MONACO (TheStreet) -- Until last year, Monte Carlo nightlife had to take a back seat to the summertime parties at Jimmy'z, VIP Room and Les Caves du Roy in St. Tropez.
What seems like a logical epicenter for high-flying nightlife, given the concentration of celebrity residents and even royalty, Monte Carlo's showy Vegas-style nightclubs never quite measured up to their French competition.
But that was last year, before
landed on the scene and transplanted the panache of St. Tropez nightlife smack dab in the middle of one of the world's most picturesque yacht harbors.
The man behind The Black Legend is Antoine Chevanne, the bachelor CEO of Paris-based
, who has expanded the resort empire begun by his grandfather with Le Byblos St. Tropez in 1968. He added a luxury boutique hotel arm with the La Reserve Saint-Jean-de-Luz last year and the Les Manoirs de Tourgeville in Normandy this past spring. The Black Legend Monaco is the company's first step in expanding the nightclub brand that includes Les Caves du Roy, the most successful summertime club on the French Riviera for more than three decades.
"A tribute to the history of iconic black performers that have emerged from Motown," Chevanne explains, "The Black Legend is a mix of supper club, restaurant, stage show and VIP hideaway in the middle of the prettiest part of Monaco."
Not attached to a hotel or resort, The Black Legend is truly a new concept for Groupe Floirat and Monaco, and its construction quickly became a talking point for Monte Carlo locals. In a city that falls asleep early, they were intrigued at the scale of the project and the ambitions of well-known Chevanne. But the space seems to keep its style a secret, showing only double doors and a tiled-stone facade emblazoned with the Black Legend logo.
Inside is a large and versatile space. It transitions from a proper restaurant to supper club to DJ nightclub to cabaret stage with a simple walk between rooms. The walls are alive in black-and-white images of The Supremes, Marvin Gaye and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
In early July, an outdoor terrace opened with some of the best views in the principality -- think elegant 200-foot Azimut yachts under cliffs layered with marble and stone-clad villas. By day, it attracts a mix of residents and visitors to what is best compared to a harbor version of a beach club eatery, with wine-fueled lunches eaten to the hum of lounge music Chevanne has hand-picked and even made available on CD and iTunes. Later, and in colder months (it's open year-round, unlike many Riviera counterparts), the action shifts to the indoor dining room, where tables are clustered with chunky club chairs in banker's brown leather and Champagne buckets are never far from reach. Walls are strewn with urban cityscapes and dark subway tiles under moody, amber lighting. Chef Julien Tosello, previously of the restaurant Byblos, oversees the menu of Mediterranean specialties with American and Japanese sushi twists.
Next to the dining room, the main lounge includes doublewide sofas and low-flung cocktail tables, artsy neon lighting and barstool seating for anyone that couldn't score a reserved table.
Aside from the glitzy decor and celebrity clientele, The Black Legend is about music. Bands perform at 9 p.m. in an intimate stage show mixing Motown with a modern French twist. Midnight brings more of a dance and champagne scene as resident DJ Zen-K, famous for his Black and White Palace parties, spins a funkier mix of hip-hop anthems with a Michael Jackson or Lou Reed backbeat. They roar until 5 a.m. -- and sometimes even later, aboard the yachts of new friends.
"I wanted to create a special place that no one else had, in Monaco or even in the rest of the world," Chevanne says of The Black Legend. "There is really nothing like it anywhere, period."
Entry isn't impossible, although it's best secured with a reservation a few weeks in advance. For those looking to make the biggest impression, a table next to the dance floor -- with its illuminated tiles and disco ball crown -- is a must. But the popularity of the club has meant tougher weekend lines and stiff competition for bottle service, which runs upward of $500 per bottle. The likelihood of being splashed or having a tumbling fashionista land in your lap is quite high; luckily, staff is never far away in dapper uniforms from
, Paris's fancier version of Ralph Lauren, ready to dry you off and refill your goblet of Dom.
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Michael Martin is the managing editor of JetSetReport.com, a luxury travel and lifestyle guide based in Los Angeles and London. His work has appeared in InStyle, Blackbook, Elle, U.K.'s Red magazine and on ITV and the BBC.