Hotel Hermitage, place Beaumarchais, Monaco, Monte Carlo, Monaco

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This dining room has a somewhat detached view over the sea, though you have to look over a concrete roof to see it, so this is nothing like the view at the Grill at the Hotel de Paris (see separate note). After initially appearing to lose our reservation (despite being the first entry in the book) and hence escorted to a poor table until I suggested they re-read their reservation book, the service went pretty much downhill. If you have ever seen the episode of Frasier where the Crane brothers buy an old restaurant, you may recall a decrepit waiter called Otto. Well, the Vistamar seems to have been recruiting from the same stock, as the elderly gentleman who served us was equally dopey but with extra attitude. When we ordered an Alsace wine he brought an utterly absurd glass that would have looked out of place in an Essex cocktail bar, and when I asked for it to be changed for a real wine glass, he managed a sneer that made me want to pinch him. Topping up water or wine, or remembering what anyone had actually ordered, also seem to have been aspects of the craft of being a waiter he had failed to pick up during the fifty or so years he had presumably been practising.

The best dish was a well-flavoured risotto with a single large prawn, correctly cooked, a few girolles and a series of mussels in their shells arranged prettily around the dish. This was 15/20. However a large tomato stuffed with goats cheese was much less good, the tomato served on a tapenade and surrounded by slices of summer truffle, lettuce leaves, some finely diced tomatoes and an allegedly lime vinaigrette (which did not taste remotely of any citrus influence). The constituents were reasonable, but the ingredients were not sufficiently good to lift this beyond the ordinary (13/20). Sea bass was baked in paper, and was rather watery. The fish had to survive a gruesomely inept filleting by our favourite waiter. The fish was accompanied, inexplicably, by three sauces that were served in separate little cups on the side, similar to those used to serve mango chutney in Indian restaurants. They were of very low quality, and could easily have come from a jar for all I know. Overall, I would score 11/20 for the sea bass.

We decided to stop there when we saw the desserts being wheeled around on an un-refrigerated trolley. Not a good experience when paying serious money, the two courses we had being £75 a head, with just a Weinbach Riesling 1992 at £45 i.e. the food etc was £50 a head for two courses. Michelin have inexplicably decided to grace this with a star, which together with the Coupole cast considerable doubt on the inspector in this area. Perhaps 12/20 overall, and yet this has a Michelin star?!?

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