Plate With A View: Le Grill, Monte Carlo, Monaco
Saturday 12 July 2008
The swankiest hotel in Monte Carlo is without a doubt the Hôtel de Paris, with its Alain Ducasse restaurant, the three-Michelin-starred Le Louis XV. What people often forget is that up on the roof is a perfectly good one-star restaurant with the most wonderful views.
Le Grill is on the eighth floor of the hotel and the glass-fronted dining room follows the 180-degree sweep of the hotel's semicircular southern wing. The decor has a sea-navigational theme. Chairs are covered in blue nautical canvas, light fittings recall the lamps on Spanish galleons, and painted woodwork suggests the decorative flourishes on a ship's prow. The plates are marked with star maps featuring the constellations of the zodiac, plus (if you look closely) a new constellation called Le Grill. The low ceiling mirrors this design with larger constellation patterns. At night, two roof panels retract so that diners can gaze at the actual stars above.
Staff are dressed formally in white tie and tails, and hit exactly the right level of service, combining a formality that is not intimidating with a friendliness that is not intrusive. There is a very good chance that you will be congratulated on your choice of wine.
The menu is modern French-focused and the wine list is almost exclusively French, too, with only one American wine on offer. Unsurprisingly, given the location, the seafood is excellent, especially the pan-seared scallops and lobster (cracked for you at the table). The fillet of John Dory (or Saint Pierre as it's known locally) Meunière is particularly tasty, as are the anchovies marinated in fennel and served with capers. Every imaginable sort of grilled fish is on offer (sea wolf, monkfish, sole, salmon, mullet, cod or turbot, as well as the aforementioned John Dory) plus excellent Charolais beef and roasted lamb from the foothills of the Alps. As for dessert, the house speciality since 1898 is soufflé, available in chocolate, raspberry, Grand Marnier and, bizarrely, liquorice. It manages to be both incredibly rich and incredibly light. Coffee is served with petits fours and chocolates that have Le Grill printed on them. This place knows it's good.
They say that on a clear day you can see all the way to Corsica. The rest of the time, to the east the restaurant overlooks the roof of Charles Garnier's Opéra de Monte-Carlo (one of the most beautiful opera houses in the world) and, beyond it, the Grimaldi Centre and the border with France, followed soon after by the border with Italy.
To the south, the Mediterranean is speckled with sailboats and La Corse is lost on the horizon. Below, the view takes in the main harbour of Monaco, Port de Hercules, the Grimaldi Palace and the Cathedral of St Nicholas where Princess Grace, the unofficial patron saint of Monaco, is buried. This is the best view in the tiny principality, in part because it excludes all the dreadful high-rise apartment blocks that clutter up the other 180 degrees behind the hotel.
There is an excellent three-course fixed-price lunch menu for only €68 (£57) per person, including one glass of wine. At night the à la carte menu will set you back as much as €68 (£57) per person for foie gras with truffles, €130 (£108) for lobster and €450 (£375) for 50g of caviar.
Le Grill, Hôtel de Paris, Place du Casino, Monte Carlo, Monaco (00 377 98 06 88 88; en.hoteldeparismontecarlo.com). Open daily from noon-2.15pm and 8-10.45pm
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