All aboard! We take a look inside the restaurant of the Casino de Monte-Carlo, for a prestigious experience recalling the history of the Orient Express and the discovery of the Riviera.
This gastronomic setting is rooted in an extraordinary technological adventure that started in the second half of the 19th century, a time when luxury night train lines were developing across Europe, enabling travellers to come and stay on the Riviera. These included the Orient Express that ran from Paris to Venice and Vienna, and the Calais-Nice-Rome line launched by the Compagnie des Wagons-Lits. The train later became known as the Calais-Méditerranée-Express in 1891, then the Train Bleu from 1922. This superb model with its painted blue steel carriages crossed the Channel to reach the Mediterranean, and in the wake of the First World War became the symbol of a refound freedom. An ambassador of luxury tourism, the train was a high society jewel in the hedonistic days of the Roaring Twenties, inspiring the creation of a famous restaurant of the same name at the Gare de Lyon in Paris, as well as, at the other end of the line, in the iconic Monegasque temple of gaming. Located next to the gaming rooms, slot machines and European roulette, its decor echoes the legendary train’s dining car, which enjoyed a great reputation.
An epic gourmet experience
Diners in Monaco will find a collection of vintage toys in the restaurant’s side windows. Chef Thierry Saez-Manzanares, assisted by first sous-chef Eric Rouvidant, leads the team in the kitchen, where he offers a menu with Mediterranean flavours using high quality seasonal ingredients. The restaurant calls to mind the posters depicting the Casino de Monte-Carlo and its sun-drenched gardens in the late 19th century. It was a preferred stopping off point for Europe’s luxury trains, offering a dream holiday location in contrast to the sight of a rainy Paris. It evokes memories of Le Train Bleu, a ballet developed by Serge Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes from a libretto by Jean-Cocteau. The production was first performed at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées in Paris in 1924, with costumes designed by Gabrielle Chanel and a stage curtain by Pablo Picasso. Each of the gaming rooms of the Casino de Monte-Carlo still has a clock that allowed guests to check the time so they wouldn’t miss the last train to France or Italy at midnight: they are relics of a time when Monaco lacked hotels, and among the many that bear witness to this great railway adventure.
By Eve Chatelet