One of the finest restauranta in France, with a truly grand dining room, all gold and glass, with an immensely high ceiling beautifully painted; there is even the most handsome cigar box I have ever seen, a wonderful walnut case that almost made me want to take up smoking. The current chef is Pascal Barbet, Frank Cerrutti having been promoted to an executive chef role within the Alain Ducasse group. Bread arrives on a large wooden chariot, with loaves made fresh each day: bacon bread, semolina, bread, butter bread roll, country bread, walnut and fig loaf, rye bread, raisin bread, baguette and even borrage bread (borrage is used in many local Monegasque dishes). It is somewhat a matter of taste which of these you may prefer, but from the simple but perfect baguette to the walnut and fig loaf, this is undeniable a fine selection of bread (20/20).
If I say to someone from England that the meal starts with vegetable crudités, this will conjure up images of bad dinner parties with a few stick of supermarket carrot and celery with some dip. The vegetables that you can get in the Riviera markets are a world away from such things, and here the fennel, artichoke, carrot, courgette, radish and dressed leaves were simply dazzling. I started with a North Italian dish, vitello tonato. Veal is marinated in wine, celery, onion, carrot and cloves for a day, poached slowly then served cold, in this case with celeriac hearts, capers and a little mini-baguette with roasted herbs enlivened with lemon zest (19/20).
Duck was carved by the side of the table; this particular duck had been used to make foie gras, so is quite fatty, resulting in a crispy skin due to the layer of fat just below the skin that the duck developed. This was served with beetroot, which gave a balancing acidity, root vegetables, a few fresh almonds and a roasted fig, along with a superb, rich jus (20/20).
Cheese is from no less than four separate affineurs, with Bernard Antony from Alsace amongst them. The cheeses were in uniformly superb condition, with aged Comte, gorgeous goat cheese, Morbiere, Camembert and Beaufort in beautiful condition (20/20). I tried a delicate feuillet of red berries, the fruit dazzling, with a sorbet of wild strawberries (20/20).
The chocolate croustillant is simply one of the great desserts, invented here in the 1980s and never off the menu here. It was featured on an episode of UKTV’s “Great Dishes of the World” and a version executed by Roussillon chef Alexis Gaulthier (who used to work at Louis XV) won hands down. The version here, with its smooth yet almost liquid surface of dark chocolate, crisp thin layer of hazelnuts and pastry dough has been subtly refined for years and is as close to an ultimate chocolate dessert as you are ever likely to encounter (20/20). A dish of perfect macaroons is offered, along with a fine tray of petit fours. Perhaps only the coffee is a relative tiny weakness, though there are many to choose from and perhaps there are better options than the Columbian espresso I had. Oh, and by the way, the cellars here have 400,000 bottles of wine – that is not a typo.