By John O’Ceallaigh
I wouldn’t say I’ve become in any way inured to luxury hotels, but I’ve been lucky to visit so many over the years that these days it rarely happens that a property leaves me truly breathless. But that was my response upon arrival to the Maybourne Riviera in the south of France, almost directly on the Italian side of the border with Monaco, for two reasons:
- Upon seeing that it was less than 3km away from my base at the Hotel de Paris in Monte-Carlo, I decided to walk there. I doubt many future guests will make the same mistake, but be warned that this is a bad idea. Google maps led me up a surprisingly vertiginous, craggy and overgrown mountain path, and along a circuitous, pavement-free roadway so when I finally arrived I was sweating, panting and somewhat distressed.
- The hotel’s setting, on the precipice of a clifftop that overlooks Monaco, France and Italy, is off-the-charts spectacular. I arrived in the radiant light of mid-morning on another blue-sky day to see hang gliders looping past almost at eye level, and sail boats and yachts bobbing along in the shimmering Med so far down below.
Although semi-operational when I dropped by, the hotel will only open officially in March. While I didn’t spend long on site that day, everything I saw during that morning gave the impression that the Maybourne Riviera is on course to become one of the Mediterranean’s few truly iconic properties.
The hotel’s lobby level really does make the most amazing impact, with double-height windows providing those incredible blue views from its Riviera Restaurant. Much of the interiors on this floor have been designed by Bryan O’Sullivan, who has already reinterpreted key spaces within the Maybourne Hotels’ London properties (Claridge’s, The Connaught, The Berkeley) and most recently oversaw the renovation of Park Hotel Kenmare in his Irish hometown. Other areas have been envisioned by André Fu, Pierre Yovanovitch, Michelle Wu and Rigby & Rigby.
The most impressive venue of all, I thought, was chef Mauro Colagreco’s Mediterranean seafood restaurant Ceto, whose spooling patterns on the ceiling resemble ripples on the water’s surface, and where a sprawling terrace provides another startling panorama (among the other restaurants to come will be one overseen by Jean-Georges Vongerichten, who already has a presence in The Connaught). Set into the descending mountainside some levels below, the infinity pool is flanked by loungers the same cheery orange as an Aperol Spritz. Still under construction during my visit, the André Fu-designed spa will be found here too. Should guests want to relax directly by the sand and sea, transfers will take them to the hotel’s Riviera Playa beach club.
All of those spaces are unabashedly and beautifully modern, which also provides a counterpoint from the storied properties that most commonly welcome members of the superyacht set when they deign to overnight in the French Riviera. Back in Monaco, the superb Hotel de Paris is more traditional; the same goes for Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc 50 minutes away in Antibes while there’s no property that comes close to this level in Nice or Cannes. Though much of the inventory was out of bounds during my visit, the entry-level bedroom I saw was crisp, calm and lovely, with its own dainty balcony, a standalone stone bathtub and Maybourne Riviera-branded toiletries.
The more unexpected aesthetic additions to the property come from its museum-worthy art collection, which includes works by Louise Bourgeois and Le Corbusier, and furniture by one-time neighbour Eileen Grey (like Maybourne’s owner Paddy McKillen, here roots were in Ireland). And from afar, the hotel itself is a beacon, newly appreciated by locals as a thing of beauty. The completely renovated building once housed the Vista Palace hotel but lay derelict for years before McKillen converted it at last into this dramatically beautiful property. At night, its exterior is lit up tastefully in golden lights and can be seen for miles, extending a honey-hued invitation to visit to all those in the Principality or lolling in their superyachts down below at sea.
LUTE is a luxury-travel consultant and content agency that works with hotel groups, tour operators, tourist boards, airlines and more. You can learn more about LUTE here. For frequent luxury-travel updates, follow LUTE and LUTE founder John O’Ceallaigh on Instagram.