Le Café de Paris 1 & 2

January 1, 2007

cafedeparis_night-2.jpgMy readers may be startled to find me writing about one of the least trendy and fashionable places imaginable: Le Café de Paris in Monte Carlo. But anyone who is in the Principality may have reason to think of going there. And, even if not, will walk right by it and may be interested in our experience there. So why did we go? It was for our faux-New Year’s Eve celebration. Our subscription to the Monte Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra this year included a festive concert at 8:30 on December 30. That created a dinner problem; the Brasserie 1900 at the Café de Paris seemed a lesser evil than trying to negotiate the holiday traffic jams and full parking lots after dining at home or of trying to go to one of the restaurants to the east of the Auditorium Rainier III, which is just below the casino. They too would be overpriced and of uncertain quality. At least the CdeP is used to people arriving at all hours, and, in fact, it was already half-full when we arrived at 6:45.   

cafedeparis-old-2.jpgIt was founded in 1882 after the new railroad had brought a wealthy winter clientele to Monte Carlo. The elegant square in front of the Casino was formed by the Hôtel de Paris on one side and the Café de Paris on the other. But in 1988 the Café building was turned into a downscale casino based on slot machines in order to cafedeparis-front-3.jpgmaintain dignity in the main Casino with its traditional gaming rooms and opera house. The south part became the Brasserie 1900 and the Terrasse parisienne was extended outside. The décor is faux-Art Nouveau with conserved hundred-year-old panels integrated into tasteless modern elements. 

We were seated by a grumpy headwaiter, but our table waiter turned out to be quite pleasant. Linda started with a thick seafood soup (velouté de crustacées,) which was quite good. I had six Breton oysters (Speciales #2) which were fresh and delicious. We had ordered a bottle of Château de Meursault which went beautifully with them. Linda followed with sautéed scallops which weren’t cooked with enough conviction to have caramelized one side, which is how they are supposed to be done. They were served with a faux-risotto, which fell in consistency unfortunately between a risotto and a pilaf, but did have a noticeable truffled flavor. Her asparagus tips were a mush. I had ordered the sea bass in a crust with spinach (supreme de loup en croute.) It was served with a flourish and announced as sea bass, but in fact it was the filets of sole with mushrooms (cèpes) which was another item on the menu. The fish was fresh, but was served with a gooey useless white sauce. It was accompanied by green gnocchi in a tomato sauce, which were not bad, but which did not go with the sole at all, and two stuffed zucchini flowers which were somewhat tired. At this point we were too discouraged to order dessert and so left with plenty of time to walk through the square, past the casino down to the concert. The bill was horrendous, but we expected that. Anyway, by doing our celebrating out on the 30th, we saved a ton of money by being quiet on the 31st.    cafedeparis-orch.jpg

The concert was terrific: all waltzes, polkas and marches by Johann Strauss II and Josef Strauss. The Monte Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra was at full strength with the men in white tie and the women in colourful evening dress. They didn’t miss many chances to be playful: the la-la-la of the Bauern-Polka; the anvil banging of the Feuerfest; the coo coo and watery trilling of Im Krapfenwald and the board slapping of the Tritsch-Tratsch Polka. During the final encore, which was, of course, the Radetzky March, the first violinists all got up and marched around through the audience continuing to play while we clapped in tune. It wasn’t Mahler, but everyone had a fine time.

Le Café de Paris – 2 

p6010046a.jpgOn June 1, 2007, Linda, Véronique, Alaya and I dined at Le Café de Paris before a concert at the Auditorium. The Rachmaninov Second Piano Concerto was played spectacularly, and without a score, by eighty-year-old Aldo Ciccolini. After the intermission, the 31-year-old hyperactive Yannick Nézet-Seguin conducted Beethoven’s Third Symphony.  

We ordered a bottle of Château Bénédicte, a quite drinkable Provençale red wine from near Lorgues. I started with a terrine of skate which would have been quite good if had not just come out of the refrigerator. The ladies skipped having a starter. Linda and Véro had very bland, but creamy rich, tagliatelli with fresh salmon.

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Alaya and I had slices of York ham with a Madeira sauce and an excellent baked timbale of little tortellini and mushrooms. As the courses had been quite rich, we skipped dessert and went on down the hill to the concert.  

This being the start of summer, the café was mostly filled with a motley assortment of tourists, but there were some others who, like us, were obviously going on to something else. As before, the café was useful.

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