If you’re heading for St.Tropez—excuse me, read when you’re heading for St. Tropez—there’s a best-kept secret on the road to Tinseltown, a place where God created Brigitte Bardot, superyachts, the string, Ivana Trump, Flavio Briatore, Naomi Campbell & Kate Moss. Shhhh… It’s Le Beauvallon, nestling in the shade of fragrant mimosa trees and ancient umbrella pines.
Located in 15 acres of magnificent manicured parkland, the Belle-Epoque 4-star hotel with neo-classic décor is celebrating 90 years of discreet, attentive butler service with a smile. The Golden Book boasts Scott & Zelda, Churchills, Kennedys, but Beauvallon head honchos are far too discreet to name current celeb guests. Well, you can understand that, darling.
Back in the days before Bardot, guys got turned on by the beauty of unspoilt beaches and nature, so Emile Bernheim, a savvy Paris businessman, decided to build a hotel for his close-personals. The architect Flegenheimer designed the terracotta palace (don’t know what else he’s done, sorry!) and construction finished in 1913. In 1914, however, with the outbreak of the First World War, in an act of patriotism, Monsieur Bernheim offered his newly finished hotel to the French Red Cross as a hospital for wounded soldiers, who no doubt thought their sacrifice had brought its just reward.
After the war and renovation work including the building of a golf course, the hotel finally opened for business. Rumour still lingers that F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “Tender is the Night” was conceived at Beauvallon. A more established fact is, after the huge success of his work “Toi et Moi,” playwright Paul Géraldy made his fourth-floor room the base from which he wrote many other works.
The hotel was acquired by private owners, who found the space, serenity and charm of the area hugely appealing. It is thanks to the current Chinese owners that Beauvallon is what it is today: an idyllic and unique spot where time really does seem to stand still. Think Provence, Asiatic style. Sumptuous; sweetie—it could be a mini-series starring Joan Collins and her Dynasty darlings.
The Beach Club, facing St. Tropez, has everything from a picture-perfect sandy beach, mirror-style pool, gym classes, state-of-the-art exercise machines by Leonardo, and Jacuzzi, to boutiques. The private boat awaits; if you absolutely can’t resist the temptation of Saint Tropez and lunch with Ivana at Le Byblos (04 94 56 68 00), Plage 55 (04 94 79 80 14), La Voile Rouge (04 94 97 22 56) or Christophe Leroy’s La Table du Marché & Sushi bar (04 94 97 13 54), it’s just 8 minutes across the bay to the crazy world of St. Tropez.
Chef Jean Michel Belin is a young maverick disciple of Christian Willer (La Palme d’Or, Cannes). He’s also done time in California, Hawaii and Barcelona; add influence from his native Auvergne and you begin to appreciate dishes such as Ocean clam soup with coconut milk, morilles and coriander, roast rack of Cajun flavoured lamb with a cumin Samosa, strong jus and flashed avocado Parisienne. These dishes are from the Discovery Menu, (50€). Don’t miss lunch at the Beach Restaurant (about 50-80€) with an accent on healthy eating, fresh salads, baskets of crudités, variations on the classic Niçoise with seared fresh tuna, no tinned muck here dear, mixed plancha grills of meat or seafood and exotic alcohol free fruit and veg cocktails. The stunning desserts look like Carmen Miranda, and are presented by restaurant honcho Jean Francois with total glee. If you like Thai, during summer, the poolside Phiphatphong Janthamunee (no idea what that means, if it’s rude, please excuse me) is your location.
No, darling, it’s not too much. Go and get pummelled in the spa afterwards; they’ve got salts and mineral baths with ingredients from hidden Japanese volcanoes! Golf de Beauvallon is right next door—18-holes of joy or frustration, depending on your handicap. Oh! and by the way, the rooms are sumptuous, with freebie products by Hermes. No wonder Churchill slept here! Sure beats the hell out of the camp-site.
83120. Saint Maxime
T: 04 94 55 78 88
Born in Britain and now based in Paris, Margaret Kemp graduated from The Cordon Bleu and spent a year working and watching in the kitchens of top chefs from Sydney, Australia via Bangkok, Hong Kong, California, New York and France. Realising she would never win the coveted 3-Michelin stars, she decided to write about the people who do, the “disciples of Escoffier.”