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Where to Have Fun on the French Riviera

May 24, 2018

 

Monaco's Nightlife

Monaco nightlife is as hip as any on the coast, by turns hot and cool, and can be ludicrously expensive. Last time I was in the legendary Jimmy’z, a beer cost me €26.
Jimmy’z 
The HQ of Monaco hipdom for 40 years or more - it was launched in 1974 by the legendary Regine -  Jimmy’z is huge: half inside and half outside (in the very pleasant Japanese garden) – and wholly outrageous. It’s no-less-so since full refurbishment in 2017. If you want to share a dance floor with George Benson, Lionel Richie or Pink, you’ve as good a chance here as anywhere. The super-VIPs are now directed to - new in 2013 - the Boom-Boom Room overlooking the dance floor. 
Philipp Plein, the famous German fashion designer whose first shop opened in Monte-Carlo in 2009, has created a unique private space at Jimmy’z. The Private Space designed by has a separate entrance and bar overlooking the dance floor and gives a few VIPs with access the feeling of being in a truly private and intimate space. The seats and stools are decorated with precious materials, the walls are covered with crocodile-style leather and big mirrors, and the contours and frames are in shiny stainless steel.
The Living Room
You need to look good to get into what is another Monaco night-time institution. The place is an eclectic mix of English country salon and disco with expertly handled sounds. (The DJ, though apparently very famous, looks like an insurance clerk.) There’s decent light food, a sophisticated attitude suitable for those not in the first flush of youth and a heated, year-round terrace.
Brasserie de Monaco 
The original meaning of the word “brasserie” is “brewery”, and here it means what it says. Right by the port, the BdM has renewed a Monegasque brewing tradition going back to the early 20th century, brewing its own organic beer on the premises. Pretty good beer it is, too. This being Monaco, though, the place isn’t simply an ale bar. Alongside the beery wooden tables, there’s a cooler, lounge-y area and a fine terrace overseeing the king-size yachts. There’s good snack food too, with burgers at €16, pizzas from €10 and fish-n-chips at €12 - startlingly cheap for Monaco. And, nightly, DJs fuel dancing from 6pm to 2am.
Le TWIGA 
Between the Grimaldi Forum and Fairmont Hotel, Le TWIGA has replaced the short-lived ‘Life’, which expired last year. It is the project of Flavio Briatore - once involved with both Formula One racing and QPR football club, and even all all-round A-list entrepreneur. It sets its stall out to be as hip and chic as any club along the Côte d’Azur. It’s certainly the only one you can access directly by boat - the place has its own jetty, not to mention a seaside terrace, with outstanding views over the Med. Dinner is Italo-Japanese - right beside the seaside - before the establishment segues into no-holds-barred clubbing around 1am, building up a head of steam (or “burning”, as they say in Monaco) through to 5am. It comes into its own at Grand Prix time, holding “beach parties” every evening with luminaries such as Bob Sinclair at the turntables. There’s also a shisha bar and as much extravagance as “an international jet-setter” - the Twig’s target audience - could possibly need. 
Monte Carlo Bar
Don’t look for this one in your guide to Monaco’s star-spangled highlights, because it’s not there. The MCB (as it is known to its habitués) is simply a regular bar restaurant – of the sort you find all over France next door – whose décor hasn’t much evolved since 1973. It has no sheen whatsoever, and staff sometimes struggle for politeness, but the dish of the day is as affordable as any in Monaco - and, vitally, the place serves from 8am to 4am daily. If you want a reasonably priced drink, and something to eat, at 4am – with not the slightest chance of running into Bono or Naomi Campbell – head here.
La Rascasse 
The classic restaurant/lounge/club has recently been enlarged, and now also does a mean After-Work session, from 6pm, with live music, reasonably priced drinks (draft beer from €4/pint; pastis €4; cocktails €7) and finger food from €12. You may take all this on the terrace. On Thursdays, look out for salsa classes in the earlier part of the evening. Things heat up from 11pm, when clubbing takes over, not least on the first floor, with its fine views over the port.
 

See-and-be-Seen Dining Experiences on the French Riviera

Whether you’ve snagged a ticket for the Cannes Film Festival or are spending the day on the port in Monaco for the Grand Prix, half of living like a local on the French Riviera is eating like one. After all, this is the region known for its “see-and-be-seen” mentality. 
Tastings at classics like Alain Ducasse’s Le Louis XV, across from the Casino de Monte-Carlo, are one way to go, but the Riviera is filled with much richer options with views just as scenic. Along the Italian border in Menton, Argentinian chef Mauro Colagreco has managed to maintain two stars at his decade-old restaurant, Mirazur, sourcing produce from the surrounding seaside vegetable garden. Newcomers like Jan in Nice, meanwhile, have fused elements of their South African heritage into the South of France–flavored cuisine in a space so stylish, it could easily be the backdrop for a photo shoot. With nearly 30 Michelin-starred spots to choose from, here’s a narrowed-down list of ten of the best to book while in town for the hottest events of the season. From the most prestigious tables in Cannes to the more tucked-away seaside spots in Monaco, here’s how to eat your way in style along the Côte d’Azur.
For celebrity spotting: 
La Palme d’Or 
The only restaurant in Cannes to earn two stars, La Palme d’Or—named after the film festival’s highest award—is a favorite for celebs like Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt, making it a prime people-watching perch come May. Once you walk in through the private elevator, you’ll immediately see why VIPs love the place. The terrace looks right out at the bay and infamous boutique-lined Boulevard de la Croisette, where stars strut the red carpet. Each year during the Cannes Film Festival, Chef Christian Sinicropi hosts the exclusive Dinner of the Jury where he not only crafts a film-themed menu, he also serves it on handmade dishes inspired by movie scenes.
For private dining: 
La Villa Archange 
This intimate, two–Michelin star spot just ten minutes from La Croisette captures the Old World charm of the French Riviera with a salon opening up to a Provençal courtyard with century-old trees. When you’re ready for a retreat from the parties taking place by the shore, head to this 18th-century mansion and let the sommelier lead the way with wine from the cellar matched with Chef Bruno Oger’s rich French country classics like 24-hour cooked veal knuckle and duck foie gras with lemon and chestnut.
Where to Go near Monaco for organic fare: Elsa 
Not all Michelin-starred dining has to be laden with lard and cream. Take a seat on the far end of the Monte Carlo Bay at Elsa, the first all-organic restaurant to earn a star. Half the highlight of this “beach-goes-bio” bistro is its seaside perch (which gets even better as the sun starts setting), and the other is the locally sourced ingredients hailing from the hills of Provence and bays of Italy. Venetian chef Paolo Sari is so serious about the quality of his produce, he even planted his own vegetable garden in a former 16th-century monastery in the hills above the eatery. As if this isn’t enough of a detox from Monaco’s decadent nightlife and party scene, even the wine list is organic—all the more reason to indulge in another round of French rosé.
For haute market cuisine: RICE by Xavier Mathieu
If you really want to lunch like a local, head to the indoor Marché de la Condamine food hall. Dating back over a century, this no-frills market is lined with more than 20 vendors serving up truffle-filled plates and some of the principality’s best sushi. One of the newest spots to come to market: the Asian street food–inspired RICE by Xavier Mathieu, the first Monaco outpost for the one Michelin-star chef. Order the risotto dish du jour and XM’s signature Niçoise salad, and take a seat at one of the family-style picnic tables in the center of the bustling market scene.
For seaside views: Blue Bay 
While Monaco sits along the Mediterranean Sea, it’s harder than you think to find a restaurant with beach-front views. This is what makes the seaside Blue Gin at the Monte-Carlo Bay Hotel a favorite. Head here at sundown for a DJ-fueled evening that wouldn’t be out of place on an island like Ibiza. When you’re ready for dinner, walk next door to Chef Marcel Ravin’s one-Michelin-starred Blue Bay. What makes the cuisine stand out here is not only the dish ware—designed by an artist in the chef’s native Martinique—it’s also the delicate way he weaves together flavors of both his home country with the principality he now calls home for a re-imagined version of Caribbean fare. The scene switches completely come Sunday afternoons when Blue Bay hosts the principality’s hottest Champagne brunch party with an endless buffet of everything from sushi to seafood—and Taittinger Champagne—scattered throughout the garden. Don’t leave without trying one of the signatures: eggs served with black truffle, cassava, and passion fruit.
For the Monaco Grand Prix: Le Vistamar
 Skip sitting in the stands during the Grand Prix. One of the best views in Monaco is from the terrace at Le Vistamar, which looks right down at the circuit along the port. The Hôtel Hermitage’s one-Michelin-starred eatery is known for highlighting the simple flavors found along the French Riviera, with a motto of “One fish, one vegetable, once cooked.” Go local with the chef’s pick of risotto sourced straight from Monaco’s Marché de la Condamine and then take your nightcap next door on the Crystal Terrasse with views over Monte Carlo’s most magnificent yachts.
For a fashionable scene: Joël Robuchon Monte-Carlo 
Stroll through the Metropole Bar, where a well-clad crowd gathers for pre-dinner drinks, before settling in at one of the best seats in the house at Hotel Metropole’s two-star signature restaurant, Joël Robuchon Monte-Carlo. From the chef’s table, you’ll not only watch the masters at work in the open Teppanyaki-style kitchen, you’ll also have full view of the fashionable set parading in and out of the eatery in runway-worthy attire. If you were planning on shying away from sugar and carbs, save it for another night. The bread and dessert trollies rolling around are worth the splurge.
For a multi-course dégustation menu: Mirazur 
There’s a reason why Argentinian Chef Mauro Colagreco’s two-starred spot keeps ranking high on the list of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants. After cutting his teeth with the best in Paris (from Ducasse at Hôtel Plaza Athénée to Passard at Arpège), Colagreco debuted his first eatery in 2006 in the French town of Menton, along the Italian border. From the three-level 1950s-era eatery, you can take in views of the bay while dining on ingredients plucked straight from the chef’s garden below. Come hungry, because you’ll want to finish each dish in the ten-course menu, from the caviar-topped beetroot to the crab-stuffed cannelloni.
Where to Go near Nice for 
Mediterranean with a Twist: Jan 
South African–born chef Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen built his namesake eatery around the lessons he learned cooking in his family home in Mpumalanga. With a degree in photography and stints working in the South African wine industry, the chef combined these skills as a contributing food editor and stylist at Elle South Africa before making the switch to Elle International’s Parisian test kitchens. Now as the first Michelin-starred South African chef, Van der Westhuizen brings this same passion and eye for design to his South African–influenced plates in Nice. One of his whimsical twists on tradition: amuse-bouches served in the form of salmon mousse–filled pea macarons.
For a romantic meal: La Chèvre d’Or 
From the panoramic windows at La Chèvre d’Or, it’s not hard to spot celebrity yachts cruising in and out of the harbor for the Cannes Film Festival. Hovering 1,400 feet above the sea in the medieval town of Eze, this restaurant is worth the visit for the views alone. The two-starred cuisine doesn’t hurt, either. Chef Arnaud Faye sources his classic French fare from the surrounding Mercantour mountains and Mediterranean Sea, giving surf ’n’ turf a gastronomic meaning. Expect decadently playful pairings like roasted veal sweetbreads with eel sauce and rabbit with smoked octopus and chard in a setting just as regal as the château the restaurant is housed in.
 

 

 

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