If you are looking for somewhere a little different from the palaces and the luxury retreats, this might be the place for you – because La Ferme d’Augustin is The Friendly Hotel of St Tropez. I bestow upon it this coveted title because I found within its immaculate gardens and its handsome collection of buildings such a friendly and happy disposition – among both my fellow guests and the young and enthusiastic members of staff. Much of this genial atmosphere can be attributed to the fact that this is very much a family establishment. Back in the 1950s the original Mr Augustin started to take in paying guests at his family farm. Then, in 1978, Ninette and Gilbert Augustin opened the hotel proper. Now there are 46 bedrooms, a handsome swimming pool (outside and heated) and even a smart shuttle to whisk guests to and from the centre of town.
The hotel is located in an area of exclusive (and, doubtless, hugely expensive) private villas, very close to the famous beach of Pampelonne. I am not a worshipper of the sun and therefore, when I left the grounds, I headed in the opposite direction, to St Tropez – still my favourite place on the Côte d’Azur.
Some of the rooms are a little compact for those of us who do not travel light, so I would advise you to follow my example and opt for one of the spacious Junior Suites. These are 525€-680€ a night for two, breakfast extra, according to season. In these parts, such prices constitute rather a bargain – another reason for the smiles on the faces of those around me. Mine was number 42. It was in a single-storied stone building a few steps from the main house. All was very quiet, very peaceful and very private.
A small hallway, with a loo off, led into the large, rectangular bed-sitting room. The white décor and the tiled floor emphasised the pristine character of my surroundings, while the antique writing bureau and the oil paintings on the walls added a pleasing sense of continuity with the past. Space was ample, and there was no danger I might bump into either the sofa or the dining table. My clothes could be stowed in the walk-in wardrobe (wherein was a safe). Beyond the French window was my own little garden, with a table and chairs and a pair of sun-loungers. The housekeeping department kindly made the bed pleasantly soft for my ailing back. Within the tiled bathroom were two wash basins, a bath and a separate shower. All-in-all, this was a comfortable billet.
The public sitting rooms were comfortable, too. I certainly enjoyed my afternoons with pots of tea in their amiably cluttered surroundings. On the first such occasion another reason for the happy atmosphere at La Ferme d’Augustin occurred to me: the abundance of cockerels. (They were inanimate, of course.) I counted twelve representations of these proud creatures. I thought that the owner must be a fellow Jesus College, Cambridge, man – for the cock is our college emblem. But no, I was told it was simply a reminder of the hotel’s beginnings as a farm.
Those origins can be seen also in the restaurant – called La Table d’Augustin – where Chef Nicolas Sintes sends from his kitchen healthy portions of good, straightforward, market-driven food based on top quality ingredients. This is a jolly (and jolly popular) place. For dinner I sat at a table with a yellow tablecloth on the terrace overlooking the garden, and here I quaffed a bottle of the rosé wine made by the establishment. This I liked, as I also liked the lovely white crockery (food always looks best on white plates), good Bormioli glassware and friendly waiters in white shirts. A basketful of fresh fish was brought for my inspection, from which I selected a fine sea bass.
My dinner began with a salad of haricots verts, potatoes, tomatoes, egg and tuna – all excellently done. The grilled fish now appeared and was boned by the table. Sea bass is one of my piscatorial treats, and this one was a good example. I finished with a raspberry tart with some really super ice cream – both vanilla and caramel. (Expect to pay around 65€/70€ for such a meal.)
I returned to the restaurant each morning for breakfast (20€). Of course, there is not the huge buffet you might expect in a large hotel. But, in the basket and other receptacles brought and arranged upon the check tablecloth by the young waiter, I found plenty of goodies. I liked particularly the baguettes, the brioche, the fresh orange juice, the pot of diced fruit, the cake and the home-made jams. Sitting at a table out of the sun, and looking over the pine trees and the garden, I judged this to be a good way to start the day.
Indeed, La Ferme d’Augustin is a good way to experience the French Riviera. The glitz and the glamour might be elsewhere, although they are easy enough to find nearby. Instead, in its modest and quiet way, this hotel offers a different sort of excellence. For La Ferme d’Augustin is The Friendly Hotel of St Tropez.
979 route de Tahiti, St Tropez, 83350 Ramatuelle, France.
Telephone +33 (0)4 94 55 97 00
Fax +33 (0)4 94 97 59 76
Double rooms from 235€-270€, according to season, breakfast extra (20€ per person)