With ski lifts and restaurants on the slopes closed, Fred Bouazis has “brought the mountains to Monaco.”
The owner of Before in Port Hercules has teamed up with Le Coin Fromager to put on Raclette Wednesdays. “Raclette is an amicable meal you share with a group of friends and we have created a very cosy terrace with heaters and blankets to recreate that après-ski vibe,” says Fred.
The first two Raclette soirées have been completely booked – there’s a 70 person limit and it’s reservation only – and the New Year’s fête on Wednesday, December 30, only has a few tables left.
No surprise. Le Coin du Fromager at Marché de la Condamine needs no introduction and if Michel Poma’s extraordinary cheeses and charcuterie (he’s also providing all the material to Fred) don’t tempt you, the €35 price for all-you-can-eat, not including drinks, surely will.
A year ago, Fred Bouazis would never have imagined he’d be a restaurateur serving melted cheese dishes. Named one of “Les 100 qui font Monaco” in 2020 by l’Observateur de Monaco, the niçois has built his reputation in after-work bars. He opened Before in Nice and Isola (both are closed) before bringing the concept to Monaco in June 2010.
He’s been in the industry for 25 years – including as artistic director at Sea Lounge, Director at Blue Gin Bar at Monte Carlo Bay and a stint promoting events at Twiga. “I had the opportunity to bring the concept of a place to meet after work to Monaco. And a decade later, we have become part of daily life here,” says Fred.
Prior to Covid, Before functioned as a bar open from 6 pm to 2 am with live music, DJs, finger food and drinks – wine was the top seller, but lots of cocktails and champagne in winter– and had anywhere from 150 to 200 people a night.
While the bar in Nice was popular with 30 year olds, in Monaco the clientele is local and active, mostly in their 40s with disposable income. “It is very international, people working in yachting, property and banking. Year round we have a local base, residents and those working in Monaco, but in the summer we also have lots of tourists.”
Not last summer. With bars closed by decree, Fred decided to transform his after-work hotspot into a restaurant. “This year has been special. We were closed completely the first confinement like everyone else. It has been a physiologically difficult transition but you have to make an effort,” he explains.
“It was a huge adjustment for our chef and for our kitchen but our team has been terrific. We have had to invest in restaurant tables and chairs, among other things. The government played its role well, quickly offering financial aid for employees and assistance for a loan to refinance, and even rent relief. We have six employees now, we had to let a few go, but we are super satisfied and grateful with the government’s assistance.”
Before started by opening only at lunch – €15 plat du jour, a €19 daily suggestion with glass of wine and coffee – between noon and 3 pm. “Our loyal after-work regulars started coming for lunch and we have new clients. With each lunch we got better and better at serving Mediterranean dishes beyond finger food – daube with ravioli, curry, and even the new trend of kangaroo. For €25, you can eat very well.”
The restaurant added dinner service, averaging about 60 diners per service. For Fred, respecting the current Covid measures – hand sanitizing, wearing masks, mandatory distance between tables, among a list of other protocol – is taken very seriously as the eatery is subject to random inspections, like those over the past week that shut down Beef Bar, Planet Sushi in Port Hercules, Huit et demi and Brasserie de Monaco and Cantinetta Antinori.
“I don’t know if things will remain the same after Covid but there are certain work methods and opening hours that I will keep, like lunch service during the Yacht Show or Jumping.” One thing he does know is that restaurants in Monaco “are lucky” to be able to remain open during the epidemic while neighbours in France are closed. (In a bid to reduce the rising number of Covid cases in the Alpes-Maritimes, Nice mayor Christian Estrosi is trying to have the France-Monaco borders closed except to those French with work attestations.)
“The misfortune of Covid, which has confined us and deprived us of going to a bar to have a drink with friends, has made us question our lives and open new horizons that are good,” Fred reflects.
“We are running businesses with la bonne franquette and trying to make money by welcoming as many people as possible within the health protocol. And all I know is that, for now, I have a new profession.”
Open noon to 3 pm and 7 to 9:30 pm from Tuesday to Saturday and Sunday lunch.
6 Route de la Piscine
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