The land of glitz and glamour gets a vibrant addition to its food scene…
The Weekender: Monte Carlo
Monte Carlo’s notoriety far exceeds its size. It’s the second smallest country in the world (after the Vatican), and renowned for being a tax haven to the most concentrated population of millionaires and billionaires on earth. At just 2.02 square kilometres, this grown-up’s playground is the perfect place to spend a sunny weekend away, indulging all your vices…
But a serious food scene is the one thing Monaco has long lacked. Caviar and champagne reign supreme in this tiny principality wedged between culinary giants Italy and France. Whilst elsewhere sushi has become rather passé, here it’s still very much à la mode with the likes of NOBU and Buddha Bar as local go-to’s. On the other end of the spectrum, of course, lie the Michelin megastars: Alain Ducasse’s three-starred Le Louis XV at l’Hôtel de Paris, and Joël Robuchon‘s eponymous restaurant which holds two stars. But even for the über rich, a meal at one of these can only be a semi-regular occurrence (lunch at the former starts at €165, without drinks). Luckily, a vibrant newcomer has recently come to the rescue.
Where to Eat
All hail the recently opened COYA for giving a much-needed boost to Monaco’s lacklustre food scene in the form of its inimitable Peruvian/Nikkei fusion dishes, rounds of Pisco Sours and vivid boho interiors. It confidently opened on Grand Prix weekend, drawing the Lewis Hamiltons and Kris Jenners as well as (seemingly) every single Monaco local who could nab a table. The excitement at a new restaurant offering something completely different (COYA is the only Peruvian restaurant in town) was palpable – and the bookings haven’t slowed down since.
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Once there, it’s not difficult to understand why. It’s as slick, sexy and cool as its address demands, but with a menu of vibrant flavour combinations, unusual ingredients and specially-created dishes that make for an unforgettable meal. This is what Monaco’s foodies were waiting for. Chef Director Sanjay Dwivedi is respected worldwide for his unique take on Peruvian food that incorporates all aspects of the country’s rich gastronomic heritage, covering Japanese and Chinese as well as the more rustic indigenous cuisines.
The resulting menu features much-loved Peruvian classics such as tangy ceviches, wonderfully fresh tiraditos, fiery beef anticuchos and the unmissable Arroz Nikkei, a sea bass and rice dish prepared at the table in a steaming hot iron pot. Flavours are taken seriously – the marinade for the mushroom anticuchos alone contains 30 ingredients and takes three days to prepare. More international dishes that enjoyed great success in the Dubai and Abu Dhabi outposts make a welcome return, too – the slow-cooked pork Bao buns are fantastic (and very moreish, so order a few portions), as is the burrata served with pickled aji limo and pomegranate seeds.
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Plus a few luxurious Monaco-worthy ingredients for extra pizzazz. Think ceviche topped with truffle, dollops of oscietra caviar on tuna tartare, and an equally extravagant and phenomenal Wagyu sirloin. Yes, really. Because this is Monaco, after all, and nowhere is better known for its unbridled excess and glamour. So COYA followed suit, and had all the tables made to incorporate an ice-bucket sized hole in the centre, to be filled with bottles of fine wine, Champagne and exclusive tequilas.
Come evening, COYA becomes the hottest watering hole in town with its long list of Pisco concoctions and clever cocktails that amp up the theatrics. It’s the place to see and be seen, embrace the atmosphere and join the well-heeled fashionable crowd for drinks and dancing on the terrace, with glittering views of the yacht-speckled sea and live music…
…before heading to the perilously closeby Jimmy’z, Monaco’s most legendary nightclub which regularly plays host to top DJs, performers and the outrageously rich and famous. Wallets, beware.
Where to Stay
The Monte-Carlo Bay Hotel is a classic, and still one of the best in town. Just around the corner from COYA, it makes for a sensationally stress-free sojourn. It’s an oasis of calm amidst the craziness, with four hectares of gardens, multiple swimming pools, views out to the Med and the excellent Cinq Mondes spa. montecarlosbm.com
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What to Do
If you manage to peel yourself away from the Monte-Carlo Bay’s sun loungers, head straight into town and hit up the legendary Monte Carlo Casino. It’s a little-known fact that Monegasques can’t actually gamble themselves, or even set foot inside a casino, so enjoy the simple pleasure of being able to do the one thing that locals cannot. Make time, too, for the Jardin Exotique, the UNESCO gardens that are a short walk away.
Flights run daily from multiple UK airports to Nice International Airport. From there, the drive to Monte Carlo is about 40 minutes – but be warned that the route gets extremely congested. If you’re only there for a weekend, there’s no time to waste. Hop on a Monacair helicopter which will get you there in style, and in just 7 minutes. Warning: you may struggle to come back down to earth. Monacair airport transfers start from €130 per person, find out more at monacair.mc