When Didier Rubiolo closed the doors at Stars’N’Bars on January 27, he said he would be back with big changes. He has lived up to his word.
His awe-inspiring new restaurant, Conscientiae, is the place to be. Not in the “Look at me, I’m dancing on the tables” kind of way, but rather to “BE”.
“This is a new chapter but not a new Stars’N’Bars,” affirms Didier. “Stars was a big family institution that Kate Powers and I were very lucky to have created. This is continuity but we have to differentiate ourselves from that brand with a new name. I am excited to face this new challenge, something that is so positive.”
When Conscientiae opens on July 29, there will be no lingering sentimentality from the previous space. Gone are the shiny cars and memorabilia covering the walls with big screen TVs and music. Instead, the zen-garden vibe interior will feature natural materials and plants, mirrors and soft lighting with the noticeable absence of noise: no music or televisions. A spectacular six-meter olive tree will hold court in the middle of the marble-finished bar.
Open all day, the main floor restaurant (with a terrace from September) will serve 200 customers total a day instead of 800 with lunch (12-3 pm) and dinner from 7 pm. There will be afternoon tea with, say, a choice of a sandwich or homemade cake, and breakfast will be available in due time.
Having arrived in Monaco 40 years ago as a classically-trained chef, Didier has “pioneered the concept of healthier, conscious, and mindful dining” since early 2000s. His awareness for the environment blossomed when he and Kate started spending time on their sailboat, which led them to cofound Monacology back in 2004. “Years ago, 30 miles from the coast the blue Mediterranean Sea lay before you. Now all you see is plastic, tires and pollution. When sailing you’d see a few cruise ships and then, especially before Covid, it was cruise liners and tankers – bigger and bigger – between Spain, Corsica and Croatia.”
With Conscientiae – which in Latin is “con”’ (with) et “scientia’ (knowledge) – Didier has transformed Stars’N’Bars’ 1800-square-metres into the country’s first multifeatured centre for environmental innovation with an eco-oriented restaurant, wellbeing floor and a private club space on the top floor. Even though the concept carries on the sustainable vision Didier and Kate both shared for our planet, there is no point in comparing restaurants.
Conscientiae is completely different – a smaller, calming space to unwind over a 3-hour meal with prices ranging from €16 to €50. “Nowadays we are always rushing around,” says Didier. “Here it will be the opposite. You’ll have a table and space, where you are not bothered by noise and have simple food that is elaborately prepared so you can discover things that you would not have at home.”
Didier is creating a narrative. “There will be a story behind everything we do, from our suppliers – a small producer who raises his animals outdoors and loves them – to serving our neutral water in beautiful crystal-filled glass carafes.”
He explains that locally-sourced plant-based produce will be the stars of his limited menu. While a restaurant garden is in the pipeline from next year, for now Didier is working with Alexandra Garavan, who supplies three-star chefs with vegetables. “I’m not going to tell her what I want; I will ask what she has and we will then make something. That’s the opposite of what happens at the moment.” For the launch, Didier is going back to his kitchen roots to explore a “menu for the planet”.
The zero-waste policy will continue. “We did this with Stars’N’Bars and we will continue to push it further. We will try and reduce waste in the kitchen and our water consumption, with water for rinsing veggies to be reused in the vegetable garden. We will separate and weigh all of our garbage and we will know exactly what comes in and what goes out, in terms of waste. The important thing with portions is for customers to eat everything on their plate so that nothing is thrown away.”
Additionally, no industrial products or processed foods will be used. “Today we have substitutes for plastic packaging, but even these have a life cycle that is really short. It has to stop. If you want to take away a plat du jour, we will make 20 to 30 portions packed in Monaco’s new glass take-away dishes and when there is none left, there is none left. You want a coffee-to-go? Bring your own cup.”
Didier is outspoken when it comes to over-consumption and the environment. “If we look at global warming the best thing is to consume less – it’s the easiest and most rapid technology. Do we need 25 cars? Do we need 10 pairs of shoes? It’s not logical. We overload ourselves, and we have to pay for that. I have a bicycle that’s 30 years old, but it’s not because it’s 30 years old that I need to change it. It works. I don’t understand.
“I’m not against smart growth. With Conscientiae, I’m creating a business concept that doesn’t exist in Monaco. The profitability is simple. Yes, we are lucky to have a huge space to bring together all these values and to shape a thought-provoking platform where entrepreneurs, investors, and tastemakers are brought together to defy the status quo by leading positive changes.”
He acknowledges that, “There will always be people who won’t like this change but we – my manager, my chef, my cleaner – are proud to work in such a place. We will have confidence in our environment, and in human values. It’s not an ego trip, I’ve gained wisdom, I’ve understood.”
Didier stops for a moment and leans in. “You know, I’ve met many small producers and when I see their passion in growing each tomato, when they explain each plant, I think, ‘Wow, you can no longer just eat a tomato in front of the TV. It deserves to be appreciated.’
“This is what we are trying to communicate. Being aware of this moment that has been given to us. Which is why Conscientiae will really be the place to be.”
Article first published July 27, 2023.