A jet-set lifestyle doesn’t have to be all private planes and decadent digs. In Paste Travel’s Jet-Set Bohemian series, we blend the best of high and low for just the right balance … enticing everyone from backpackers to luxury boutique hotel lovers to come along for the ride.
Last week, a friend in Monaco invited me to join her for brunch. Her message simply said 1 p.m. at Monte-Carlo Bay, so I fasted that morning in prep for the principality’s most lavish brunch spread. When people ask me what I miss most about the States, I immediately think of brunch. This concept has taken off in spots around the globe from the 240-item buffet at The Table Bay hotel in Cape Town to the six-course tasting at Dubai’s Jumeirah Zabeel Saray, inspired by southern spreads in cities like New Orleans.
For the French, brunch is still a foreign affair. A few spots in Paris (started by expats) have managed to capitalize on the concept, but in the south, petit-dejeuner remains the standard tartine, croissant and butter, served alongside an espresso and juice. Monte-Carlo Bay’s one Michelin star Blue Bay, meanwhile, has made Monaco’s quiet winters a bit more lively with the introduction of its Champagne-fueled Sunday brunch buffet. This is one indulgent way to spend the weekend, but the chef behind the starred cuisine has also drawn influence from Sunday supper with his latest concept at L’Orange Verte: weekend roasts in lieu of standard brunch.
Chef Marcel Ravin is one of the handful of chefs in France who are turning things down a notch switching gears from gastronomic spreads, going toward gourmet rotisserie-themed restaurants and weekend lunches that are all about family style sharing.
Photo by Lane Nieset
This was exactly the idea my Parisian friend Hélène had in mind when she wanted to do brunch. The concept is simple: the herb butter-roasted free-range chicken is the star of the show, placed in the center of the table, surrounded by ramekins stuffed with steaming sides like stoemp mash and gravy, with a warm fig tarte tagging along later for dessert. No need to order, since dishes come out as they’re ready and service is DIY just as it would be at home. The only decision you’ll have to make is the type of wine (or Champagne) you’d like.
When I asked Hélène what’s causing this rotisserie revival that’s making the hearty dishes seem chic, she responded, “It’s just simpler,” making it seem as obvious a notion as ordering a croissant at a boulangerie. No need to fuss about sitting down to a decadent fine dining meal, worrying about dressing up and what the menu will look like when it actually hits your plate. With this no-fuss brunch spread, you know exactly what you’re getting and even something as basic as roasted chicken can seem like a delicacy.
This summer, Cream’s Joe Elliott, Mikael Attar and The Sunken Chip’s Jérémy Attuil joined forces to open up a rotisserie and cocktail bar in Paris’ hip Canal Saint Martin neighborhood. Picture a Parisian version of a swanky Southern cocktail joint. Transforming a century-old space along the canal once home to a traditional brasserie, Gallina is equal parts rustic and modern, with original Spanish-style tiles lining the floor and neon pink lights glowing above the bar.
A fan of Cream whenever I need coffee while in Paris, I had been following along Gallina’s opening on Instagram. Meeting up with a group of friends from Miami and New York who all happened to be in Paris on the same weekend in September, I decided it would be the perfect time to give it a shot. With the family style spread and craft cocktail menu, it made a group dinner so much easier, especially in a city as pricey as Paris.
Photo courtesy of Gallina’s Facebook page
We ordered a full bird for the table—which hail from poultry farms in Béarn and Dordogne—and a bunch of sides to split, from the barbecued corn to the parsley mashed potatoes and French-style mac ‘n’ cheese topped with breadcrumbs and Mornay sauce. While the idea sounds simple enough, each dish was still presented in typical French flair, nailing all the flavors and being just decadent enough without seeming too heavy.
Of course what makes this spot a scene later in the evening is the cocktail menu, with Joe whipping up craft specialties inspired by his days working at some of Paris and London’s top cocktail bars. Twists on classics include a fruity gin and tonic with fresh strawberries and lime and the French-inspired white negroni, a blend of gin, Suze and Lillet. No need for a moveable feast here as dinner eases into an evening of drinks, and in typical French fashion, a meal that started at 8 p.m. doesn’t wind down until midnight.
Near the Notre-Dame Cathedral, Michelin starred-chef Guy Savoy serves up a more formal approach at Atelier Maître Albert. Take a seat in the stone-walled dining room near the fireplace and prepare to feast. Mains range from staples like whole chicken and spit-roasted veal and duck, as well as fish of the day and casserole of the week. Pair the main with a starter that’s more on the Michelin-starred side, choosing from sea bass carpaccio, farmhouse terrine and salad with sautéed chicken liver. If you’re going to indulge, don’t skimp on dessert here, which includes unexpected twists like cacao sorbet and chicory custard for a roast dinner unlike anything you’d find in the deep south.
A long-time favorite in Nice, La Rossettisserie (a play on the name of the Place Rossetti square nearby) in the Old Town is a classic. The family owned restaurant really makes you feel like you’re having dinner at someone’s home, with just a few seats lining the narrow interior. Every night—even in winter—this spot is full, and the draw is what’s on the spit. The menu is straight-forward enough: take your pick of protein from veal, pork, beef, lamb or chicken with herbs, and dig in to your choice of classic sides like mashed potatoes and ratatouille. Here the scene is more wine than cocktail, so choose your color, order by the carafe, and linger over the home-cooked spread.
Lane Nieset is Paste’s Jet-Set Bohemian columnist and a freelance writer covering all things travel from her home base in Nice, France.