Monaco style without chintz or arrogance: good evenings guaranteed.
One of the principality’s newer luxury hotels, this place rises by the port, giving a contemporary slant to a classical Monaco setting. There are yachts the size of the Graf Spee just outside and, inside, comfort, fine wines and photos of Bruce Springsteen.
So, sitting on your balcony – or, better still, having dinner in the sixth-floor Mandarine restaurant – you’ll feel you’re doing the Monaco thing properly. If you’re as lucky as I was recently, you’ll also have a clever and beautiful companion across the table. And, beyond the picture windows, the lights of the port and of the old town headland will reflect in the water, spangling the night with promise. It looks pretty dramatic by day, too.
I was won over pretty smartly, and not only because of my dinner companion. Despite its status and location, the Port Palace has a winning lack of arrogance and an evident willingness to please. In Monaco, believe me, the slightest hint of modesty is to be cherished.
Built into the rock rising to Monte Carlo centre, the 50-room Port Palace majors on urbane and top-class simplicity. It's a pretty sleek-looking item from the outside.
Inside, there’s a cool white lobby and those pictures of Springsteen, not to mention of Clint Eastwood and the Stones. Also some rather lovely flowers from the in-house florist. Floors stack up above, each one themed differently. The rooms are light, airy and eminently welcoming in the modern manner: all creams and whites, with outbursts of sharper colour and soft, rather rustic matching fabrics. It works very well, as it should: the design director of Hermès was in charge.
Without exception, they offer the splendid views over the port and beyond. Real rare woods and Carrara marble (the sort which Michaelangelo whacked into David shape) abound. Four of the suites boast private hammams, most rooms have Jacuzzis and, should you be there at the appropriate time (and have the appropriate funds), they all afford a decent perspective on a stretch of the F1 track below.
This is, then, a spot where you may breathe easy – there's none of Monaco's trademark gilt or chintz - before swaying off to the Fleur de Peau beauty institute or, in my case, the top-floor terrace bar, prior to dinner at La Mandarine.
The restaurant recently bagged its first Michelin star. No wonder. I've not eaten so well in Monaco for ages, if ever. I resisted the temptation to spit olive stones into the boats way down below. Beautiful dining companions rarely appreciate this, even if you hit the target. But, Lord, it was difficult.
Later, we followed the sommelier to the extraordinary wine cellar - hewn out of the rock face - for a tasting. This was indeed a good Monaco evening.
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