MAS DE CHASTELAS
In the film Je Vous Aime, in which both Catherine DeNeuve and Gérard Depardieu play leading roles, much of the action takes place in an attractive 18th Century country house in France. This bastide is, in fact, a charming five-star hotel on the outskirts of St Tropez. The main building and the two other more modern villas belonging to it offer 23 rooms (nine of which are suites) to those discerning folk who wish to be not too far from the centre of town and yet need to be surrounded by sweet gardens and enveloped in a sense of exclusive exclusion. Indeed, the area around its swimming pool is surely one of the most beautiful enclaves in this part of the French Riviera.
I liked very much my arrival at the property. There was some complication to the one-way road system which I thought would make the last part of my journey tiresome. But no – once I had found the correct turning, I left behind the whizzing Renaults and aggressive Ferraris and climbed upwards, away from the bustle. Then I and my hire car were in front of a pair of high and imposing wrought-iron gates. At the end of the driveway beyond was my destination. It was, indeed, photogenic. The views around were of the vineyards of Bertaud Belieu. (During my stay, the excellent Christopher sped me expertly to and from the middle of St Tropez in the hotel shuttle.)
Such is the ease and grace with which this establishment goes about its hospitality that one might suppose it has been welcoming paying guests for a century or more. In fact – as I was told by the charming General Manager, Olivier Valentin (pictured) – the property became an hotel only in 1967. It must have been a good year. The relaxed and comfortable atmosphere goes well with the restrained elegance and luxury of the hotel’s furnishings and décor.
The style prevails in the bedrooms as well as in the public spaces. My own billet, number 25, was on the second floor of the main house. This was a Deluxe Double (prices per night from 360€), and was entered through a large hallway, with a loo off. The bedroom had plenty of space for two armchairs, and from its windows there was just a glimpse, in the distance beyond the gardens, of the soothing sea. The apartment’s colour scheme of white, cream and grey was entirely right. I noted down my top mark for the Housekeepers, who had made my bed deliciously soft. In the bathroom it was pleasant to have wall lights, as a change from the ubiquitous overhead spotlights. My ablutions were facilitated by a decent bath tub, a separate large shower, one wash basin and toiletries by L’Occitane.
The hotel Chef, Matthieu Hericotte, is a young fellow from Amiens. He is both affable and talented. When, dressed and bathed, I went down for dinner, he sent to my large round table on the terrace next to the swimming pool some really impressive food. Best was the first course, a confection as subtle as it was delicious: white summer truffle, with Vitelotte potatoes, a poached organic egg and hazelnut oil vinaigrette. But the fillets of chicken, roasted with thyme and garlic, were jolly good, too – particularly with some peas and mashed potatoes. The pudding, a version of lemon meringue pie, was so large that I rather petered out at this point. (These three courses were 72€; a three course set meal is offered for 65€.) The outside setting is inviting, with candles flickering on a giant standard candelabra, white napery on the tables and good glassware (by C & S).
Champagnes and local wines comprise the wine list, which has just 40 offerings. Prices run from 38€ for a 2015 viognier to 380€ for the footballers’ favourite bubbly, Cristal (in its 2006 vintage). Krug Grande Cuvée is 280€ and 2005 Dom Pérignon is 370€. I quaffed a fine example of the new style of red wine now being produced in the Côtes de Provence. This blend of merlot and cabernet (with 14∙5% alcohol) from Croix Valmer was bursting with ripe black fruit and was totally open and accessible, making it a delightful companion for the chicken (Cuvée Two B, Bastide Blanche, 2014 – 65€).
I returned to this poolside terrace to break the fast each morning. As is my custom, I tucked into hot dishes from the kitchen – the onion omelettes were splendid – and then did justice to the extensive buffet. Thus did I enjoy pancakes, brioche, breads, jams, hams, cheeses and cereals, together with dishes of fresh pineapple and slices of melon. All these comestibles were washed down with cups of coffee I poured from my white porcelain pot.
I suppose I will never be a film star. Directors and producers have ignored my talents for too long. But I daresay that Catharine DeNeuve and Gérard Depardieu enjoyed their time filming at the Mas de Chastelas, and at least I can claim that, like them, I have experienced the elegance and refinement of this charming property. If, like us, you are heading for St Tropez, you should consider following our example.
MAS DE CHASTELAS
2 chemin du Chastelas, 83580 Gassin, St Tropez, France.
Telephone +33 (0)4 94 56 71 71
Double rooms from 330€, breakfast extra
Check the hotel website for the rates for specific dates