My beloved and I are dedicated brunchers and we were keen to again try out brunch at the Hôtel Hermitage which we’d firstly enjoyed just before Christmas. That one had been consumed in the hotel’s splendid Belle-Epoque ballroom whereas this time we were housed in the delightful Winter Garden. I’m pleased to report that the brunch was simply splendid and, once again, the staff were generous with the unlimited champagne.
Aside from a family with a young child, we probably lowered the average age of its brunch clientele. The young French family were mortified when their little girl started to grizzle rather loudly. My skills as a child whisperer were swiftly deployed and in no time at all the little poppet was sound asleep in her pushchair much to the amazement of her grateful parents. I could see they were weighing up making me a job offer but wisely decided I might not be available, at any price.
My beloved and I were much enjoying our splendid surroundings and I resolved to look into the hotel’s provenance, convinced the stained glass cupola above out heads was most likely the work of Gustav Eiffel.
While everyone knows of the Hôtel de Paris Monte Carlo, situated on the Place du Casino and the historic jewel in the crown of the Société des Bains de Mer (SBM). A few metres away, somewhat sheltered from the bustling heart of Monaco, another palatial hotel has enchanted its guests for 120 years: the Hôtel Hermitage Monte Carlo. I would argue that the Hermitage is the most charming and intimate of the Principality’s deluxe hotels.
Overlooking the Port d’Hercule, the hotel is renowned for its Belle-Epoque palatial design including a stunning facade with Italian style loggia and frescoes. I learned that it started life as a small inn and then a restaurant in the late 1800s surrounded by olive and orange trees growing in the shadows of the Hôtel de Paris. It was only in 1900 that the modest establishment was turned into a luxury hotel.
Bought in 1898 by an Englishman Vincent Benoist, then manager of the Princes restaurant in London, the property was totally rebuilt by Monégasque architect Nicolas Marquet whose brief was to create a luxurious residence. In 1928 the hotel became part of the SBM stable.
The facade of the hotel was inspired by the Prince of Monaco’s Palace. France’s finest architects and designers were commissioned to create the hotel’s stunning neo-classical design including the Belle-Epoque room, designed by Gabriel Ferrier, winner of the Rome prize and gold medallist at the 1889 Exposition Universelle, and Gustav Eiffel’s stained-glass cupola in the Winter Garden. The Princes’ Gallery which links the restaurant to the hotel was a 1906 addition.
Of all the renovations carried out by SBM, the most extensive remains that undertaken in the 1970s. This included renovation of the hotel’s signature trompe-l’oeil effects, the blue and gold shades, the woodwork, the frescoes, all of which was undertaken in order to preserve the hotel’s romantic ambience.
The Vistamar restaurant which opened in 1999, flows out onto a beautiful terrace overlooking Monte Carlo. The banqueting hall/Ballroom, the Belle-Epoque was re-designed by André Levasseur. Its ambience is now reminiscent of the Grand Trianon in Louis XIV’s Versailles with a ceiling adorned with frescoes complimented by columns of pink marble and crystal chandeliers. The sumptuous Winter Garden, where we enjoyed brunch, features soft pastel tones, impressive lighting, a fountain and a large central carpet specially commissioned for the hotel.
Following that renovation the hotel was classified as a listed building and awarded the Renaissance trophy for the most elegant decor by the Gaullt & Millau Guide, whose committee included among its stellar cast the Duchess of Bedford, Paloma Picasso, Karl Lagerfeld, Helmut Newton, Baroness Edmund de Rothschild and Ruggiero Raimondo. It’s safe to say that the hotel is one of the jewels in the SBM crown.
You don’t have to take my word for it, have a look around for yourself.
While the Hermitage is proud of its status as a historic monument, it didn’t prevent the hotel from making additional renovations in the beginning of the 21st century, increasing its bedroom and meeting room capacity.
As far as we’re concerned, it’s a very welcome addition to the brunch scene.