Past the Monte-Carlo Beach Club, past the 100% organic Michelin-starred Elsa, and at the end of a pine forested path is a breezy seaside terrace with its hanging plants and seven species of bamboo is a bijou you’d expect to find in St-Tropez, not 500 meters from the border to Monaco.
La Vigie is all about lunch, and not so much about power. Open from June 15 to September 15, the newly renovated restaurant and lounge has a laidback vibe that owes nothing to accident; the project was piloted by Samy Sass of Sass Café and created exclusively by Tina Green and Pietro Mingarelli, who run a design company together that bears their surnames.
Food and drink can be ordered anytime from noon to midnight, and the revised menu is full of oomph in terms of selection, freshness and flavor: starters from new style salmon sashimi (€22) to meaty Korean-style spicy chicken wings (€26). For grilled mains, you can’t beat the catch of the day but a pricey Aberdeen black Angus Tomahawk beef (€145) or veggie burger are also options.
Hands down, the shared dessert will be discussed for days: a tray of homemade sherbets and ice cream in mini-cones (a new product launch by Société des Bains de Mer and now available at La Glace in front of the Café de Paris) while the fruit salad is eye-poppingly fresh, with produce from Elsa’s garden.
While you lick your cone (or more gracefully sip your rosé), give some thought to the history of this precious parcel of land.
In 1902, a wealthy Brit named Sir William Ingram built an 860-square-meter villa in Roquebrune with a panoramic terrace overlooking the coastline from France to bordering Monaco. Its strategic location earned the neoclassical residence thename La Vigie—the look out. (Ingram also bought Roquebrune’s chateau in 1911 and donated it to the city a decade later).
A stone’s throw from La Vigie, the swanky Monte Carlo Beach Club and Hotel, with its sea level Olympic-size pool and private beach, opened its doors in 1928, just after Coco Chanel had popularized the suntan.
The inaugural bash thrown by American socialite and gossip columnist Elsa Maxwell (who had been hired to promote it) was so star-studded it made society pages across the world and overnight it became the hotspot for artists, musicians and literati—and politicians too, like Winston Churchill.
Prince Rainer and Princess Grace were regulars at the club owned by SBM. It was only natural that in 1952 SBM would acquire the three-story La Vigie, which between 1986 and 2000 was regularly rented to the now late, Karl Lagerfeld (see p. 32).
In return for extremely attractive rent, the famous couturier carried out extensive restoration work on the villa.
And speaking of look outs: don’t be surprised at lunch to be nestled between sport stars, pop stars and those honored with knighthoods.