The best breakfast on the Riviera

The best breakfast on the Riviera

It pays to wake up hungry at the Hotel Metropole

Words by Ute Junker

Photos supplied

Monaco’s Hotel Metropole Monte-Carlo is for those who don’t need to try hard. Tucked at the bottom of a long, plant-lined driveway, it’s about the discreet entrance rather than the head-swivelling arrival. You are still in the centre of the action, ensconced in the prestigious Monte Carlo neighbourhood, but out of the spotlight.

There is no blindingly-bright lobby, all marble and chandeliers; instead, the Metropole’s lobby is a cosy space with rough cut walls of warm yellow stone. Comfortable seats are grouped together for intimate chats; those seeking even more privacy can retire to one of the portrait-lined ante-chambers. It is less dramatic than some lobbies, but an inviting space to relax over a drink.

Everything in the Metropole – from the sofa-studded alcoves in the long corridors to the silk-lined walls and the aged Oriental carpets in the lift – creates an elegant yet welcoming feel. A whole clutch of legends was involved in putting together this package – including interiors guru Jacques Garcia, design icon Karl Lagerfeld and spa legend Susan Harmsworth – but for my money, the star player is the man responsible for the food.

The Hotel Metropole offers a number of dining choices: two formal restaurants (one Mediterranean, one Asian), the snack menu in the lobby bar, and Odyssey, a lighter, spa-style dining option by the pool. All four of them are overseen by one man: French superchef Joël  Robuchon.

Robuchon is famous for many things, including his notorious mashed potatoes, essentially a huge amount of butter leavened with just a little potato. Where Monsieur Robuchon really wins my heart, however, is at breakfast.

This is odd, as I am not a breakfast person. Most of the time I only eat before noon is when I am staying in hotels, and then only for research purposes.  My first morning at the Metropole, I dutifully head down to Odyssey, where I figure the options will be lighter, and choose a simple fruit salad. However, I can’t help picking at the pain aux raisins in the pastry basket, which turns out to be melt-in-the-mouth delicious. It’s so good, I resolve to try the full breakfast tomorrow.

This, it turns out, is one of the smartest decisions of my life. Really, I have just come to enjoy another pain aux raisins, so once the pastry basket is set before me, I’m happy. My waiter, however, has bigger plans.

“The breakfast trolley will be along in a moment,” he says, his voice full of promise.

At the Metropole, they don’t do anything as plebeian as a breakfast buffet. Instead, a grand wooden trolley is wheeled over, laden with different types of bread, a selection of cheeses and cold cuts, fruit, yoghurt, and pretty much anything else you can think of. I choose some cold cuts and bread.

I’m beginning to get into the spirit of things. When my waiter, having been knocked back the first time, again suggests that I might like a hot drink, I request a hot chocolate.

“French or Italian style?” he asks.

It’s a reasonable question. French hot chocolate is milky and light, Italian hot chocolate darker and thicker. However, no one has ever offered me this choice before. I’m impressed.

My waiter, however, is not yet done. Clearly under the impression that I need further fortification, he offers me a variety of hot dishes. I go for broke and order some hardboiled eggs.  They arrive in silver egg cups. This, however, is not what makes me swoon. What makes me swoon is the fact that they are already peeled.

Now I really feel like a millionaire.

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