WHAT’S IT LIKE? A grand Belle Epoque property with the look and feel of a Tuscan palazzo – think cream-coloured stone balconies and statues, and a driveway lined with cypress trees and bird of paradise flowers. As with most top-end hotels in Monaco, you can expect to see the likes of Porsches, Bentleys and Lamborghinis parked outside, and doormen are always on hand to welcome guests – this is, after all, a very luxurious hotel in one of the most glamorous destinations on Earth, so one wouldn’t expect anything less.
The warm lobby is richly decorated with tapestries, embroidered armchairs and fresh flowers, and above is a glass atrium. The concierge desk is to your right as you enter the hotel, with reception to your far left, a little further ahead. The Joel Robuchon restaurant is to the far right and between is the lobby bar, where well-heeled visitors nibble on snacks and quaff good coffee.
The Metropole is an example of classic good taste, and a property with a long and illustrious past. It originally opened in 1886 but in August 2004, saw the completion of a multi-million pound revamp to bring it up to date. It was at this time too that the Metropole became part of the Leading Hotels of the World. Since then, the second and third floors, which had been refreshed at the opening six years ago, were touched up last October (no major changes to the style, just a lick of paint in the bathrooms, new shower curtains and some elements of decoration).
WHERE IS IT? In Monte Carlo, just around the corner from the famous casino on Place de Casino. As the principality is so tiny, pretty much everywhere is accessible on foot – the harbour is eight minutes’ walk down the hill and the Palais Princier de Monaco in 15 minutes’ walk beyond that, up the steep hill on the far side. Nice airport is 20-30 minutes drive away (about €100 in a taxi). Helicopter flights depart Monaco to Nice every 30 minutes, and take seven minutes to get there. A return ticket is €210, while a single is €105. Heliair will provide return transfers to and from the heliport. Visit heliairmonaco.com
ROOM FACILTIES Standard rooms are 25-30 sqm and feature a workdesk, satellite TV, a minibar, safe, hairdryer and Carrara marble bathroom with a walk-in rainshower, a separate bath and twin sinks. Many have balconies and/or views of the sea or the casino. Suites are from 40 sqm and all rooms feature floral fabrics and upholstery, heavy satin curtains, cream colour walls and polished wood furniture.
Internet access is available through the TV (€10 for one hour) or through a wired connection to a laptop (€8 for one hours or €20 for 24 hours). Wifi internet access is available in the public areas – guests need to purchase a card from reception (30 minutes is €8, on hour is €12, 24 hours is €30, 48 hours is €57 and 72 hours is €80).
I was worried that it might be a little old fashioned and chintzy for my taste as I tend to prefer ultra-modern, minimalist hotels with a designer edge, but my sixth-floor Junior suite looked so elegant and had such a relaxing atmosphere, I couldn’t help but fall for it. The open-plan bedroom and living room had two sets of French doors that opened on to narrow stone balconies, and on the coffee table was a vase of fresh pink roses.
Other features included a Bang and Olufsen flatscreen TV that you can connect a laptop to, an iHome sound-dock for MP3 players – although the audio wasn’t nearly as good as the Bose version, two wardrobes, air conditioning, room service, a free daily paper and light controls by each side of the bed (which had sheets and blankets as opposed to a duvet).
The bathroom had wall-size mirrors, a huge walk-in rain and jet shower, a deep bath, twin sinks, white robes, and Hotel Metropole-branded toiletries. There was also a toilet and bidet behind a frosted glass door. The minibar fridge was not cold but was well stocked with (expensive) drinks – a half bottle of Veuve Clicquot was €65, 5cl of Johnnie Walker Black Label was €18, 50cl of Evian or a can of Coca Cola was €7, a Heineken beer was €9 and a bag of Haribo sweets was €10. Guests who need an iron and ironing board or a DVD player need to call down for one.
HOW MANY ROOMS? There are 141 bedrooms including 64 suites, most of which have been completely refurbished, while the others have had a touch up. Categories include De Luxe and Superior rooms, De Luxe and Superior junior suites, De Luxe and Superior suites and Prestige, Designer, Azure and Carré d’Or Signature suites. There are two non smoking floors.
ROOM HIGHLIGHTS The double French doors that let in plenty of fresh air and daylight, the huge rain/jet shower and the cosy ambiance.
RESTAURANTS AND BARS In addition to the poolside restaurant and the plush lobby bar, there is Joël Robuchon’s first Japanese restaurant, Yoshi, which opened in 2008. It was awarded a Michelin star this year, but was unfortunately being undergoing a light renovation when I visited. The main restaurant, Joël Robuchon, has two Michelin stars and is where I enjoyed lunch one afternoon.
At first glance you might think the eatery was bordering on stuffy, but the staff are charming and immediately make you feel relaxed and welcome. The service, however, remains highly professional – women can even expect to be given an ottoman to put their handbag on so they don’t have to leave it on the floor by their chair.
French cuisine tends to be heavy on meat and fish, so Joël Robuchon does not have much to offer the vegetarian. But for everyone else there is myriad delights – choose from starters such as roseval potato salad with sliced black truffle and foie gras (€29), palourde clams in a light creamy broth with Mimolette cheese (€21), frogs’ legs fried and served with garlic puree and parsley coulis (€18), shrimps in vermicelli coating served with herb and jasmine dip (€22), soft-boiled egg smothered with caviar (€99) or Monte Carlo king crab salad with buffalo mozzarella for €32 (beautifully presented and utterly delicious).
The mains included young rock lobster with braised endives and grapes (€125), veal chops with fondant carrots and a hint of cumin (€59) and my choice of John Dory fillet with Mediterranean vegetables and “the best mashed potato in the world” – it didn’t disappoint. Staff bring around a trolley of different breads before the meal, and after, if you still have room, there is a huge selection of cheeses and a trolley of desserts – wickedly, they encourage you to try more than one. I sampled the lemon tart and the rumbaba, both of which were delectable.
Joël Robuchon offers a “discovery” menu of ten dishes for €180 per person, and also serves a lavish breakfast daily from 7am to 10.30am.
BUSINESS AND MEETING FACILITIES There is a business centre on the ground floor by reception open 7am-10pm providing internet access (€12 for 30 minutes or €20 one hour), printing and scanning services, and four events venues available for hire – the 126 sqm Theatre room that seats up to 110 delegates theatre-style, the adjoining Foyer, and the 150 sqm Salon Mediterranee, which has views over the casino gardens and can accommodate 160 for cocktail receptions. For exclusive and more informal meetings, the terrace of the Carré d’Or suite, a 110 sqm room on the top floor overlooking the sea and Place de Casino, can be hired.
LEISURE FACILITIES There is a saltwater outdoor swimming pool and terrace on the first floor that is open year-round between 7am and 9pm. In addition to an 85 sqm fitness studio equipped with Technogym machines (open 7am-9pm weekdays, 8am-8pm weekends), is Espa, which opened in 2006 and features ten treatment rooms, saunas and steam baths. Treatments include a one-hour 50-minute “holistic massage with hot stones” for €280 and a “purva karma four-handed synchronised massage for €450.
Guests will be given a Metropole Lifestyle card with their room key at check-in, which allows the into the Casino de Monte Carlo for free (otherwise it is €10).
VERDICT An elegant, high-class hotel with superb dining venues boasting three Michelin stars, excellent staff and a prime location. It’s not cheap, but you get what you pay for at the Metropole.
PRICE Internet rates for a midweek stay in April started from €430 for a Superior room. A Superior Junior suite cost €630.
CONTACT Hotel Metropole, 4 Avenue de la Madone, Monte Carlo; tel +37 793 151 535; metropole.com