We pull up outside this whitewashed box. The windows are ribbed frosted glass with a discreet 'Hotel Les Roche Rouge' written on the huge sliding door. We enter and the view through the lobby is immediately breathtaking. Huge rotating glass windows open out onto a balcony and beyond the Mediterranean sparkles with all its azure hues, yachts glide past and a few barren islands dot the horizon.
The receptionist is attentive and warm. Just what you need for such a place which can seem a little intimidating, it is a 'design hotel' after all, and we've just walked in like the Von Trapp family after crossing the Alps on foot (but we did it in our car). We probably all look like we could do with a bath and a stiff drink. There, in front of those huge rotating windows, besides the sprawling leather sofa that looks like the interior of a giant clam shell, underneath the fabulous art work and coffee table books is a discreet drinks trolley with a selection of artisan French spirits and beautiful twinkling glasses. Would we like a drink? Its 12 midday and we have the children to tend to. Probably not the best idea, but by evening, you betcha. Could we get some lunch with the urchins, are they even ok with children I ask? The lovely girl doesn't bat an eyelid and say in that French way, "But of-course!" and sends us off down the lift to the restaurant that opens up onto the courtyard clinging to the rocks. Beyond is an inviting pool with striped lounge beds, and beyond that is salt water plunge pool that could transport you to Sydney for just a minute.
1950's decor accents are everywhere. Huge lamps with cylindrical shades, ceramic pineapples, butterfly chairs in mustard yellow, everything has a perfect place and not one detail has been missed.
We sit down. All the staff make a fuss of the boys. infact there are quite a few children running about. I'm relieved. I want to bring my boys to places like this, for them to absorb it and I often worry that it will be frowned on. Not a frown here. A really friendly bar man (from the poolside bar) called Karim makes a huge fuss of Ned. Does he want to go swimming? We've got it covered. Towels, toys, floats, you name it we've got it. We relax over a glass of Rosé. Its a light refreshing local wine. The menu is designed around traditional Provençal cuisine to be shared. We order three plates, a Nicoise (when in Rome), the Allioli, and the catch of the day which is Carpaccio of Squid with Sauce Vierge. Now all the food was mega, but I'm going to talk particularly about the Nicoise Salad as I think this is one of those things easy to get wrong. Not a sniff of tinned tuna graced this bad boy. Just the freshest, sweetest anchovies, and a scatter of black olives with olive oil and lemon dressed leaves, a boiled egg and juicy torn tomato. It was perfection. The Allioli which was a smorgasbord of dips (olive tapenade, anchovy paste and blow-your-brains-out garlic mayo) bread, steamed vegetables, boiled egg and shell fish was filled with all the simple flavours resonant with the region. Lastly the carpaccio of squid, which tasted sensational but there just wasn't enough of it. The children had grilled chicken breast with ratatouille. It was scoffed in seconds.
Did I mention the music tinkling in the back ground? Its got that 50's vibe again, that jazz like tempo with dreamy underscore. I imagine Doris Day could walk in right now or James Bond might pull up on water skis and speedos, saunt up to Karim (the bar man) and order a Martini, shaken not stirred. Oh and the light! That Riviera sun that casts everything in Technicolour. It's like a film set from the golden era of movies.
This place oozes understated luxury, the bedrooms are contemporary but still filled with eclectic art and mid-century gems and the most divine toiletries I have ever come across in a hotel. Hotel Les Roche Rouge is a delight at every turn, it makes you feel like you've shrugged off that heavy coat of everyday life and left it at the door, so that when, a few hours later, lunch is over, the Rosé is done, the kids are happy splashing in the pool, you feel totally at home.
Hotel Les Roches Rouges is in situated on the French Riviera near St Raphael. Rooms are from around £264 per night. The restaurant is open to all, including children of all ages.
All images by Tori Finch bar the bedroom (credit Design Hotel).