You can’t improve on a simple summer holiday in the south of France, Emily Rookwood thought. Then she went to Monte Carlo
Some things can’t be improved; summer in the south of France, for example. Indulging in the wonderful wines, feasting on headily perfumed peaches and soaking up that gloriously amber sunshine is, to me, the epitome of summer elegance. On a recent trip to Monaco, however, it turned out that you can give this lavender-scented idyll an even more glamorous — and gastromically fabulous — twist. Enter a helicopter transfer, Karl Lagerfeld, Joël Robuchon and the Hotel Metropole.
The Metropole is one of only two hotels on the main square in Monte Carlo, the other being the Hotel de Paris, and she is a grand old dame. Jasmine covers the walls of the courtyard entrance as the beautiful ornate building towers over you. Inside is a world of understated opulence, but with a few surprises.
The Hotel Metropole
One surprise is the Japanese restaurant YOSHI, which is the first Joël Robuchon Japanese restaurant in the world. The décor is a far cry from the European influences of the main hotel, with dark wood, bright colours and elegant Japanese table settings. There is also a small Japanese garden visible through the floor to ceiling windows; it really does feel a million miles from the Riviera.
The food is as exquisite as you would imagine and is created by the Japanese chef Takéo Yamazaki, under the guidance of Joël Robuchon and Christophe Cussac. We tried the new ‘modern’ sushi, which included succulent wagyu beef nigiri — clearly not traditional but frankly one of the best things I’ve ever eaten in a Japanese restaurant. They also offer a wonderful lunch box full of sushi, a main of your choice and a dessert, all served in a black and red lacquered box. A step up from your regular bento box.
Restaurant Joël Robuchon Monte-Carlo
Rather less surprising is the Restaurant Joël Robuchon Monte-Carlo, which lives up to its 2 Michelin-starred reputation. With a terrace that overlooks the sea (and also the Grand Prix circuit, which is why rooms at the hotel are already booked up for the 2014 Monaco Grand Prix), the setting is beautiful but it is the food that you come for.
Elegant and refreshingly simple, the food is truly wonderful. From a delicate crab starter, which was clean, crisp and fresh, to the most succulent suckling pig, served simply with a jus and Robuchon’s world-renowned mashed potato (I’m certain it is over 70% butter and cream and thrilled at the prospect). When the original ingredients are of such high quality there is little need for adulteration.
The pudding trolley is also a thing of joy, who could resist 20 or so desserts on a sweet little trolley served by a charming waiter? I certainly couldn’t and had at least three.
But I should really get on to the newest addition to the Metropole: Odyssey. Odyssey is the hotel’s new dual concept restaurant and bar, designed by Karl Lagerfeld. In his signature monochrome style, Lagerfeld has created a unique Grecian mural, which is softly illuminated as dusk falls.
Elegant black and white tables, chairs and sun-loungers surround the swimming pool and, to be honest, I’m not sure there is anything that screams Monte Carlo more than eating your light lunch in a Karl Lagerfeld curated space with beautiful bodies gliding past you in the shimmering waters of the pool. Of course you have the occasional well dressed toddler splashing around in armbands too but that rather spoils the image I am trying to create. It does rather epitomize the splendour — and the almost ridiculously lavish nature — of a Riviera summer.
To compliment the stunning new setting, Joël Robuchon (yes, this does mean that he has three restaurants within one hotel) has devised a light, summer menu inspired by the Mediterranean. The lunch menu offers a mix of light dishes including octopus salad with pesto and soft marinated vegetables, veal carpaccio with lemon and baby spinach and a beautiful tomato and burrata salad. We tried practically all of the starters and every single one was delicious. The veal carpaccio was ever so simply dressed with lemon juice and a little salt and pepper. It was light and incredibly flavourful, which again goes to show that you really don’t need to intervene that much with a great product.
In the evening, the lights behind the mural gradually become brighter, and the LED lights in the pool mirror the constellations in the sky above. The bar offers cocktails along side selected small bites, again devised by Robuchon. Resident DJs and live musicians provide — I have been informed — an electro chill out fusion sound track to the evening, creating that wonderful feeling of starring in your very own ever so glamorous film, in which Audrey Tautou only has a very minor part.
It has literally just opened up to the Monte Carlo locals, who are slowly but surely popping in to see what all the fuss is about. By the Grand Prix next year I am certain that those black and white chairs will be full of racing drivers, models and the glamorous folk of the world.
With this new addition the Metropole has further cemented its position as one of the world’s top hotels and proved itself to be a gastronomic hot-spot to rival the Hotel de Paris with its 3 Michelin starred Le Louis XV-Alain Ducasse restaurant. Odyssey is certainly a much cooler al fresco experience than the Cote Jardin.
All that was missing for me was the yacht-owning-prada-loafer-wearing millionaire boyfriend. I wonder whether the Metropole concierge can help with that…