Five prominent personalities with links to Mayfair and Monaco share their favourite memories, hidden gems and party hotspots

Word: Jonathan Whiley

Dame Shirley Bassey, Legendary singer and Monaco resident

What are your earliest memories of Mayfair?
When I was 16, I went to Mayfair and wow.. the shops! I thought to myself, when I have enough money, I'm coming shopping here and I did!

What are your earliest memories of Monaco?
Singing at the Sea Club at 19. I fell totally in love with the place, it’s beauty and the very elegant people. Who would have thought that one day I would live here!

When did you move to Monaco and what attracted you to move out there?
All of the above, I came to live here at my lucky 42 (age).

 Who do you call when you want to party in Mayfair?
Liz Brewer [author, socialite and etiquette expert] she organises great parties!

What's your favourite restaurant in Monaco?
The Maya Bay restaurant, Cipriani, The Yacht Club & The Grill at the Hotel de Paris.

Can you tell us about a place we might not know about in Monaco?
Monaco has this great open-air cinema upon ‘the Rock' It has fabulous houses there – one of them being the Palace, and the other a jail! The cinema faces the jail. At first, I didn't know whether to look up at the jail or the film! The film won.

Can you tell us about a memorable party you have been to in Mayfair?
There have been too many wonderful parties that I’ve been to in Mayfair.

Jean-Georges Vongerichten, World renowned Michelin-starred chef

What are your earliest memories of Mayfair?
In 1985, I was the chef at  90 Park Lane at The Grosvenor House hotel. One night, I went to The Connaught Grill and indulged in a truffle dinner led by Michel Bourdain, the chef at The Connaught at the time. I worked in London for a year and then moved on to my next venture. In 1995, we opened Vong at The Berkeley, a restaurant that was open for 10 years. We opened Jean-Georges at The Connaught in August 2017 and The Connaught Grill in January 2020. From my first visit and time in London to today, Mayfair holds a very special place in my heart, a lot of ‘firsts’ and almost 40 years of memories.

What are your earliest memories of Monaco?
The first time I went to Monaco was in 1976, when I was working at L’Oasis. It was, and still is to me, a luxurious, magical place with so much history and glamour – think of Grace Kelly. I’ll never forget my first time in Monaco, being able to see the Vista Palace all the way up the hill, the views, and the proximity to so many other cities. You also never forget your first time to a Formula One race in Monaco.

Tell us about a place you love in Mayfair?
Whenever I visit The Connaught, I go to Mount Street Gardens, my secret oasis and place where I bring a coffee, take a phone call, enjoy a bite to eat – a moment of peace for me. My first pub experience (which is now a restaurant) was at The Audley, where I had my first brown and bitter.

Tell us about somewhere we might not know about in Monaco?
One of my favorite places to visit when I’m in Monaco is La Turbie. The drive up is so scenic and once you’re there, you feel like you’re on top of the world.

What's your favourite dish at J-G at The Connaught and La Piscine by J-G at The Maybourne Riviera?
At The Connaught I love the fish and chips with mushy peas; at La Piscine the squash blossom pizza with sungold tomatoes, ricotta and mozzarella

What's the most memorable party you have been to in Mayfair/ Monaco?
Monaco: Almost a year ago, we hosted a private party with Mercedes at La Piscine which was pretty remarkable. It was memorable because it was one of the first times we had guests in the restaurant – to see the kitchen and dining room come to life was a very special moment. It was also a lot of fun!

Mayfair: At The Connaught, we hosted the first day of Grouse season with a special dinner and Alec Guinness was there. It wasn’t so much a party per se but more an intimate celebration.

Who is the most famous person you have met in Mayfair/Monaco?
Monaco: Prince Albert of Monaco. Mayfair: Alec Guinness and Daniel Craig.

Ayesha Vardag, ‘Britain’s top divorce lawyer’, founder and President of Vardags

What are your earliest memories of Mayfair?
My aunt, who was a flight attendant with Pan Am – which was very glamorous – used to meet us in Mayfair when she came in on flights and had a layover in London. My mother, grandmother and I would take the coach up from Oxford and we’d have dinner with her somewhere fancy. I thought it was the zenith of glamour and excitement.

What are your earliest memories of Monaco?
I had a French exchange in my teens who lived in Paris, and once I went with her to stay at her family’s apartment in Antibes. One day we went on a day trip to Monaco to see the Casino because this was the height of luxury.

What made you move to Monaco?
I moved to Monaco because I wanted to give my children a European, trilingual education. Having lived in Italy before, my small sons speak Italian as a first language, English as a second language and I also wanted them to have French. I very much wanted them to be in the real Monaco school system and I was fortunate enough to get the older boy, at three, a place at the Cours Saint-Maur, a charming French Catholic school in the centre of Monaco.

Also, Monaco is just such a central hub – it’s so easy to fly from Nice to anywhere – and is a completely golden village where you can feel safe and secure. That’s a very precious thing when you have children or are a woman.

How often are you in Mayfair?
I’m often in Mayfair because I come to London for meetings and different sorts of work things. Although I live in Monaco, I don’t practise law there. My law firm is in England, so the cases we do for our Monaco clients – and other international clients – are based in the famously desirable English divorce jurisdiction. A lot of my clients live in Mayfair so I often meet them for a discreet chat at Annabel’s, Mark’s Club or the Oxford and Cambridge Club.

There was a time when I actually lived on Pall Mall in a tiny apartment in between marriages, so I’m very fond of Mayfair and think it’s a really great place to actually live, not just to go out and socialise.

Tell us about a place you love in Mayfair?
I really love Pall Mall. When I had my tiny, tiny, one bedroom apartment there in Crusader House, I loved it because it was so central. I used to eat my breakfast (fried egg and toast) in the cafe directly below Crusader House; a lovely Italian just on Pall Mall close to Farlows. I’d have my breakfast there after running in St James’ Park. That was a very happy time of my life.

Tell us about somewhere we might not know about in Monaco?
There is a fantastic little theatre, Theatre Des Muses, and I saw a brilliant children’s performance there. I also really love Jardins de la Petite Afrique. It’s right in the centre of Monaco and is an incredibly lush, verdant garden full of very exotic plants and trees.

Favourite restaurant in Mayfair and Monaco?
It’s actually just outside Monaco at The Maybourne Riviera, because I love the view it has over the sea and over Monaco. I also like the Lebanese restaurant in the Hotel De Paris, Em Sherif. In Mayfair, I really like dining at Mark’s Club.

Who do you call when you want to party in Monaco?
I have a great bunch of friends and some of them have yachts and we’ll go off to La Guerite or Shellona and party with them. I have very social, party-loving friends but the reality is I am a working mother with two children under five, and so the thing I love most right now is an early night!

Lily Gabriella, Jewellery designer

How long were you in Monaco and what are your strongest memories of being raised there?
I’ve lived in Monaco for more than 30 years as my family moved there from Brazil when I was four years old. One of my strongest memories is performing for Prince Rainier at the Opéra Garnier as a six year old ballerina, as part of Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo. It was nerve-wracking but absolutely wonderful.

Fortunately I had the opportunity to perform on many occasions, and every time was just as special.

For me Opéra Garnier is truly the most beautiful place in Monaco.

What are your earliest memories of Mayfair?
Visiting antique jewellery stores such as S.J. Phillips and Wartski with my grandparents, both of whom were avid collectors. I also remember enjoying the quintessentially British afternoon tea at Claridge’s, as well as exploring the Royal Academy of Arts followed by ice cream sundaes at Fortnum & Mason.

Tell us about somewhere we might not know about in Monaco
The Japanese garden in Monaco, located just by the Larvotto area, is somewhat of a hidden gem. It has a very serene ambiance and features a variety of Japanese plants, koi ponds and a traditional tea house.

Can you tell us about your new showroom in Mayfair
The showroom is located in Burlington Arcade’s penthouse (73 Burlington Arcade) which is an exceptional space and the only one of its kind. We have a beautiful skylight and large windows facing Piccadilly; features that allow the light to flood in. The ceiling height is unexpected and the showroom looks more like a Parisian apartment. I designed the interiors to complement the space in the sense that I wanted clients to feel like they were sitting in their living room and enjoying a cup of tea whilst having a conversation and browsing through jewellery collections. We are open by appointment only so every experience is truly personal.

What is the best place for coffee in Mayfair?
HR Higgins on Duke Street. The company was established in 1942 and roasts its own blends using coffee beans sourced from around the world. It also has a wide selection of teas, and the staff are friendly, helpful and knowledgeable.

What are your favourite restaurants in Monaco?
Beefbar, located in the Port of Fontvieille, is a must for all steak lovers. Mayabay is best for Thai cuisine. Elsa is a fabulous Mediterranean restaurant at Monte Carlo Beach Club, Yoshi is a staple for Michelin-starred Japanese and Song Qi is my favourite for Chinese. The Niwaki opened last year in the Larvotto area and is also fantastic for Japanese. Marco, located on the Larvotto beach boardwalk, is delicious for locally caught fresh fish.

Sassan Behnam-Bakhtiar, Contemporary artist

What are your earliest memories of Mayfair?
Drawing trees in Mount Street Gardens when I was six.

What are your earliest memories of Monaco?
Watching the 44th Monaco Grand Prix in 1986 which was won by the great Alain Prost for McLaren and Ayrton Senna came third!

How long have you had an art foundation in Monaco?
I founded the Fondation Behnam-Bakhtiar in 2014, to support Iranian contemporary art and culture. It is my social responsibility to give back  by contributing to the development of creative opportunities for Iranian artists of all communities. Established and based strategically in Monaco, the foundation serves as the cultural headquarters providing a gateway between Iran and Europe as well as the world.

It also carries an independent mission in supporting selected young talents giving them a voice on a global scale and find their place in the contemporary art world.  In 2016 my wife and I decided to launch Maria Behnam-Bakhtiar, the foundation’s sister gallery space also in the Principality of Monaco. The gallery exhibits established and emerging artists, showcasing them both locally and internationally, with a strong focus on Iranian artists.

Tell us about a memorable time in Mayfair?
A recent one from March this year would be the private view of my solo exhibition at Phillips on the eve of one of the biggest public transportation strikes in the country. I watched many worrying about the guests being all stuck in traffic all over the place, but the gallery space was filled up 15 minutes after the opening and we had a tremendous response to the work, thankfully!

What's your favourite restaurant in Mayfair and Monaco?
Alain Ducasse in Monaco. Scott’s in Mayfair.

Where do you stay when you're in Mayfair?
Aways at The Connaught.

Where is your “hidden gem” recommendation in Monaco?
Francis Bacon Art Foundation.

What are you working on at the moment?
The construction of a second art studio in the French Riviera. A solo exhibition at Setareh in Dusseldorf, Germany, and a major homecoming solo exhibition in Paris. Can’t say where for the time being, but will probably be the biggest one in my career until date.