Riviera Paradise

At Mauro Colagreco’s Mirazur extra virgin olive oil is mixed with local lemons and exotic inspirations

15-08-2013
Mauro Colagreco and his extra virgin olive oil ran

Mauro Colagreco and his extra virgin olive oil range with ginger and lemon. Argentinian of Italian origins, he will turn 37 in October. With a Brazilian wife and a new-born child, the chef works at Mirazur in France, 2 Michelin stars and number 24 in the World's 50Best

The charming and nostalgic notes of Stevie Ray Vaughan in Riviera Paradise seem the perfect metaphor to introduce this story about Mirazur, the restaurant of chef Mauro Colagreco in Mentone, on the border between France and Italy. Two Michelin stars, at number 24 in the World's 50 Best, the restaurant is located inside a villa built in the Thirties – transformed into a timeless place full of charm thanks to a careful and intelligent architectural intervention – overlooking the sea on the Cote d’Azur, next to the most ancient avocado tree in France, as indicated on the website.

This may sound like an insignificant detail, or perhaps it is one of the small facts that brought the chef – born in Argentina of Italian origins and with a Brazilian wife, in France since 2001 – to open his restaurant right here, where who knows how many times he had passed when travelling between France and Italy. Mauro brings childhood exotic influences and memories, ancient traditions and the lesson of the great French masters, without remaining tied to any cliché. His main source of daily inspiration is nature, first of all the one that flourishes a few metres below his restaurant: here you can find mint, sage, chives but also trees with clementine, oranges and the famous Mentone lemons.

THE OIL POET. On the left, a little poem of Pablo Neruda

THE OIL POET. On the left, a little poem of Pablo Neruda

The result is a refined yet understandable, creative but never odd cuisine. And even though we’re in France, it is perfectly natural to begin this journey – that goes across dishes such as French bean salad with cherries and pistachio vinaigrette, or Monkfish with celeriac puree, smoked sauce and sorrel – with some freshly baked bread paired with some aromatised oils, according to the chef’s recipe. «I’m divided between my French training, and therefore butter, and my Italian roots, thus olive oil – he says – but after many tests, I came to the conclusion that some products taste better with the latter. For instance, I always finish my cold dishes, with raw ingredients, with a few drops of excellent olive oil. I have many types coming from Provence, Liguria, Spain, Uruguay... each one goes with a specific dish».

To pair with the bread that starts the meal together with a poem by Neruda, one can choose among one of the many oils created by the chef together with his friend Karim Djekhar, owner of Huilerie St. Michel, nearby. «I wanted to use oil aromatised with Mentone lemon, as if it were a perfume. I spoke with Karim about the ancient way of making perfumes, with a cold infusion lasting a few months. We thus finalised this lemon oil together: Karim helped me in selecting olives from Provence (80% of Aglandau variety and 20% of the “chef’s secret selection”!) and we made a few tests until we got the perfume I was looking for. Then we got some other ideas, and some other flavours...».

French bean salad with cherries and pistachio vinaigrette

French bean salad with cherries and pistachio vinaigrette

So after the lemon came ginger, red berries and Sechuan black pepper, that gives to the oil some fascinating balsamic notes. It is sold in the restaurant together with some preserves produced with the products of the kitchen garden. Mauro Colagreco uses them to enhance some of his recipes but the most important one, he explains, is in fact the one of the “bread to be shared”: «It was a bread that my Italian grandparents used to make at home and it would be shared among the whole family. We used to enjoy it with the olive oil my grandmother made. This memory is stuck in my mind and I wanted to reproduce it in my own way at Mirazur». So paradise (at least in this corner) has the aroma of lemon.


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