Dining at Monte Carlo’s Louis XV ‘like going to a symphony’

Inside, a Versailles-inspired dining room, frescoes, velvet, an ornate ceiling, and chandeliers.

Dining at a Michelin Star restaurant has been a fantasy of mine for many years.

So when I was vacationing in Monte Carlo recently, I decided it was time to indulge. It was only natural that I go all out and choose a restaurant with three stars.

Alain Ducasse opened the doors to the Louis XV in 1987. At the bequest of Prince Rainier III, Ducasse turned the restaurant into the first hotel-restaurant with three Michelin Stars.

Based on that, and information from its website, this restaurant in the Hotel de Paris seemed like it would satisfy my craving.

It did.

Inside, a Versailles-inspired dining room, frescoes, velvet, an ornate ceiling, and chandeliers. I can’t prove it, but when I stepped onto the plush carpet, my feet sank down at least half an inch.

The weather was kind, a warm summer afternoon. I dined on the terrace overlooking the casino square.

In the square, a festival-like atmosphere. Beautiful people in fancy cars pulled up. A Mercedes. A Rolls. A silver Lamborghini I could have been convinced to take for a test drive, IF the driver had asked real nice.

Bus after bus belched out groups of tourists who hurriedly snapped pictures and trouped in and out of the casino like a parade of hungry ants.

On the terrace, waiters in black suits, white shirts and mauve ties scurried to and fro. What surprised me most was that all of the women, save one, wore black cocktail dresses and pumps — at lunch. The men, who generally dress down, wore suits.

The menus arrived, all three of them. The lunch menu, the special menu and the 25th anniversary menu.

Potentially overwhelming until I realized I would go my usual route of appetizer, entrée and dessert. Along with the menus, a book of wines, heavy enough to do arm lifts.

Thank goodness for waiters who can translate French menu items and make appropriate suggestions.

An ornate cart arrived, with five champagnes nestled in ice to choose from. I went with a flute of rosé bubbly.

Teasers followed. First, mini pan bagna, bite-sized hors d’oeuvres, little round olive oil bread, combined with a medley of radish, artichokes, baby broad beans, onion, basil, tomatoes, capsicum, anchovies and olives. Warm, tasty, irresistible.

Next, a seafood fantasy, a scalloped-shaped dish in which various seafoods (octopus, squid, mussels, scampi and clams), were browned. A delightful adventure with each bite.

Next, a cart with more than half a dozen bread choices. I chose one with a gentle crust, soft and warm in the middle. Accompanied by one of my favourites, French butter, sweet as ever.

Then, my appetizer, a parsley, chestnut, pumpkin soup, with nut meats in a game stock base. Ideal for inhaling deeply with each sip. Ambrosia!

I give high marks to their Mediterranean sea bass, cooked in a lemon confit, with fennel, pepper and red onion. Flaky, tender, melt-in-the-mouth delicious. Easily the tenderest fish I’ve eaten.

My waiter presented the accompanying sauce with a flourish. I couldn’t decide if the sauce was better than the fish. Both were superb.

A 2010 Cotes de Provence Domaine Garoty wine, a regional variety, lite and dry, accented the fish nicely.

On with dessert, a trio of ice creams, vanilla, caramel and rum. Homemade, of course.

To finish, a tray of irresistible delicacies. Included: a strawberry-rhubarb tart, a lemon perfumed chocolate, a small rich cake, a thin curved cookie made with almonds. I regretted not having my camera to take a picture.

Dining at Louis XV is like going to a symphony. Everything is orchestrated with precision. Everything is designed to tease, then please.

Bill Peeler is a freelance travel writer based in Courtenay.

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