I watched the Monte-Carlo Bay being built and first stayed at this wonderful hotel soon after it opened, each time I return it manages to impress me a little bit more. The hotel remains as pristine as the day it was built. The decadent marble and finishings remain in perfect condition, the expensive rugs are as fresh and luxurious underfoot as when they were new, the whole hotel is immaculate.
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It sits on its own reclaimed peninsula on the Eastern border of Monaco with four hectares of lush gardens. The look is a grand roman pantheon style with hugely tall pillars at the entrance, arched stonework on the balconies and marble inside and outside the cathedral sized lobby. The circular driveway that you climb to reach the hotel is surrounded by tropical palms, with the centrepiece being a fountain. At he impressive entrance where even the road becomes marble, revolving doors invite you into the tangerine scented vast lobby hall with black marble floors that extend throughout this level of the building. The tropical L’Orange Vert orangery style restaurant is arranged in front of you and neat receptions and concierge desks sit to either side of the hall. The immensely high ceiling and modern stylish finish makes the place feels more like a palace than a hotel.
There are several restaurants: The L’Orange Vert which is a tropical orangery filled with palms which spills out onto the courtyard patio, a relaxing if quiet place to grab a beer and a bite in the evening. The Las Brisas, a summer restaurant located next to the hotels pool with a wonderful view of the sea and lastly the Monte-Carlo Bay’s high-end establishment the wonderful Blue Bay.
In the world of fine dining you can pay an awful lot of money for an experience that will utterly disappoint. On the other hand a good meal can define a memorable moment in your life: at Locanda Locatelli I finally discovered why people make so much fuss about lobster, at Ristorante L’Olivo I embarked upon a love for pigeon and at Comme Chez Soi realised that no matter how good the chef, Sea Urchin will never taste good. For that reason once you find a chef whose cooking you trust you tend to go out of your way to enjoy their food. For me Marcel Ravin is one of those chefs. I’ve enjoyed Marcel’s exciting food since he started as the head chef at the Bay, some 10 years ago. Upon arrival one of the fist things I do is look at Marcel’s menu, never the same, always new flavours and dishes to tempt.
My most recent trip to Monaco was the fist opportunity I’d had to visit the Blue Bay since it’d received its first Michelin star. Straight away I realised this was a somewhat different Blue Bay. We, (my family and I), were led to our table on the veranda, beautifully dressed in the evening sunset and adorned with purple lighting, it was plainly obvious the restaurant had upped its game. The waiters were no longer the hotels breakfast staff presented in different uniforms, the Maître D’ was now making himself known, conducting his well-drilled team in a style far more akin to that you’d expect from a Michelin starred establishment.
We were seated and offered a cocktail before the said Maître D’ offered the menu, or enquired if we’d prefer the chef to choose for us, i.e. The taster menu. Trusting Marcel we were excited to try his latest creations. In good time the Sommelier presented himself and recommended a bottle of French white to go with our meal. Happy with the choice we nibbled the lovely Amuse-bouche and nervously waited the first course, hoping this new, more grown up, Blue Bay hadn’t dampened Marcel’s original style of cooking.
We needn’t have been concerned, every course was a beautiful as the last. The first, a fish dish brought to the table with all sorts of small delicious accompaniments, a wonderful celebration of seafood on your palate. It was followed by a Green Papaya Spaghetti dish done in a Carbonara Way, generously garnished with truffles and full of flavours and textures, the spaghetti parcel within was simply delicious. A wonderfully seasoned fish course of John Dory came next and was followed by a beautifully sauced Pork dish, the joint presented then expertly carved and served in front of us with flare.
It’s hard to believe that some 10 years have passed since I was first thoroughly entertained by Marcel’s menu and delighted by his flavours. Those flavours are now refined, experience providing diners with even more sophisticated fusions to taste. This humble chef is well aware of the progress that has been made by the Blue Bay, upon leaving the restaurant after our meal I thanked him for my superb dinner, he smiled graciously and said ‘my team’, pointing to the chefs and staff around him.
The Blue Gin bar next to the Blue Bay restaurant pounds the latest tunes every night and is the perfect “before” spot to enjoy a beer or cocktail on it’s alfresco balcony overlooking the sea. Finally Las Brisas, open in the summer, offers a brunch menu and has glorious views of both the sea and the sandy lagoon.
The rooms at the Monte-Carlo Bay are a highlight for me, virtually all the same in design, featuring a gorgeous balcony. They are so quiet, (Monaco is a noisy town!), and the beds so comfortable. On the balcony you’ll find sofa seat at one end and two more rattan seats with a small table, you can easily spend a whole day just lazing in the sunshine gazing at the view. I prefer the rooms facing west as these offer the most interesting and active view of people going to and from the pool, the ever-changing Monaco skyline and if there are fireworks, (so often you can enjoy unexpected impressive displays from the direction of the Sporting Mote-Carlo), you’ll have a perfect view. If you are not overlooking the pool you’ll be looking towards the sea and towards Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, or back inland if you book the least expensive rooms. I recommend booking a west facing sea view room and if you are a family, the family room (with 2 doubles).
The extensive breakfast buffet in the morning is just that. You must order your omelette / eggs from your waiter as this option is always available but not always offered and the fresh egg omelettes are hugely better than the slightly disappointing pre prepared egg options. In the winter breakfast is an indoor affair but in the summer they throw open the doors and you can eat out on the terrace with wonderful sea views across the mediterranean.
And now to the indoor-outdoor pool which sits inside a large glass sided spherical building full of tropical plants with an exotic ambiance. It flows to an outside pool also surrounded by tropical plants and with fountains at its edge. It is easily the largest indoor pool in Monaco and is certainly impressive if a little on the cool side. For me it was necessary to constantly swim up and down to keep warm – I tend to end up in their green jacuzzi connected to the main pool for a relax and to warm up.
Separate to the indoor-outdoor pool is the amazing free-form Lagoon which expands over a large portion of the peninsula and is a tropical paradise of waterfalls, vegetation and wooden bridges, completed by the sandy bottom that feels so good between your toes! This is the only pool like this of its kind in Europe and reason in itself to book the Monte-Carlo Bay hotel in the summer. Laze on a lounger many of which are dipping their legs in the pool and watch the beautiful clientele attempt to swim whilst keeping their heads out of the water, thus retaining their chic coiffured look and perfect makeup.
This is absolutely not the land of screeching children and excessive splashing, although the lagoon is large enough for everyone to enjoy. Each group of loungers are hidden in one of the many private corners of the gardens so that you feel an element of privacy as you admire the views over the bay while the trendy music tinkles in the background. The sandy bottomed lagoon is open May through to the end of September, whereas the indoor-outdoor pool is open year round. In July and August there is also a kids club for 3-12 year olds with loads of activities including boules, ping pong, painting and films.
You are not in the centre of Monaco at the Monte-Carlo Bay hotel, it’s perhaps a 10-15 minute stroll to Casino Square, (or apparently a 5 minute complementary shuttle ride although not being fan of waiting around for shuttles I don’t take up this option), and it’s further from the main marina. This hotel has a resort feel rather than a Monte-Carlo city hotel feel.
For me, the grandeur and the immense lagoon make this a must stay hotel in Monaco. My ideal stay in Monte-Carlo is to combine the Monte-Carlo Bay hotel with the Hotel Hermitage so you can enjoy strolling and experiencing the centre of Monaco before lazing in the Cote d’Azur sunshine at the Bay.
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