THE FRENCH RIVIERA
RESTAURANT ‘B’, HOTEL BYBLOS
Good service comes in many guises. I do not regard myself as a ‘bar person’, as I seldom visit such places – preferring to confine my consumption of alcohol to the wines I choose to drink over dinner. Nevertheless, I know that bar men (and ladies) are some of the finest people you will find in hotels. They must be knowledgeable about their business, of course, but they must also possess certain traits of character. They must be courteous, friendly, long-suffering and (sometimes) firm. I mention all this because at the Restaurant ‘B’ I was looked after in an exemplary fashion by the barman, Vincent Bertolotto. I present to you a picture of him. Years ago, he worked at Cliveden, which might explain his excellent command of English. Because of him, and the food and drink he brought to me, I wish to recommend to you this lovely eatery in St Tropez.
Of course, you, like me, will already love St Tropez, for it is in this prettiest of towns that we can sit by the quayside and marvel at the passing procession of the chic and the beautiful. And you will already know, surely, that there is one name which conjures up the style and glamour of this gorgeous town: Byblos.
I have not yet stayed at the Hotel Byblos, but on my visits to St Tropez I am always aware of its presence at the heart of things. With the looks of a little Mediterranean village – which has been transported miraculously right into the middle of town – the Byblos for decades has attracted the rich and the famous and yet has managed to remain exclusive and private. Its poolside restaurant is the subject of this essay – the Restaurant ‘B’. To sit outside here, on a balmy evening, next to the gentle water and under a clear Mediterranean sky is, indeed, a privilege.
But here is a tip for those of you, like myself, for whom climbing is not a favourite past-time. Go to the Byblos by car. Your driver will certainly take you to the hotel entrance on the avenue Paul Signac, from which you will have no difficulty whatever in reaching the restaurant. I arrived on foot at the entrance on the avenue Marshal Foch, near the Place des Lices, and found the climb up the many steps a bit of a struggle. An elderly lady overtook me with ease halfway up. As you know, I am not made of very stern stuff. At the top, I was restored at once by the lovely surroundings. The swimming pool shimmered at the centre of what did, indeed, look rather like a gathering of pretty Provençal houses, their vibrant colours reflected in the water. I thought this terrace of terra cotta tiles – onto which the Restaurant ‘B’ spills with elegant insouciance – a charming spot.
At dinner – as a lady singer sang her delicious melodies – I enjoyed the food of Chef Vincent Maillard (pictured), a gentleman of considerable culinary talent. I began with duck foie gras, cold and served with chutney. This was a most generous helping of the divine liver: simple and full of that flavour we foie gras addicts so love. Then it was a whole sea bass, cooked until the precise moment when its flesh was luminous and tender and served by the table, with grilled vegetables and ratatouille sauce. The bounty of the sea was on my plate. To finish, on an oval dish came a ‘deconstructed’ lemon tart. (These three courses were 102€.)
The selection of wines is short and dominated by champagne – by the glass, by the bottle and by the magnum – although there are also a few tempting clarets, like Lynch Bages (for 385€, although the vintage is not given). If you like to quaff the bubbly, I noticed three particular stars: 2004 Veuve Cliquot Rosé (245€), 1995 Dom Pérignon (895€, magnum) and 1982 Krug ‘Collection’ (2,650€, magnum). I had poured into my good Schott Zwiesel glass a 2012 Chablis Premier Cru (Montmains, W.Fevre – 110€), which turned out to be a fine example, with plenty of flint and hints of lime.
I left the way I had arrived – the descent being, as descents are wont to be, rather easier than the ascent. As I tripped down the steps, I was grateful to the Byblos and its Restaurant ‘B’, and I was grateful to its bar man, Vincent. My evening had lived up to my expectations. I had eaten well, I had drunk well and I had been served well. St Tropez, as usual, had not disappointed.
Hotel Byblos, Avenue Paul Signac, St-Tropez 83990, France.
Telephone +33 (0)4 94 56 68 00
Fax +33 (0)4 94 56 68 01
Open from April to October for breakfast, lunch and dinner