Fine dining on the French Riviera
Chef: Mauro Colagreco
World Ranking: 4
Michelin Stars: 2
The primary reason for our French/Italian trip was to visit Mirazur, after watching an episode of MasterChef the professional’s where it featured as one of the final challenges. We had seen it in the Top 50 list but hadn’t looked into it in any detail but after watching Mauro shopping for produce over the border in Ventimiglia and seeing the dishes he produced as a result we made a few quick checks and discovered not only could we get a reservation, but that travel would be relatively simple too.
Mirazur is located on a hillside in Menton, France- very close to the Italian border and the restaurant itself looks out over the French Riviera.
On arrival we were taken to a downstairs waiting area for canapes and a complimentary glass of champagne in front of the kitchen and spotted Mauro at work. Canapes are normally a good indicator of what is to come and we were suitably impressed with what arrived at our table.
- Smoked mozzarella in a crisp, black coating
- Fried ravioli of black olive with sardine
- Watermelon with black sesame
- Salsify wrapped in wafer thin pork cheek
At the table, to kick-start our dinner, came a basket holding a whole loaf of still-warm bread accompanied by a poem. The idea of sharing bread, tearing off chunks to dip into the local lemon and ginger oil is an endearing one but also set the tone for the rest of the meal. Whilst everything was expertly executed, placed with precision and clearly well thought out- it still felt like a meal that wasn’t complicated for the sake of being fancy, just everything done as best as it could be.
The main part of the meal started with a delicately dressed, chilled oyster with cubes of pear and watercress, a shallot cream and borage flowers. It was incredibly light and refreshing and increasingly I think an oyster at the start of a tasting menu works well as a means of cleansing the palette but slipping into the feeling of luxury early on.
Whilst beautifully presented in fun little bowls, the crab with oxtail was probably the least ‘stand-out’ dish of the meal, however it is worth noting that this really is by a small margin- all of the dishes we tasted were of a very high quality but there was a little too much of chilled oxtail jelly which was packed with flavour so the crab meat got a little lost.
The crab was followed by an almost completely white dish in a textured bowl that we couldn’t stop playing with, it held slivers of salt crusted white beetroot (that I didn’t know existed) with cream, dotted with specks of black caviar. It had all the earthy flavours of beetroot but the addition of the sauce made it a much richer dish but in a very satisfying way.
Asparagus was our next course served with Bear’s garlic and Grana Padano. To the side we had a dome pig’s jowl. All of the vegetable based courses reflected what we had seen on MasterChef- local produce, served without fuss but with ultimate respect for the ingredients. We couldn’t help but look for Mauro when we visited the market earlier that day (sadly we didn’t) so it was interesting to see what had seen on our visit materialise into something beautiful on the plate.
Without a doubt, the showstopper of the meal was the squid dish, having seen it recreated on Masterchef and after having a squid dish the night before that hadn’t quite lived up to our expectations this was without a doubt the best thing we ate all night. Artichoke and squid ink crackers were an accompaniment to the thin slivers of seared squid, painstakingly laid out so that it looked like a single fillet. They unravelled to touch and became linguine like ribbons dressed in a light anchovy sauce. A photo doesn’t really do it justice but you can see the dish in more detail here
Fish of the day was Brill with citrus fruits grown onsite and a celeriac puree and cream. The fruits were varied, packed full of strong, acidic flavours. There was a surprising amount of fish making it one of the larger dishes on the menu yet the lightness of it meant that it wasn’t overwhelming.
Main courses finished with pigeon breast and offal. It sat on a spelt risotto that retained a lot of its texture, and the bitter radicchio helped balance out some of the richness from the meat and sauce. Of particular note were the wild strawberries, I hadn’t considered them an accompaniment for game but they really did round out the whole dish.
It would be rude to turn down the offer of a cheese course so as the trolley came round we selected 6 cheeses to share and finished off the last of the bread with some strawberry compote.
The meal began to change direction and crystallised cigar of coriander came served with a yogurt sorbet, a slice of apple and a bowl of incredibly bright green granny smith soup. After two larger dishes, one being very rich and dense in flavour plus a pile of cheese, this was a welcome palate cleanser.
An interesting looking dish, a dark sheath of chocolate hid the most incredible burnt rosemary ice cream. The final desert of the evening was pure indulgence, bitter chocolate, a sweet ganache and a generous serving of ice cream was a treat.
After petits fours we had one more surprise in the form of slightly sweetened tempura flowers. The view itself over the water was worth the visit alone and the whole menu was light, seasonal and in keeping with the temperature we had experienced over the few days we had been there.
Dinner: €210 per person
Additional cheese course: €19 per person
Drinks: €65 for two, equalling 1 bottle of wine, a bottle of water and complimentary champagne that would have been €11 each
30 Avenue Aristide Briand, 06500 Menton, France