Robb Recommends: Christophe Cussac’s Mediterranean cuisine shines at Les Ambassadeurs in Hotel Metropole

les ambasseuders

Cussac has ramped up The Principality’s already sparkling reputation for culinary excellence

It’s as synonymous with the jet-set lifestyle as Neapolitan tailoring, Riva yachts and Jackie O’s sunglasses. Since the doors fronting its neoclassical, Belle Époque palace façade were first flung open in 1897, Hotel Metropole has attracted an elite class of international clientele, drawn to it by a plethora of factors: its location (just off place de Casino, and a 10-minute walk from Port Hercules); the lush landscaping, strewn liberally with jasmine, in its grounds; and the attention to detail (how many hotels actually recruit a sound designer to ensure the aural landscape is as congenial as possible?).

Add to that, in the modern era, the design smarts—Karl Lagerfeld devised the rooftop pool area, while Didier Gomez renovated the Givenchy spa. And then, of course, there’s its cuisine. And this last category got a serious booster earlier this year when “Les Ambassadeurs by Christophe Cussac”—a five-star restaurant in the century-old palace, serving up Mediterranean cuisine inspired by Chef Cussac’s own gastronomic heritage—became yet another of the hotel’s already abundant offerings.

Hotel Metropole’s iconic façade
Hotel Metropole’s iconic façade. Photo by Will Pryce

Christophe Cussac’s culinary journey is the stuff of dreams. The narrative begins when he was just eight years old, and his grandmother taking charge of the kitchens at L’abbaye Saint Michel in (his father converted the property into the Relais & Châteaux hotel, and quickly obtained a Michelin star). A period with Joël Robuchon at three Michelin-starred-restaurant Jamin followed, then one with Troisgros Roanne and another four years at l’Hôtel Nikko – the first hotel restaurant ever to be awarded with two Michelin stars.

“Journeys like that of Christophe Cussac belong to a certain kind: that of chefs who live through their era by being at the right place at the right time,” is how the restaurant itself puts it: and these words will carry resonance with all who experience the offerings in a restaurant opening which has breathed new life into a cult venue of the 1920s.

Photo of Les Ambassadeurs
Les Ambassadeurs: a jewel in The Riviera’s culinary crown. Photo by Hotel Metropole/Les Ambassadeurs

Examples? The standout dishes include a freshly marinated sardine, caviar and Menton lemon – a zesty new spin on the well-earned reputation of Mediterranean cuisine. Elegant simplicity is also the driving force behind the sea bream tartare and caviar cannelloni; the Gamberoni rossi, summer salad and rosemary burrata; an incredible lasagne mnade up of lobster, tarragon, spinach and spianata; the John Dory and artichoke and coriander broth; the veal chop, porcini mushroom sauce “Arroz de Calasparra” saffron seafood. The list goes on.

And that’s before we get onto the desserts: fresh, original, endlessly engaging dishes made with strict adherence to the importance of seasonal ingredients: from beechwood-smoked chocolate with crunchy gavotte to lemon tartlet with basil sorbet. Cussac’s thumb rule – in keeping with, but also furthering, the prevailing culinary zeitgeist here in mid-2023—is all about the elegance of not over-thinking cooking: think three flavours per dish, so as not to confuse—and therefore compromise—the meticulously curated ingredients.

Photo of Christophe Cussac
“Keep it simple, but above all good” — Christophe Cussac. Photo by Hotel Metropole/Les Ambassadeurs

Over to the man himself: “Over time, I’ve learned to simplify, to go straight to the products, without complicating them,” he says. “My goal is that when someone tastes my cooking, they immediately understand. And remember it. That’s my ideal. Keep it simple, but above all good.”

Hotel Metropole will be closing the hotel in October 2024 for a refurb about which we’re incredibly excited. Watch this space, when it comes to the results. The restaurants – including Les Ambassadeurs – will remain open through this period though. Which is a huge relief, as all epicureans – denizens and visitors alike – really should experience this glittering jewel in The French Riviera’s culinary crown.

This story was first published on Robb Report UK