Room at the top: high rise setting for high class cuisine.
I probably shouldn’t say this but, for the moment, Le Mandarine is my favourite restaurant in Monaco. This is partly because, last time I ate there, I had a young, clever and beautiful dinner companion. Food inevitably tastes better in such circumstances, if you can concentrate on eating it.
The thing is, though, that my companion also found the meal first-rate – and she was with a middle-aged bloke of no aesthetic appeal whatsoever. So Le Mandarine must be doing something right.
In truth, it’s doing pretty much everything right, which is why it’s the rising star of Monaco gastronomy. Slotted into the top floor of the Port Palace hotel, it offers arresting views over the port to Monaco old town up on its rock - views as seen in a hundred movies and a thousand photos. These are great during the day, better still after nightfall, when the lights twinkle and there’s a suggestion of forever.
This sets off nicely a restaurant light in mandarin tones, with the correct amount of contemporary artefacts. It has no need to lay the elegance on thick. The views take care of that.
Duck times two
And chef Patrick Raingeard takes care of the rest. His Asian-influenced Mediterranean cooking combines great imagination with quiet intensity. I shall long remember his subtly-spiced lobster risotto, and Lauragais duckling in two servings – roasted, then braised in brandade.
The Michelin men awarded Raingeard his first star this year. I’m confident a second won’t be far behind – especially if the inspectors choose their dining companions with the care which I exercised.