virtuoso global June 2020 The Small European Country with the Big Dining Scene

The Small European Country with the Big Dining Scene

In Monaco’s culinary culture, southern France meets coastal Italian with mouthwatering results. 
In Monaco’s culinary culture, southern France meets coastal Italian with mouthwatering results. 
Photo by Anthony Lanneretonne
Monaco’s culinary landscape offers way more than sipping Champagne on opulent promenades. Here are the Michelin-starred restaurants, food halls, and laid-back oyster farms to prove it.

Below a bend of jagged cliffs on France’s Mediterranean coast, the petite principality of Monaco is small enough (0.78 square miles) to fit inside New York City’s Central Park, but rest assured: Champagne-fueled fun overflows. For travelers dreaming of a future getaway with just enough seclusion, Monaco fits the bill. From James Bond-worthy casinos and the prince of Monaco’s regal palace to the winding lanes of the elevated old town (known as The Rock), Monaco teases every sense with inimitable panache. But with more than 130 restaurants, seven of which have a combined ten Michelin stars, the drinking and dining scene of the world’s second-smallest country really puts the polish on a visit. Here, French Provençal and Niçoise flavors mingle with coastal Italian influences and a focus on Mediterranean seafood.  

 On June 2, Monaco’s restaurants and bars (along with museums and casinos) opened, with careful health standards in place. Soak up the local vibes and effortless glamour at the following dining musts.

The sovereign principality on the French Riviera garners a glam crowd – and not just at the Place du Casino. 
The sovereign principality on the French Riviera garners a glam crowd – and not just at the Place du Casino. 
Photo by Getty Images

Komo Monaco

Hip threads, stellar food, and French flair collide under one design-forward roof on Monte Carlo’s trendy Rue de Millo, where you can dine indoors or out at Komo Monaco. Try Italian delights such as burrata with walnuts or gnocchi with lemon, created by chef Mauro Colagreco (of three-Michelin-starred Mirazur in the nearby French town Menton). Famed French pastry chef Pierre Hermé makes his Monaco debut here, too, bringing his decadant array of colorful macarons, cakes, and chocolates. Browse the boutique for upscale streetwear from emerging designers such DCNTD (pronounce each letter to up your cool factor), a new line from French rapper Booba. 

Les Perles de Monte-Carlo

Originally an oyster farm, Les Perles is now a relaxed restaurant run by two marine biologists from France’s Brittany region. Located at the end of the pier in the Fontvieille district, the mostly midday spot (it’s also open Wednesday and Thursday nights) serves generous platters of shrimp, lobster, sea urchin, clams, caviar, oysters, and enough chilled local rosé to turn lunch into an hours-long affair. The views of Saint Nicholas Cathedral, the Oceanographic Museum, and sailboats bobbing in the Mediterranean Sea aren’t bad either.

Biologists Brice Cachia and Frédéric Rouxevill opened the doors in 2011. 
Biologists Brice Cachia and Frédéric Rouxevill opened the doors in 2011. 
Photo by Stéphane Bailby

Le Louis XV - Alain Ducasse

This French fine-dining establishment is the three-Michelin-starred jewel in Monaco’s dining crown. Le Louis XV - Alain Ducasse, known for its Versailles grandeur and exquisite ballet of food and service, has dazzled diners for more than 20 years. It’s located in the 208-room Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo, Monaco’s epicenter of haute cuisine. Eight floors above, Le Grill, which earned its Michelin star in 2019, serves prix fixe lunch and dinner – as well as an assortment of soufflés that alone are worth the reservation. Ducasse’s second Monte Carlo restaurant, Ômer, opened last March in the hotel and is an ode to Mediterranean civilizations, with to-share mezze platters that celebrate the flavors of Lebanon, Greece, Turkey, Tunisia, and more. 

A dish of prawns from Italy’s San Remo, rock fish gelée, and caviar at Louis XV - Alain Ducasse. 
A dish of prawns from Italy’s San Remo, rock fish gelée, and caviar at Louis XV - Alain Ducasse. 
Photo by Pierre Monetta

Il Terrazzino

Few dishes rival the cozy comfort of a bowl of fresh pasta, a favorite of Virtuoso travel advisor Laura Schelling. “There are so many variations, but the best I’ve had in Monaco is the gnocchi at Il Terrazzino,” she says. The relaxed restaurant has been dishing out Neapolitan specialties for two decades, and their handmade gnocchi, served with tomato and mozzarella sauce or pesto with Gorgonzola, pairs well with a glass of Italian wine or a bottle of Peroni Nastro Azzurro beer.

Condamine Market 

Listen for Monégasque (a Gallo-Italic language spoken here) at the cafés under the arcades bordering the Place d’Armes, where fruit and flower stalls are set up every morning. For lunch and dinner (except Sundays and Mondays), an adjacent indoor food hall showcases specialties such as Monaco’s national dish, barbajuan, a fried dumpling filled with Swiss chard, ricotta cheese, and onions. Don’t miss Chez Roger, a beloved walk-up stall, for soccas (chickpea-flour pancakes) and pissaladières (onion and anchovy tarts).

Condamine Market first opened in 1880. 
Condamine Market first opened in 1880. 
Photo by Monte-Carlo Société des Bains de Mer

Crystal Bar

To while away a lazy sunny afternoon, head straight to Crystal Bar’s terrace. For all the palatial glamour of the 278-room Hotel Hermitage Monte-Carlo, this lounge is deceptively informal. The menu bubbles with vintage Champagnes from the likes of Dom Pérignon, Louis Roederer, and Ruinart, along with cocktails, whiskies, caviar quenelles, and cigars. There’s live music in the summer and views of Port Hercule below. On your way there, check out Mada One by Caribbean chef Marcel Ravin, which focuses on healthy to-go snacks such as green papaya spring rolls and clean salads.

Chef Marcel Ravin inspects his organic vegetables in a plot managed by Terre de Monaco, an urban agricultural org. 
Chef Marcel Ravin inspects his organic vegetables in a plot managed by Terre de Monaco, an urban agricultural org. 
Photo by Monte-Carlo Société des Bains de Mer

Yoshi

When the late chef Joël Robuchon tapped Takéo Yamazaki to head the kitchen at Yoshi, his first Japanese restaurant, at the Hôtel Metropole Monte-Carlo in 2008, it set the bar for Nipponese cuisine in Monaco – and the restaurant quickly earned a Michelin star. Diners can try hand-prepared maki and sushi in a Zen-meets-glam dining room. Elsewhere at the 125-room hotel, Virtuoso advisor Amy Grigos recommends the two-Michelin-starred Joël Robuchon restaurant: “The famous mashed potatoes, made with equal parts potato to butter, are absolutely divine.” (Just next door, the newly opened Gaia Monaco serves Greek island-inspired seafood in an ultra-mod setting.)

Juices galore at Joël Robuchon. 
Juices galore at Joël Robuchon. 
Photo by Hotel Metropole Monte-Carlo

Brasserie de Monaco

Originally established in the Fontvieille district in 1905, Monaco’s only brewery sat dormant for more than three decades before the Brasserie de Monaco appeared anew on Port Hercule in 2008. Casual fare such as fish and chips, burgers, and salads are all freshly made and pair well with the boutique brewery’s four organic lagers and ales, best quaffed on sunny days overlooking the super yachts anchored just feet away. 

Elsa

Located within the shoreside, 40-room Monte-Carlo Beach – and sharing its coveted sea-to-sky views – Elsa is Europe’s first all-organic restaurant to earn a Michelin star. Chef Benoît Witz pays homage to the French Riviera’s bounty, using carefully chosen ingredients from regional farms, purveyors, and his own kitchen garden to color an evolving seasonal menu that includes fish and seafood, fruits and vegetables, and even edible flowers.

At lunchtime, order à la carte or opt for a Farmer’s Market tasting menu. 
At lunchtime, order à la carte or opt for a Farmer’s Market tasting menu. 
Photo by Monte-Carlo Société des Bains de Mer

Café de Paris

“Sipping Champagne on the patio at Café de Paris Monte-Carlo is great for people-watching and admiring the parade of luxurious cars along the Place du Casino,” Virtuoso travel advisor Michelle Harvell says. “It’s a quintessential Monaco experience.” The legendary brasserie first opened on the Place du Casino in 1868 as Café Divan, and it’s been a de rigueur rendezvous spot ever since. If all the gazing works up your appetite, the menu is loaded with French brasserie specialties such as salade Niçoise, sole meunière, and steak tartare.

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