This question pops out now and then throughout my lifetime, especially in the summer season – due to the influx of the friends and acquaintances going to Monaco for a vacation. What restaurant should we go to, and what is the level of prices, and how do we make a reservation?
So, below is the information in short about what and where to go, with some reference to the places, and mainly for the vacationers.
First of all, you need to understand how and when the French and the Monegasques eat. A typical breakfast is the one containing coffee, orange juice, and croissants (or some choice of pastries). This is what you will be able to snack on in most of the cafes that are open in the morning. The hotels indeed are well aware of the international breakfast specifics of the representatives of different countries, and you can have eggs, omelet, and the like in all prominent hotels in the Principality. In ordinary cafes the choice is quite limited, which is why you’d better have a filling snack in the hotel.
Here are the places where you can drink a cup of coffee or tea with a croissant (and of course with some other tasty pastry): the Lina’s café in the trade center Metropole (at the third level), the Café de Paris (with a beautiful skyline but mediocre coffee), the Prince’s Tea, a small café at the Costa Avenue, or the Italian open-roof Casa del Café across the street, in the Park Palace. No matter how weird this may sound, the pastries are very tasty in the McDonald’s coffee shops – in Fontvieille or in Larvotto. In general, take a look around: if you see the people who look like the natives in the café, this means that you might just as well have breakfast here.
After such a light breakfast the French are naturally starving by noon. Hence, lunch in the restaurants and the cafes begins at 12:00 PM. Overall, the time frame from 12:00 PM to 2:00 – 2:30 PM is the time of empty offices when everyone thinks about nothing but how and where they are going to eat.
Most places will offer you the menu a-la carte (from which you can choose), and a specialty – “plat de jour” – the one which the Chef and the team cooked on this particular day. As a rule, these dishes are served quicker than anything that is prepared “a-la carte”. Make sure you are in time for lunch within the time frame of 12:00 PM and 2:30 PM – in the vast majority of non-tourist places, the kitchen will be closed after 3:00 PM to be open again at night. Such are the rules here… When I moved to live here, I kept complaining and looking for places where I could eat whenever I want to, as opposed to when this funny system dictates when it is time for me to eat. A couple of years passed, and I got used to this system, which does not seem funny to me anymore. The thing is, the entire nation is used to eating by hour. And again, with their local 35-hour working week, the working hours of one cook can be divided into the day and night shifts, so everything is logical. One can eat at any time of the day in the Café de Paris. However it is too much of a touristic spot, which is why the food here is quite ordinary.
Here are the places where you can have nice lunch: the Virage restaurant, or the Quai des Artistes, both in the Port Hercules area; in the Casino area – the Capocaccia, in case you want sushi or something Italian; the sandwiches or salads from the Lina’s in the shopping center Metropole for a quick snack. In the Larvotto area I would go to the Avenue 31, La Note Bleue at the beach, or to the café Llorca in the Grimaldi Forum, where they have delicious high-quality food; in the Fontvieille area my favorite place is Constantine (a glass of delicious Italian Prosecco is included in the price of the lunch), and you are always guaranteed to have a tasty meal in La Salier or the Beefbar.
The French also dine, as you have understood by now, by hour – they do not start before 7:00 PM. In high season the restaurants have several “seatings”: this means that when you call to make a reservation in a popular restaurant, you may be offered either 7:00 PM or 9:00 PM, – and you will have to acquiesce. The crowd gets dressed up for dinner, so you should take on something fancy: the slippers and the shorts on a man will look appropriate only in a beach restaurant.
Here are the places where one would probably enjoy dining: the very same restaurants the Virage and the Quai des Artistes in the Port Hercules area; La Piazza with the italian food in the Casino area; in the Fontvieille area – the very same Constantine, La Salier and the Beefbar; in the Larvotto area – the Zelo’s, the Avenue 31, La Note Bleue, or the Miami Plage. The two latter restaurants are at the seashore, and are perfect matches for children and large cheerful parties. In case you want something different, you should make a reservation for a table in the Buddha Bar, or in the Thai area of the Mayabay restaurant. For special occasions, and if you simply crave for the very best today – go to the Grill restaurant in the Hotel de Paris, to the Robuchon in the hotel Metropole, Cipriani or Nobu in the Fairmont hotel. All these places require advance reservations in high season.
The prices naturally vary from place to place. A rough average total on the bill for lunch will be 20-30 euro per person; for dinner: the ors d’oeuvre will cost 10 to 30 euro, the main courses – 20 to 50 euro, dessert – around 10 euro. Beverages are from 7 euro for a glass of inexpensive wine to several thousand euro, if you have a very exquisite taste or a generous spirit tonight – “this is Monaco, baby” (c), as my friends put it.
picture of cafe Llorca in Grimaldi Forum, from the website www.grimaldiforum.com