Les Pierres du Rocher

Serge Thomas at Les Pierres du Rocher. Photos: Nancy Heslin

Healing stones used to be thought of as something hippies wore around their necks but in recent years celebrities like Jennifer Aniston and Adele (who uses crystals to reduce on-stage anxiety) have helped build the “near-gemstone” industry into a mainstream market worth more than $1 billion.

Although medically unproven, gemstones are widely believed to relieve stress and increase positive energy, amongst a long list of other health benefits, depending on the minerals. And during the current health pandemic, Millennials are especially turning to the power of metaphysics.

Labradorite, for example, is considered a spiritual and healing stone for people who tend to overwork. “This stone comes only from Madagascar,” says Serge Thomas, who opened Les Pierres du Rocher two years ago.

Described as a “hard worker,” “great guy” and “artist,” Serge is widely known in the local community even though he has always lived in France. “I was a pâtissière (pastry chef) and owned La Boule de Neige in La Turbie until I retired.”

Not quite ready for those golden years and wanting to maintain contact with people, Serge decided to open a business on 32 rue Felix Gastaldi in Monaco Ville. “This used to be a souvenir shop,” he says,” but I didn’t want to do that or become a métier de bouche (food service). I love nature and stones, and as stones are trendy these days, I opened Les Pierres du Rocher.”

His clientele is made up of both tourists and locals from Monaco. “Of course, we had to close for two months during confinement and we completely suffered. 60% to 70% of my business comes from tourists, but there are no tourists.”

Serge points to his bestseller, a wall of bracelets, costing between €9 to €50. “It is all about the quality of the stone, so the higher the grade, the more expensive. If it’s just for decoration (or costume jewellery) that’s fine, but it is better to buy a stone of quality,” he advises.

He shows me a fabulous Lithuanian natural amber necklace (€58). “Amber is fossilised resin that is washed out into the Baltic Sea,” explains Serge, “and many people don’t know this but it is very easy to make counterfeit amber.”

He laughs, “As a professional capable of knowing a good cake from a bad cake, I can also tell the quality of stone.”

Another hot in-store item, notably with spas currently shut down, is the €35 regenerating stone roller to reduce wrinkles, which another customer tells me “is very, very effective.”

“Minerals have a link with humans,” Serge says and his range of healing pieces come from around the world, from Madagascar to Peru, in every size you can imagine.

For Christmas, Serge, who happens to also be a talented ice sculptor, is selling wooden house-shaped advent calendars that you can fill how you wish (€80 to €90 everything included).

There is currently 20% off sale on everything in the store. You’ve heard of people bringing home sand from their beach vacation? This Christmas holiday in Monaco why not pick up a stone from the Rock?

Open daily 10:30 to 5:30

Les Pierres du Rocher
32 rue Felix Gastaldi, Monaco Ville

During Covid and confinement, let’s make an effort to support local businesses and services. Do you have a business or service to recommend for I ❤︎  MONACO? Email: GoodNewsMonaco

Stars’n’Bars

Kate Powers of Stars’n’Bars. Photo: Nancy Heslin.

With American Thanksgiving on Thursday, November 26, Good News Monaco is asking, in the year of Covid, what you are thankful for?

Kate Powers, the cofounder of Stars’n’Bars, shares, “I’m thankful for my family, my health, my faith and where I live. I also really appreciated the peace and quiet as well as the beauty of nature during confinement.”

Kate and her team are busy preparing for Stars’n’Bars annual traditional Thanksgiving lunch. “The French love this plat du jour – turkey, stuffing, corn bread, corn on the cob, creamed onions, with a side of homemade cranberry – all made from my mom’s and grandma’s recipes that I brought over from the States 31 years ago.”

The lunch, served from 11 am to 3 pm, is €19 or €24 with a drink and dessert (homemade pumpkin pie, apple pie and banana and ginger cake) but you need to reserve and if you want turkey with a view, make sure to ask for a table on StarDeck.

If you haven’t been to Stars’n’Bars for a while, you may be surprised. “Lockdown helped us wake up to necessary ecological changes that were more important than economical ones. However, we are now starting to see the positive results of both,” expresses Kate.

During the March to May confinement, Stars’n’Bars, like all restaurants in Monaco and France, was forced to close although Kate says that the staff of 60 were “quick to be supported” with financial assistance by the government. The team, which includes partner and manager Annette Anderson, stayed in touch by a WhatsApp group, brainstorming about new ideas for the eatery post-lockdown.

When the port side restaurant reopened on May 4, it was with a reduced menu focusing on local and organic ingredients. Gone were the Tex-Mex dishes that Stars’n’Bars has been known for since it opened in 1993, and, to the shock of many customers, Coca-Cola was also adiosed.

“We need to keep taking steps forward and raise awareness about wellness, whether its ours or the planet’s, and so we decided to cutback on industrial products that we import as much as possible,” explains Kate. “We have no industrial sodas—we cut out Coca-Cola and Sprite—and serve only organic colas made in Bordeaux.” (Fizz Bio’s cola, lime, orange, lemon and tonic sodas are made with organic brown cane sugar.)

“Some customers are upset that we stopped serving Coke and others get up and walk out when they see there is no longer Tex-Mex on the menu,” Kate admits. “I try to explain that most of the ingredients had to be imported and we are focusing on sourcing locally. It’s the same with Coke. When I tell people not to expect the taste of Coke with our organic soda, at first they are unsure but now they love it.”

The new menu focuses on quality not quantity – an aubergine burger for vegans, organic beef burgers, a temaki salad plus weekly suggestions, pasta dishes and daily specials (plat du jour ). “Our Caesar Salad is à la minute – chicken steamed and fresh bread croutons prepared right before serving.

“Honestly, we have had positive feedback that the menu is better than ever and there are a lot of new regulars returning several times a week.

Caesar Salad. Photo: SNB

Kate points out that anyone needing a fix of chili con carne, nachos or Asian ribs can email a suggestion to info@starsnbars.com to be considered as a weekly plat du jour.

Another new feature, Stars’n’Bars has collaborated with Dr François Seneca, a senior scientist at Centre Scientific Centre of Monaco next door, who has been making Kombucha for four years at home and is now using part of the Star Deck kitchen to produce the fermented drink. “We now have Kombucha pumps with different seasonal flavours, and you can buy a refillable decanter,” Kate remarks.

No surprise, the coffee is locally sourced from Monaco, the ice cream is locally sourced from Monaco and Menton and they now serve homemade jam made in Monaco by cofounder Didier Rubiolo. The popular Blue Coast beer is brewed in Nice.

“You know, after confinement, people couldn’t wait to eat out. You can see that some are still leery and only want to eat outside but that’s okay as we have lots of space between the terrace and three floors inside, including Star Deck where we’ve added plexiglass to open up the view.”

Lunchtime is super busy but as the restaurant can’t open until 7 pm with the current health measures in place, dinner service is slower. “We have had a pretty challenging year, especially now with the hours, but I feel blessed with what we can do in Monaco. Our staff is great when it comes to wearing masks and nobody has been sick. I wish we could open at 6 pm to cater to families and working people but we are lucky.”

Stars’n’Bars is only getting started on their ecological journey. “There will big changes in spring 2021,” Kate smiles. Although she remains tight-lipped on the matter, she hints that new technological, innovative, educational and fun ideas are in the makes.

“We realise how much people don’t like change but if we want to make a difference, we must change our habits. The planet can do without us but we can’t do without the planet,” says Kate Powers.

Today kicked off the 2nd Monegasque edition of the European Week
for Waste Reduction. Over the next nine days, more than
30 associations, government agencies, businesses and individuals
in Monaco will be supporting the campaign to reduce,
reuse and recycle waste. At Stars’n’Bars, zero waste activities
will be shown in the children’s playroom.

Open daily 11 am to 3 pm and 7 pm to 9:30 pm. Breakfast to go is also available.

Stars’n’Bars
6 Quai Antoine 1er

During Covid and confinement, let’s make an effort to support local businesses and services. Do you have a business or service to recommend for I ❤︎  MONACO? Email: GoodNewsMonaco

Parfumerie Edith Harlay

Florence Pronzati founder of Edith Harlay. Photos: Nancy Heslin

Before Covid took over headlines this year, it was announced that the Centre Commerical in Fontvieille would be expanded into a 4-storey glass building with a multiplex cinema, a 600-spot car park and state-owned housing on the top floor. The €300 million project is scheduled for delivery in 2027, and will see the shopping mall expand from 13,000 sqm to 14,000 sqm of retail space, growing from 38 to 70 stores.

The Centre Commerical first opened its doors in 1992 and nearly half of the original shops are still there. One of them is the independently owned perfumery Edith Harlay, created by Florence Pronzati and named as homage to her mother.

Energetic and welcoming, Florence was truly born for customer service. Not only does she have a natural ability to make people feel happy but, in her opinion, “A sale is not a sale unless you’ve spent one-on-one time with a client giving advice.”

As a child, the Monegasque was “always attracted to pretty things and makeup.” She studied to become an aesthetician and in 1987 opened the beauty institute Cristal Esthétique, which she operated for five years. She then launched Edith Harlay in 1992. “I ran the two business for a few years and then decided to concentrate on the perfumery and so I sold Cristal, which is still around today.”

It’s been a tough year for commerce having to close completely for two months during the first coronavirus confinement. “It has been hard but Christmas is coming and we are still here smiling even with a mask,” Florence assures.

And she has noticed a trend as a result of the pandemic. “Consumers are trying to shop intelligently. Before Covid, we’d have 80 people come into the store and 50 would buy something. Now we have fewer customers but out of the 50 who come in, 48 make a purchase because they need something.”

Florence emphasises, “Customers can’t touch anything in the store. We help the client and we disinfect all the time, from the debit card machine after every use to the store itself. For every one or two customers who turn around and leave because they don’t like the new measures we have in place, I have 8 others who say thank you. If one of my employees tests positive, I would have to close.”

Including Florence, the perfumery has a team of five, all aestheticians, who give lots of advice, whether a client wants to buy makeup – “we take the time to show them by example, doing one eye and then letting them do the other”– or perfume. “Whether you want to buy for yourself or as a gift, there are a number of questions we ask to match a perfume with a personality, such as are you an introvert or extrovert, do you live in a sunny climate, what is your work environment?”

The top selling perfume at the moment for women is Libre by Yves Saint Laurent. J’adore remains a hot item, as does any Chanel scent, and Idôle by Lancome, which came out last year. Florence also carries the niche perfume, Serge Lutens (€120), which is hard to find elsewhere.

I did not know this but Florence explains for many French women born in the Sixties and Seventies, Nina Ricci’s L’air du Temps, with its signature dove bottle stopper, was their first fragrance. “It was my first perfume,” says Florence, “and now Les Sorbets by Nina Ricci, part of her Les Belles collection, is what young girls often wear.”

For many French women, Nina Ricci’s L’air du Temps was their first perfume.

For men, Terre d’Hermès is the biggest seller at the moment along with Paco Rabanne’s 1 Million cologne, sold in what looks like a bar of gold.

On the makeup side, Florence says, “I cannot say that one brand is better than the other. Chanel, YSL, Christian Dior, Lancôme … it all depends on what you are looking for but we can help you choose.”

The boutique also has a nail bar (€32 for a simple manicure with massage and scrub) and does eyebrow waxing on site.

There are lots of Christmas gift options “for all budgets,” including gift boxes with a focus on certain brands, fun themed gifts packages starting from €19.80, hand made Acqui de Parma candles and even advent calendars for couples.

“I know I’m repeating myself,” says Florence, “but our biggest strength is that we here to explain the products to the customers and it is really satisfying to hear them say ‘Thank you so much, I really appreciate your advice’ as they leave with a purchase in hand.”

Well, when Grace Kelly, who would have been 91 today, picked up the Oscar for The Country Girl in 1955, she said on the red carpet that wearing Chateau Krigler 12 perfume was her “lucky charm.” Maybe Florence Pronzati can help you discover yours.

Open Monday to Saturday, 9:30 to 7: 30 p.m.

Parfumerie Edith Harlay
Centre Commercial Fontvieille

During Covid and confinement, let’s make an effort to support local businesses and services. Do you have a business or service to recommend for I ❤︎  MONACO? Email: GoodNewsMonaco

La Ligne Idéale Monaco

Cecile Gerbaud. Photos: Nancy Heslin

In the Netflix series Emily in Paris, the American protagonist receives a gift of lingerie from a French client, which she tells him is “a tad inappropriate.” Antoine replies, “I didn’t buy it for me. I bought it for you. I want you to feel sexy and powerful.”

Clearly Antoine out of touch: in the year of Covid and confinements, comfy and cocooning are the tendance.

La Ligne Idéale at 35 blvd Princesse Charlotte has a range of lingerie and nightwear that is comfy-cosy but still provides a validating feeling of oh la la that we all need, even more so when we are staying at home.

Opened more than 70 years ago below the Hotel Alexandra, La Ligne Idéale is supposedly the second oldest commerce in Monaco (Optique Grosfillez opened in 1880). Lyonnaise Dominique Collet took over as owner in 2012 and caters to a loyal clientele aged 20 to 90. “We have 80-year-old great-grandmothers who have been regular customers since their mothers bought them here to buy their first bra.”

The independent lingerie boutique (there are only three in Monaco) sells a variety of brands, mostly made in France or Italy, with styles ranging from classic to plus sexy, appealing to all ages and all tastes. “People stop to look in the window but don’t come in because they think that all shops in Monaco are expensive. This is not true. We have something for all budgets,” says Dominique.

The adorable Cecile Gerbaud who runs the boutique says that lingerie—Ambra, Wocoal, Triumph—is their top-seller, but their collection of silk or velour lingerie-to-wear pieces (nighties, robes, babydolls, nightshirts and pants, Charmeuse camisoles) by Marjolaine for “elegant cocooning” at home has become very popular.

There’s also reshape girdles, pretty but practical nightwear, Girardi tights and stockings and the essential CuddlySocks. And for those looking to spice things up, why not ask Santa for a little HankyPanky in your stocking this Christmas?

Open Monday to Friday, 9:30 am to 6:45 pm.

La Ligne Idéale Monaco
35 Boulevard Princesse Charlotte, Monaco

During Covid and confinement, let’s make an effort to support local businesses and services. Do you have a business or service to recommend for I ❤︎  MONACO? Email: GoodNewsMonaco

Patisserie Riviera

Chef Alex. Photos: Nancy Heslin

This iconic salon de thé at 27 Boulevard des Moulins has been un point de reference. in Monaco since 1955.

Owners Alexander Seleznev (aka Chef Alex) and Nicolai Zhur took over in 2015 having opened Pâtisserie Seleznyoff in their native Moscow in 2004.

Chef Alex studied at the Moscow Culinary Institute and has written several books on Russian cuisine. A famous face is his homeland, he also had his own TV show and made appearances as a celebrity chef on other programs including at La Maison du Chocolat.

Caterina Reviglio Sonnino, Nicolai Zhur and Alexander Seleznev  

At Patisserie Riviera everything is made from scratch and on the premises. Nicolai says that their hottest seller (after the viennoiseries, bien sûr) is their line of gluten-free products—cakes, chocolates (also lactose- and sugar-free) and their Jordan almonds (les dragées).

Along with Caterina Reviglio Sonnino who works at the café and is helping to develop their brand, English, French, Italian and Russian are spoken. During Covid, lunch service has stopped but pop by for a super creamy café crème (€3.50) and croissant (€1.50) in the ornately green tea room or outside terrace. The caviar fridge is still running just fine, too, if you need a snack to go.

Open daily from 8 am to 1 pm. & 3 pm to 7 pm (except Sunday afternoons).

Patisserie Riviera
27 Boulevard des Moulins, Monaco

During Covid and confinement, let’s make an effort to support local businesses and services. Do you have a business or service to recommend for I ❤︎ MONACO? Email: GoodNewsMonaco