The Old Town of Monaco isn’t really renowned for the quality of its restaurants: between the souvenir shops, you can find snack bars and different restaurants which, without being bad, aren’t particularly memorable, with a few exceptions – until the summer of 2011, when a very notable “exception” opened up.
La Montgolfière isn’t your run of the mill tourist restaurant – if you are looking for very well-executed traditional Mediterranean fare but with a slightly exotic twist and a charming location, this is the place to go. This tiny and very quaint establishment, located on a small pedestrian street in the very heart of the old town of Monaco, a few steps away from the Prince’s Palace and the town hall square, only seats about 20 people and it is staffed exclusively by the Monaco-born chef, Henri Geraci and his wife Fabienne.
Henri puts his 30 years of culinary experience in Paris and the French Riviera and the couple’s love of travel, especially around Asia, to good use both in his cuisine and in the quirky but classy decoration of the restaurant, with various items brought back from holidays in Japan, Malaysia and other exotic destinations.
There are two distinct menus for lunch and dinner: in the evenings, there is a fixed menu at 43€ for 3 courses or 50€ for 4 courses (including cheese – prices as of May 2014), that changes pretty much every month. There isn’t a huge amount of choice, 3 options per course, which is normal given that there is only one person cooking and a single sitting, but given the quality of the dishes available, that’s not really a problem. Amongst the chef’s regular dishes are the foie gras makis served with smoked halibut and the “Chocoquicoule” chocolate cake for dessert.
There is also an extensive wine list with mainly French wines, my favourites being the reasonably-priced Côtes de Provence Château Reillan rosé at 37€ or Corsican Patrimonio red at 36€.
At lunchtime, there’s more of a traditional bistro offering, with some typical Monegasque dishes like Stockfish (salted cod stewed in a tomato sauce with potatoes and olives) and some more original Italian and oriental-influenced main courses.
The service is very professional but also friendly, Fabienne takes great pride in explaining each dish and sharing her enthusiasm with the guests, she also speaks excellent English: once the meal is over, the chef is also happy to come and chat, this is all part of the customer experience!
To give you an idea, here are some pictures of the other dishes I experienced over the years:
Finally, as I mentioned, the place is tiny and very popular, both with residents and tourists due to its very high (and well-deserved) Tripadvisor ranking and its growing reputation in the Principality, so definitely book ahead to avoid disappointment. It’s certainly not a place to go if you want something cheap and cheerful (around 70€ per head for a 3-course meal with wine and water), but if you want to impress your business partners with somewhere typical of old-world Monaco without the flashiness of Monte-Carlo or simply want something intimate and romantic for a loved one (or a potential loved one!), this is definitely a place to go and you really get more than what you pay for… For me, memories of a good restaurant are priceless so follow my advice and schedule a visit to la Montgolfière into your stay in Monaco!
Restaurant la Montgolfière-Henri Geraci, 16 rue Basse
Tel : +377 97 98 61 59, www.lamontgolfiere.mc (includes regular updates of the monthly menus and an online booking form). Closed on Sundays and Wednesdays, annual holidays around February.
Important disclaimer: this restaurant review, like all restaurant reviews and recommendations on the French Riviera Blog, is totally independent. Any sponsored links are clearly indicated as such on the blog to avoid any ambiguity. If there are any restaurant owners who would like me to review their establishment, please get in touch with me and I’ll be happy to visit – if I enjoy the meal, I’ll write a review.