Chapter 48: Eating in Monte Carlo

resturarant MCarlo copyJanuary 1967, I went to Monte Carlo to film the Rally for Nissan Motors of Japan.
I had a crew from Paris, Marseilles and Rome and we were all looking forward to wining and dining in the odd opportunities that came up from time to time.  Mostly, we were working through the day and most nights, but there were a few evenings free.

At this time, our daily allowance was based on that which had applied to United Press International for many years.  The UPI staff, when travelling, were allowed a “per diem”, a daily amount of $26.  This was to cover both hotel and food.  It meant that there was no requirement for receipts, saving a lot of time on accounts and expenses examinations.  In Monte Carlo, there were hotels that were not expensive, but, mostly the food was expensive and we had no change from our allowance.

The first port of call was the Cesar Restaurant in Monaco.  This was a famous restaurant and I wanted to see it and eat there.  One of our cameramen, Jacques Hubinet, from Marseilles, had often dined there and it was he that took us along.

The restaurant was in the shape of an “ell” with tables in the leg and foot.  At the toe was a delicatessen counter with a pile of plates on a table nearby.  Here one could partake of the goodies on offer.  There were eggs Mayonnaise, cooked hams and salamis,  collections of vegetables and a variety of fish offered in various styles.

rally1One could pass along this display and help oneself to what one fancied.  It was special.  The following year, we went back to the Cesar to find that a waitress was in attendance at the delicatessen counter and one had to point at what one wanted and she would serve it on to the plate.  One could still fill the plate, but there was no chance that anyone could overfill the plate.

The problem was that in the beginning one could have two eggs mayonnaise and two of something you really liked.  Now you could have one of something.  As we were a group that never overfilled our entrée plates (leaving room for our main course), we felt disgruntled by this manoeuvre and never went back to that restaurant.

Mmm..._French_onion_soup_(4669587391)The whole crew went to lunch in Nice. The restaurant was the Cave Nicoise. To me, it resembled the old British Restaurant, only in the respect that it was large, even cavernous, with tables arranged like a works canteen. I presume that it no longer exists.  All good things come to an end.  There, we all ordered Soupe a l’Oignon because it was quite cold, it being January.

Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients:  50 grams of butter, 1 kilogram of diced onion, 1.2 litres of beef stock. Salt and pepper.  Six slices of French bread toasted. (I prefer the bread to be from a larger loaf so that the slices are about the size of  the palm of a hand). 125 grams of gruyere cheese.

Gently fry the onions in butter, stirring from time to time, for up to 40 minutes.  Add the beef stock, salt and pepper.  Bring to the boil, cover and continue cooking for twenty minutes. Sprinkle the cheese on the toast and grill until golden brown.  Pour out the soup into bowls and place a slice of toast on top.  Serve.

The cameraman from Paris, my friend Paul Badin, took me to the Bec Rouge in Monaco for dinner.  The place seemed small to me, being the size of an average high street shop,  but the size of a restaurant is no guide to its excellence and, in any case, Paul had had experience of this place.  He advised me to have their Rougets al la Nicoise.  I found it very bony, but the taste was exceptional.

Here’s the recipe:

Several Red Mullet (Rouget), cooking oil, garlic, anchovy fillets and stuffed olives.
Method:  Grill the mullet or fry them in oil. Put them in a dish and cover them with chopped tomatoes which have been lightly stewed in oil.  Reduce the tomatoes and season with a touch of garlic.
Decorate the upper side of the fish with the anchovy fillets and stuffed olives.

We continued to search for a good restaurant.  We tried a few in Monaco and we were not impressed.

The following year, with cameraman Vittorio Della Valle, our man from Rome, we filmed the leading cars and the Datsuns leaving Menton for the mountains. With nothing more to do for the day, the cars being away from Monaco overnight, we decided to look for somewhere to have lunch.

Between the 1967 Monte Carlo and Safari Rallies and January 1968, we got a new Vice-president in charge of UPITN (as we were now called) in London.  One of his first decrees was that we could no longer operate the Per Diem system and that we  would have to provide receipts for everything.  This was a man who was an expert, himself, at making the most of expenses.

In Monte Carlo, it was our practice to lunch at the Roxy Restaurant in the Boulevard des Moulins, a short distance from the Casino.  We were usually served by Andrew who would stand at the foot of our table and join in our conversation when it was appropriate.  It usually was because it would be about food or drink.

I told the gathering that our boss had stopped the Per Diem system and that we would now have to provide receipts. The crew were infuriated by this.  Andrew left the table and shortly afterwards returned and threw down in front of each of us a pad of blank Roxy Restaurant bills.  I still have mine.

roxyBecause of this turn of events, we decided that we would always eat in the best available restaurants.  Della Valle and myself were working in Menton, filming the passing through of the Rally cars.  When they had all gone,  Della Valle hailed a taxi and he asked to be taken to the best restaurant in Menton.  We got in the taxi, he did a left turn onto the seafront, La Promenade du Soleil,  and dropped us outside a restaurant only a hundred yards away from where he picked us up.  It was worth the ride.

Monte7We went inside and found a table for two deep inside.  The restaurant was almost full which was somewhat surprising in that it was the third week in January. The man who came to our table was short, a little overweight with a big moustache.  He was Italian, the restaurant was “Le Golfe de Naples”.

Somehow, Della Valle knew he was Italian and he spoke to him.  We were treated royally and had a first class lunch.  We had Brodo di Pollo or Chicken broth and “Abacchio al Forno”  or Roast lamb with Rosemary.  It was just right for a cold day in January.

Della Valle told the “Patron”, for that is who our waiter was, that we were a large crew working on the rally and that we liked to eat well in the evenings.  Patron said “you will be very welcome” and he showed us a long table partly closed off from the rest of the restaurant.  We booked it for that evening.

When the whole crew were, once again, reassembled back in Monte Carlo, we told them that we had found the ideal restaurant, heaps better than those in Monte Carlo.

rally2Our party consisted of  cameramen Vittoria Della Valle, Paul Badin, Jacques Hubinet,  soundman Monsieur Corsi (I worked with him  for five years and never knew his first name), Ken Watanabe, our man from Tokyo,  Alan Wilson, cameraman,  from ITN, M. Bianci and M. Gaudin, colleagues and friends of Hubinet, newsreel cameramen from Marseilles, and myself.

We sat at the long table and had an aperitif, mine being Scotch and Soda. The Patron came to the table with a pad, with him came two waiters already holding plates of food.  One waiter lay down on the table three large piping hot pizzas while the other lay down three plates of chipped potatoes.  These were no ordinary chips.  They were the size of fish fingers and were fried in oil laced with garlic.  So, we had a mini feast before we started.

We ordered a three bottles of red wine, a Valpolichello and two bottles of Orvieto.

Patron said he would like to show us something.  He opened a bottle of Valpolichello and poured each of us a small amount in the glass.  He asked us to taste the wine.  He then got a large jug and proceeded to pour in the rest of the bottle from about three feet above the jug.  From the jug, he now poured each of us a half glass of wine.  We tasted it and could not believe that it was the same wine.  It was wonderful.  He said that when a bottle is opened to “breathe”, it only has the area of the top of the wine in the bottle with which to do so.  By pouring the wine from a height, it gathered air and got livened up.

Monte Carlo plates1Patron asked us whether we wanted meat or fish.  A quick discussion led to the verdict that we would eat fish, knowing this would be favourite with Watanabe and the four men from Marseilles.

The fish was, at least, two feet long and had been cooked in one piece, it was a Sea Bass or Loup de Mer. It was placed on the table and the waiter produced a thin knife from his belt.  He looked round at us all, just to ensure that each and every one of us was watching.

Holding the knife handle, between his thumb and all his outstretched fingers, he proceeded , with one swipe, to remove the skin from head to tail and from the middle to the side.  He then laid the skin back to reveal the white flesh.  He then took another look around to see if he still had our attention and then he reversed the blade so that it was now pointing towards himself, then he removed the bottom half of the skin  with a single swipe and he laid it back.  At this point we all applauded.

He then doled out large chunks of succulent Loup de Mer.

We washed the fish down with some bottles of Frascati.

We had a wonderful meal and when we had finished eating, a guitarist started to play. As his piece reached a crescendo, waiters all around the restaurant came into the aisles and spun two plates each on the tiled floor.  They were in perfect synchronisation with the guitarist and the plates all collapsed at the same time with a great noise.  Such showmanship.

Patron appeared at the end of the table with a bottle of Cognac under his arm and a small brandy glass held on each of his fingers.  He poured us a glass and left the bottle on the table.

The table cloths were of parchment.  It resembled high class watercolour paper.  Patron sat down at the end of our table and proceeded to write up the bill on the table cloth.  When he finished, he tore it off and presented it to me.  I paid the bill and we left, but, you can imagine, over the next few nights, whenever we could we were there.  We would also be  there for some years after.

The bill was about eighteen inches long and about nine inches wide.  To me it would have been a treasured memento, but the miserable people in ITN accounts, who also acted for UPITN,  insisted on keeping it and would not let me have it.

When we left the restaurant, we walked past the open kitchen  where, if one went to the right, it would lead to the seafront, La Promenade du Soleil, whereas a turn to the left would lead to the parallel internal road, Avenue Felix Faure.  We turned left and found ourselves out in the street where Della Valle and I had first got into the taxi to find the restaurant.

Paul Badin filming in Monte Carlo

Paul Badin filming in Monte Carlo

I stood with Badin and Della Valle on the kerb looking up and down the street when Della Valle said “I’ve been here before”.   Badin said “So have I”  I said “When was that?”  Della Valle said “June 1940”,  Badin said “June 1940”.

Della Valle pointed to a building about two hundred yards to the east and on the north side of the road and said that from there he was filming the Italian invasion of France. (The border is just up the road from Menton) Badin pointed to a building on the other side of the road and said that he was there shooting at the Italians. What a coincidence !  They were great friends. (See Terry’s original article on his film website: A Meeting in Menton)

Italy had declared war on France on June 14th 1940.  The Italian forces were ill equipped, hardly battle-trained and unprepared for war.  There were 32 Divisions in 2 Armies, a total of 700,000 men, that invaded France from the Swiss border down to the Mediterranean.  The depleted French were outnumbered  two to one.  The Italian forces made heavy weather of it and 2,000 of them suffered from frostbite in the Alps.

Historians tell us that they made little progress on the coast where they were stopped at Menton by an NCO and seven men.  Surely Badin must have been one of them.  In the whole invasion, the Italians lost 641 men killed while the French only lost 40.

On 20th June, the Italians offered an armistice.  The French surrendered on June 22nd.

Further reading:

Motorsport: Monte Carlo Rally 1967 Part One
Motorsport: Monte Carlo Rally 1967 Part Two
A Meeting In Menton 1968
Monte Carlo Rally 1968
Monte Carlo Rally 1971
Monte Carlo Rally 1972
1973 Monte Carlo Rally

Next Chapter: Chapter 49: The Safari Rally

© Terence Gallacher 2015.  Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Terence Gallacher and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

2 thoughts on “Chapter 48: Eating in Monte Carlo

  1. An outstanding story, great reading even though I was privileged to hear it direct from the horses mouth on one of the many memorable evenings around the dining table at Chez Gallacher.

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