Are You Talking Sushi? David Mercer Visits Sovereign City-State Monaco for the Opening of Robert De Niro's New Restaurant

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), July 12, 2014 | Go to article overview

Are You Talking Sushi? David Mercer Visits Sovereign City-State Monaco for the Opening of Robert De Niro's New Restaurant


IT may be known as a playground for the rich and famous, but the arrival of one of Hollywood's most celebrated actors still causes ripples of excitement across Monaco.

Robert De Niro is in town for the official launch of the new Nobu restaurant, a luxury chain specialising in Japanese food, which the Oscar-winning actor co-founded.

The Raging Bull star chose the sovereign city-state in the south of France because "it symbolises luxury and a certain kind of lifestyle - a romantic, glamorous lifestyle."

And visiting Monaco, it's clear there's plenty on offer beyond the glamour of celebrity parties, royal parades and Formula 1. I arrive in the principality on the day of Nobu's launch and the appearance of its famous American co-owner. And I arrive in style.

Flying British Airways from Gatwick to Nice, you're given the chance to drop in by helicopter. It's PS107 for just 10 minutes but the views are incredible and the VIP feeling priceless.

I'm staying at the Fairmont Hotel, easily recognisable to Formula 1 fans as it's next to the famous hairpin bend on the Monte Carlo circuit.

The hotel is also home to the newest Nobu restaurant - and 180 guests, including Prince Albert II and Princess Charlene of Monaco are attending a Japanese Sake ceremony to mark its launch.

He may be in the restaurant business but De Niro can't cook, according to his long-time friend and business partner, chef Nobuyuki "Nobu" Matsuhisa.

"We've known each other for 25 or 26 years," he says. "He's a great actor and a good friend, but he doesn't know how to cook.

"We are a good team. He understands my philosophy. He likes good food and he trusts my quality.

"Now he eats anything. Except oysters, he doesn't like oysters."

Chef Nobu was keen to bring his restaurant to Monaco where many of his regular customers live. It's clear the principality appeals to the wealthy and nowhere is this more evident than the district of Monte Carlo. The area offers a glimpse into the lifestyle of Monaco's wealthy residents as Ferraris and Lamborghinis pass by designer shops and luxury restaurants.

One driver takes exception to me snapping pictures of his car, blacking out his windows at the touch of a button, as he parks outside Monte Carlo Casino.

The tight security around Monaco and, in particular, Monte Carlo, is one reason it remains a popular destination with the world's highest earners.

Photographers require permits to take pictures and police officers are keen to ensure this rule is enforced. …

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