The elegance of Monaco
From Michelin-star chefs to designer labels and luxury yachts, Christine Retschlag soaks up the unmistakable elegance of Monaco.
Triple-Michelin-starred chef Alain Ducasse may not physically be at the table at which I am dining, but he’s dancing the can-can on my tastebuds in a way one suspects only a Monégasque man can.
I am on a five-hour journey through the mind of this Monaco maestro, dining at Le Louis XV – Alain Ducasse à l’Hôtel de Paris in Monte-Carlo. Even the cutlery here is a showstopper, with these delectable dishes consumed with Alessi silverware, recreating designs first created by Josef Hoffmann in 1906.
In Ducasse’s dining room, opened 29 years ago and refurbished last year, one’s bottom perches on a camel leather chair and one’s handbag on a matching stool, underneath the seven-metre-diameter chandelier crafted with 700 pieces of glass. Even the carpet is said to evoke a stormy sky in this destination of seemingly perpetual sunshine.
On this evening I sashay through a story of seashells and chickpeas: cookpot of millet and minestrone broth; Mediterranean sea bass with fennel and citrus; lamb and red-leaf salad with pesto; cheese selection; and raspberries with lemon verbena tea and ice-cream.
The rose water in which I wash my hands between courses looks good enough to drink, but I desist and wait for the tea crafted from the fresh herb cart, selecting a rosemary brew, paying homage to the French countryside.
Le Louis XV – Alain Ducasse is nestled within the Hôtel de Paris, currently undergoing a €600 million renovation until October 2018, flanked by the grand Casino de Monte-Carlo and Casino Café de Paris. People-watching is de rigueur and there’s sailor stripes and white chinos, with the odd splash of leopard print peeking between the polished Ferraris. Gucci, Valentino, Hermès, Lalique and Prada all punctuate the sassy streets, while the Monte-Carlo Pavilions are home to the likes of Alexander McQueen, Balenciaga, Boucheron, Chanel, Piaget and Miu Miu.
Elegance and the unexpected
Down a jasmine-scented driveway, I’m staying at Hotel Metropole Monte-Carlo. In my suite there are Hermès products and multiple shower nozzles which I’m convinced baffled former patrons Tom Cruise, Justin Bieber and Rihanna.
Outside, Karl Lagerfeld has stamped his signature around the palatial pool and restaurant concept Odyssey. Downstairs, past the musk-scented opulent lobby, sits Restaurant Joël Robuchon Monte-Carlo, which has hosted Beyoncé and Leonardo DiCaprio as well as its regular guests, the Monégasque royals. It’s the two-Michelin-star brainchild of the Frenchman hailed as the ‘Chef of the Century’ in 1989, where I dine at Head Chef Christophe Cussac’s table on the likes of purple artichoke with fresh young squid, thyme and chorizo; quail stuffed with foie gras and served with caramelised, truffled mashed potatoes; and the vast dessert trolley for which this restaurant is renowned.
Monaco chefs are spoiled for choice, with local markets such as La Condamine the perfect hunting grounds for fresh ingredients. Chef Sylvain Etiévant has opened the raw food restaurant L’Inattendu(e) which means ‘the unexpected’. It lives up to its name with nothing cooked above 56 degrees Celsius and the menu on every table different from the next.
The sea at its heart
Monaco packs sublime sophistication into its two square kilometres; even the police station looks like a small palace and the jail has ocean views.
Berthed along the Mediterranean, the Yacht Club de Monaco was founded by Prince Rainier III in 1953 and boasts 1600 members who pay an undisclosed sum to enjoy the restaurant, lounge, sports bar, pool and sailing facilities. Sixty-six nationalities make up the yachting community at the club and two-thirds of its membership own superyachts in the 26-berth marina.
You can watch the bold and beautiful from the Wine Palace Monte-Carlo, a chic bar and cellar with pole position on the harbour. Stocking more than 2300 different types of wine and spirits, sip anything from a €10 bottle of Bordeaux to a €20,000 double magnum of Pétrus.
Behind the yacht club sits the Thermes Marins Monte-Carlo, considered to be one of the most opulent and wellequipped spa, gym and wellness centres in the world. Guests can partake in a cryotherapy session where they enter a freezing chamber set at minus-110 degrees Celsius for three minutes. The treatments are believed to force all of the blood to the vital organs, and ensure health and vitality.
A local advocate of cryotherapy and the Monaco Government Tourist and Convention Authority Communications Manager, Corinne Kiabski, says Monaco is the ultimate cliché.
“It is a city state with a real life. You have all the perks of Paris and London, but at a cheaper price,” she says. “There are 136 nationalities all together here. We are quite fun like the Italians
and organised like the French. If you did it the opposite way it would be a nightmare … It is more than a resort. A country without culture is a resort.”
Images of Alain Ducasse – Le Louis XV © Pierre Monetta
This article appeared in Volume 23 of Signature Luxury Travel & Style. To subscribe to the latest issue, click here.