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Decadent dining at Monaco’s Les Ambassadeurs by Christophe Cussac

Restaurant - Les_Ambassadeurs
Les Ambassadeurs by Christophe Cussac

At Les Ambassadeurs by Christophe Cussac, the ambience is warm, the service convivial and the food as golden as the Belle Epoque-style hotel it resides in

I knew I was in trouble when the waiter rolled the bread cart in front of our table. He was beaming like a proud parent standing over a baby carriage.

“We have 19 different breads, all made in-house, but there are only 18 here,” he said, waving his hand over a pyramid of rolls, focaccia and loaves. My eyes were fixed on the bread cart’s tower of demi-sel butter from Brittany, arguably the best in the world, which he spooned in perfect ovals onto our side plates, and then sweetly asked which breads we’d like to accompany it.

Before we could inquire about the 19th bread (as if we needed any more), another waiter delivered warm crusty fusette rolls with delicate ends as pointed as Salvador Dali’s moustache. He told us that these were Joël Robuchon’s signature mini baguettes, baked with a touch of honey and served with extra-virgin olive oil from the highest olive groves in Italy.

From Joël Robuchon to Christophe Cussac

We were dining at the new Les Ambassadeurs by Christophe Cussac, located in the charming five-star Hotel Metropole in the heart of Monaco. It opened in June 2023, after a two-year renovation that saw legendary French interior designer Jacques Garcia transform the airy space with luminous tones of gold, ivory and mustard yellow to evoke a warm Mediterranean embrace.

The Belle Epoque-style Hotel Metropole, built in 1889, sits across from the Monte Carlo Casino gardens in the heart of the Carré d’Or Monaco, also known as the Golden Square. The Metropole has been home to Les Ambassadeurs restaurant since the 1920s, and Les Ambassadeurs by Christophe Cussac is a reimagining of the original restaurant. It showcases a fresh, modern aesthetic that reflects the alchemy of chef Cussac, who has worked his mastery here ever since he arrived in 2004, when the restaurant was part of the stable of Joël Robuchon – the legendary French chef, who passed away in 2018.

Cussac was born into a restaurant family in Burgundy. His grandmother converted an 11th century abbey into a restaurant, which his father then transformed into a Relais & Châteaux hotel. After studying at hotel school in Paris, he spent his early career with the Troisgros brothers, the founders of Nouvelle Cuisine, then worked in three of Joël Robuchon’s Parisian restaurants before making his home at the Hotel Metropole. He obtained his first Michelin star in 2006 and his second star two years later working, as he says, for his “spiritual father”.

The offerings

Back to the bread. We nibbled on it and sipped a glass of champagne (there are 180 to choose from) as we perused the remarkable menu, which our waiter, Enrique, described in detail. In addition to the full degustation menu of eight dishes and a lengthy à la carte menu, the restaurant offered something I’d never seen before: smaller servings of many dishes to create your own mix-and-match feast.

Rather than attempting to navigate the 1800-wine carte des vins, we let sommelier, Frederic Woelffle, pair wines with the degustation menu so we could discover some interesting flavour combinations.

We started with a sea bream tartare rolled with finely minced ginger, and fermented cream in a caviar cannelloni, served with a crispy potato curl. The dish was umami-rich with a subtle zing from the ginger, which was ideally paired with a palate-cleansing Chablis. Next was a juicy langoustine, with an inspired tempura of blanched French green beans served with an orange-infused hollandaise sauce.

The affable restaurant director, Marco Tognon, introduced himself while seamlessly supervising his small army of waitstaff. The following dish was simply described as tomato and baby squid. Marco, however, gave us insights into chef Cussac’s philosophy of focusing on three main flavours to highlight each essential ingredient. There were slivers of butter-tender baby squid and wisps of guanciale, an Italian cured meat made from pork cheeks. But it was the Marmande tomatoes – an almost seedless heirloom French variety low in acid and very sweet – that added a touch of magic.

A dish of delicate John Dory with artichokes, in a sublime coriander and artichoke broth, was revelatory as was the first dessert of cherries marinated in a red wine from Corsica and served with a fine almond tuile.

The pièce de résistance was the dessert trolley – a lemon tart with cloud-like meringue, baba au rhum steeped in decades-old Caribbean rum and served with oranges and red berries, dark chocolate tart, Dulce de leche, roasted apricot and honey tart, île flottante with Tahitian vanilla and much more.

The pièce de résistance was the dessert trolley – a lemon tart with cloud-like meringue, baba au rhum steeped in decades-old Caribbean rum and served with oranges and red berries, dark chocolate tart, Dulce de leche, roasted apricot and honey tart, île flottante with Tahitian vanilla and much more.

Most surprising was the raspberry tart made with an activated charcoal crust, which for all the world tasted like dark chocolate. Chef Cussac used this as a natural digestif, demonstrating the attention to detail that had gone into every element of the meal.

This is not a starchy gastronomic temple. The professionalism was there but the waiters exuded an air of conviviality that was infectious. The evening was balmy. The scent of magnolias drifted up on the soft breeze from the Mediterranean.

“Eating in a restaurant like this is a time for sharing, a time for celebration,” said Marco. “And this is the spirit I try to encourage with my whole team.”

 

Dining Notes

The degustation at Les Ambassadeurs by Christophe Cussac at the Hotel Metropole, Monaco, costs 295 Euros at the time of writing. metropole.com

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