Reimagining elegance: the Café de Paris transformation

Simon Rawlings at the Cafe de Paris Monaco

Monaco’s historic Café de Paris has undergone a remarkable rebirth, transforming into a world-class destination after a two-year and €55 million renovation. Monaco Life explores the intricacies of the project’s design and how the Café de Paris came to live up to its iconic reputation.

Dating back to 1868 as Café Divan, originally constructed by François Blanc, the Café de Paris has undergone multiple transformations, with its most recent rebuild completed in 2023.

Entrusting the renovation to the esteemed David Collins Studio, renowned for prestigious projects worldwide, owner Monte-Carlo Société des Bains de Mer aimed to preserve the original DNA while modernising this iconic establishment.

According to the Studio’s Chief Creative Officer Simon Rawlings, it was vital that the new design integrate the Café de Paris seamlessly within the Triangle d’Or and its iconic neighbours: the Hôtel de Paris and the legendary Casino de Monte-Carlo. The goal was not for the Café de Paris to stand out but to harmonise with its surroundings.

The view from the Cafe de Paris
The Café de Paris sits alongside its famous neighbours the Hôtel de Paris, opposite, and the Casino de Monte-Carlo on the left. Photo by Monaco Life

“What gives this a timelessness in terms of longevity is the connectivity between the Café de Paris and what you’re seeing in the Hôtel de Paris across the square, to the Casino de Monte-Carlo, and all around. It feels like it all fits together, because with such a high-profile venue, we didn’t want it to standout,” Rawlings tells Monaco Life.

Timeless authenticity: modernising while preserving heritage

The rebuild successfully created an atmosphere that feels both familiar and new. Rawlings notes that the design draws inspiration from various sources.

“If you look around this grand café, there are inspirations from everywhere. The moulding details were taken from the main ballroom of the Hôtel de Paris, the colour palate came from the iconic glass screens in the original Café de Paris, which have been retained and brought front and centre in this design. There’s a relevance to everything, and that’s the key.”

The original screens of the Cafe de Paris
The original horoscope dividers have been restored and reinstated in the Café de Paris. Photo by Monaco Life

The result is a carefully curated space that feels authentic, blending the old with the new.

A market-inspired vibe was also introduced, featuring a lemonade bar at the front and a fish counter at the rear, encouraging patrons to explore the venue fully.

The true impact of the redesign will be felt in summer, says Rawlings, when giant glass doors seamlessly connect the Café to the bustling Casino Square.

Versatility in design: adapting to diverse experiences

The Café de Paris caters to a diverse audience, from tourists seeking the Café’s legendary ambience to locals looking for a chic brasserie or a late meal after the opera. The two-level structure provides flexibility, with a more intimate and formal atmosphere upstairs and a vibrant, informal setting on the ground floor.

Private areas offer options for events, gatherings and parties, with the entire first floor available for exclusive hire.

The design allows for a range of experiences, from a casual aperitivo at the bar or quick work lunch to a formal dinner replete with white table cloths in cosy booths.

Private rooms at the Cafe de Paris
Upstairs provides patrons with a more formal dining experience. Photo by Monaco Life.

A Parisian touch in Monaco: crafting an authentic atmosphere

Rawlings and his team aimed for authenticity in the Café de Paris redesign, sourcing materials from French manufacturers and drawing inspiration from Parisian brasseries.

The challenge was to capture the essence of a city brasserie while adapting to Monaco’s unique climate and sunlight.

“One of the things I was very adamant on from day one, is that whatever we put in here, it had to be authentic; it shouldn’t feel like a film set, so we used the original bentwood chairs, for example, not versions of,” reveals Rawlings. “We took inspiration from the brasseries on the Champs Elysée, but then we had to make it feel less urban.”

The bar at the Cafe de Paris
The stunning turquoise bar serves the first floor dining room and terrace of the Café de Paris. Photo by Monaco Life

Therefore, the architectural envelope was lightened, floors brightened, and walls painted to create a paler environment that complements the Mediterranean setting.

In summer, the roof opens up, providing a near-outdoor experience. The design balances traditional brasserie decor, such as pleated lampshades and classic pewter bars, with a modern touch.

Artistic flourish: elevating the dining experience

Art plays an important role in the Café de Paris’s ambience. Original artworks commissioned specifically for the restaurant add a unique touch. The artwork, particularly on the first floor, reimagines the classic French-brasserie poster art in a new collage-style presentation, mixing various historic prints and enhancing the overall aesthetic of the room.

Original images of the café’s bygone days, blown up and displayed en route to the restrooms, further immerse patrons in the establishment’s rich history.

Cafe de Paris interior
The anchoring centrepiece of the Café de Paris, the light sculpture, also serves as a connection between the two floors. Photo by Monaco Life.

A tower of lights: connecting spaces with sculptural elegance

The most spectacular piece of art is the lighting centrepiece, a tower of lights that was designed by Simon Rawlings and conceived as a visual link between the two floors. Initially featuring wine bottles, then inspired by globe chandeliers, the design evolved into a sculptural masterpiece.

The tower, suspended through the floor and ceiling, adds a touch of glamour and connects the spaces seamlessly.

“I wanted each floor to feel the connectivity of a design detail and for there to be an activity in that design,” reveals Rawlings. “So, the idea is that you descend the stairs glamourously on this very plush, deep red carpet. It is very sexy. Then at some point you pause – I see everybody stopping at about three steps from the bottom – take a photograph and then continue. It has that effect. I like building those kind of experiences into the spaces.”

Lighting is a critical aspect of the ambience of the Café de Paris. Photo by Monaco Life.

Creating atmosphere through lighting: a delicate balance

Lighting was a critical aspect of the design, with multiple fixtures contributing to warmth and ambience. The team has purposefully avoided modern spotlights in favour of a whole range of decorative, brasserie fixtures to maintain a classic Parisian vibe.

“Ultimately in brasseries, light fixtures are the decoration and artwork,” explains Rawlings. “If you look at any traditional brasserie, the more lights, the more impressive; it’s all about the lights.”

The bar as a focal point: adding energy and elegance

The bar, a globally recognised and familiar element to all patrons, serves as a focal point at the new Café de Paris, adding energy and elegance to the vast space. Beyond its functional purpose, the bar becomes a centrepiece, creating a sense of theatre and engagement for patrons.

The bar of the Cafe de Paris
The bar is one of the most striking elements of the entire café. Photo by Monaco Life

“When you enter a space this big, it can be kind of daunting the first time, and bars are very familiar,” says Rawlings. “I also think a bar gives energy to a room, more than a show kitchen, because a bar is always in use; it’s active but it’s not disruptive. I think the art of mixing a cocktail or pouring a drink can be quite elegant and sexy; it just creates a sense of theatre.”

The Café de Paris redesign stands as a testament to the delicate art of preserving history while embracing modernity. The result is an iconic destination that seamlessly blends Monaco’s charm with timeless elegance, inviting patrons to indulge in an immersive and unforgettable experience. The new chapter of the Café de Paris is sure to be a long one.

See it all in our YouTube video below…

New video: the Café De Paris transformation

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Main photo: Simon Rawlings at the Café de Paris, by Monaco Life