Let’s just address the elephant on the table. Elsa may be the world’s first all-organic restaurant to be awarded a Michelin star in 2014 but it is Pri-Cey, even by Monaco standards. It may be tough to swallow forking over €68 for three San Remo prawns with rasberries and cappucine flower jelly but in terms of quality, it would be hard to find more explosive flavors and freshness elsewhere.
“Products here speak for themselves and need very little help to shine,” says Manon Fleury, the 30-year-old chef who took the helm of Elsa in May. “For me, fresh products are the essence of Mediterranean cuisine.”
Fleury had never been to Monte Carlo Beach but from the moment she arrived “knew it was right.” The Monestésien believes her biggest challenge will be “about finding a balance between the philosophy of Monte-Carlo Beach and the cuisine that I want to create.” The Mediterranean menu with a nod to Tuscany is divided into Raw-Cooked Sweetness—Panzanella-style tomatoes, toasted bread, lard consommé (€30); roasted yellow poultry, arugula and walnut marmalade with creamy polenta (€56); and summer peaches, cream with verbena and puffed rice costs (€26). Each dish is identified, accordingly, as to zero waste, gluten free, vegan or oilseeds, but beware, portions are on the small side.
Crowned Jeune Chef Parisian 2019 by Elle à table, Fleury has built her reputation on zero waste, offering dishes that harmonize gastronomy, health and respect for living things. “I will try to take Elsa even further with the zero-waste, eco-responsible approach,” she emphasizes.
For lunch, the 3-course Inspiration Menu (€78) is the best value to linger over a meal on the sea-facing patio, amongst the pine trees and sounds of crashing waves. A glance over at the Monte-Carlo Beach Club and Hotel is a reminder of the role women have played here. Its inaugural bash in 1929 thrown by American socialite and gossip columnist Elsa Maxwell (whom the restaurant is named after) was so star-studded, the event hit society pages worldwide. Overnight, Monte-Carlo Beach, the first Art Deco-style hotel on the Côte d’Azur, became the hotspot for artists, musicians and literati—and politicians, too, like Winston Churchill. Prince Rainer and Princess Grace Kelly were also regulars at the club owned by SBM. In 2009, the hotel and restaurant were completely redesigned by French architect and designer India Mahdavi.
It is no coincidence that a woman should now be head chef. For Fleury, “Gender diversity in the kitchen also matters a lot to me. I was able to build a team with three women at Elsa, with the goal of promoting women to senior positions.”