a Michelin star in 1975 and a second star in 2000, which it has retained ever since. Head chef is Ronan Kervarrec, the pastry chef Julien Dugourd. Fifteen chefs and eight pastry chefs work in the busy kitchens. Ronan became head chef here in 2010 and was finalist in the prestigious Bocuse d'Or competition in 2012. There was a tasting menu at €230, but we went a la carte.
The wine list offered over 600 different wines, with broad coverage of the regions of France. Examples included Prade Mari Conte des Garrigues 2009 at €50 for a wine that you can find in the high street for around €15, Gewurtztraminer Cuvée Laurence 2009 at €110 for a wine that retails at around €44, and Perrier Jouet Belle Époque 2004 champagne at €230 for a wine that will set you back around €131 in a shop. There were almost two dozen vintages of Chateau Yquem, the 1990 at €550 for a wine that retails at €486.
An amuse-bouche was an impressive tempura of courgette flower. Courgettes from this area are of exceptional quality, and this one had superb flavour, with a very light and thin tempura batter; this would past muster in a top Tokyo tempura restaurant; a little mandarin peel offering some acidity (18/20).
Lemon loaf had good texture but lemon seems to me a slightly odd flavour for bread, though grissini was good. I preferred classic baguette, soft and flaky olive bread and a lovely salt and butter roll (average 17/20).
Grilled ceps with persillade sauce had excellent flavour, enhanced by summer truffles. On the side was a rich cep velouté with fried quail egg (18/20). Tuna and rockfish were accompanied by parcels of avocado topped with caviar, the local fish having lovely flavour (18/20).
Red mullet was prettily presented on a plate dotted with coulis of parsley, red pepper and balsamic. The mullet was superb, beautifully cooked and having lovely flavour. On the side was an assortment of vegetables in a fennel broth: asparagus, onion, aubergine, tomato, green beans, carrot and turnip. The vegetables in this region are some of the best in France, and these were carefully chosen. This was a lovely dish (18/20). Iberico pork was served pink, topped with capers and served with tamarind jus, an excellent pork sausage and carrot. On the side was a classic carbonara. This was a very good dish, the pork having nice flavour, though it was not quite in the league of the other courses; a little more of the jus would not have gone amiss (17/20).
For dessert, raspberry soufflé was unusual in that within the dish itself was a biscuit base and lemon sorbet underneath the soufflé. On the side was a raspberry cake, this featuring fruit of a quality you never see in the UK. The soufflé was skillfully made, and the unusual combination worked very well (18/20). Even better was a lemon dessert, prettily presented with an arc of spun sugar with a little lemon biscuit at one end. The main feature was what appeared to be a lemon, but was in fact a thin white chocolate layer containing lemon chiboust, the lemons themselves from nearby Menton. This was a dazzling dish, the lemon cream filling having superb balance of sweetness and acidity, the white chocolate layer delicate, on the side excellent lemon flavoured soft meringue. This dish was clever and original, but more importantly tasted superb; any pastry section in France would have been proud to serve this (20/20).
Coffee was strong and rich, offered with an array of excellent petit fours, including a delicate macaroon and a rich bar of chocolate and red berries (18/20). The bill came to €272 (£228) a head, including wine, coffee, water and pre-dinner drinks. If you ate three courses and ordered modest wine then your bill would come to around €240 (£201) a head. Service was very good, though when the restaurant was completely full it felt a little stretched. I really enjoyed the meal here, especially the classy desserts. With its striking location, appealing menu and superb cooking, this is a very fine restaurant indeed.