It’s not often that I have liked a place so much that I’ve felt the need to visit it again just a few years later. But when I found myself an hour or so away, the draw to revisit La Réserve Ramatuelle was too great – I couldn’t resist.
Opened in 2010, this deeply glamorous, privately-owned spa-hotel – awarded Best New Hotel at the Wallpaper* 2011 Design Awards – is the perfect spot for those looking to cleanse and re-energise the mind, body and soul. Found just outside the coastal town of Ramatuelle, in hills offering stunning panoramic views of the Mediterranean and French Riviera, the focus here is on more than just pure pleasure, but on health: well-being, quality of life and ageing-prevention.
On arrival and on first sighting of the sea, La Réserve Ramatuelle feels like a secret haven, hidden to the outside world. A beautiful and athletic team of staff is on hand to greet you and help with your every whim. In manicured gardens of lavender and orange trees, the property offers 28 rooms and suites, and 12 private villas. With white and sandy tones, the décor of our suite was simple but hugely luxurious, with a sea view and small garden with sunbeds. The huge bathroom included a massive shower and whirlpool bath.
Surprisingly for such chic surroundings, we discovered that children are more than welcome at La Réserve. Aside from a cot, our suite was fully stocked with toddler-sized dressing gown, bib and designer toiletry pack, embroidered and branded with the hotel group’s signature elephant, complete with chic Tartine et Chocolat furry elephant toy, which to this day, is still such a favourite that it sleeps in our son’s bed each night.
La Réserve Ramatuelle’s renowned restaurant La Voile has recently been awarded its first Michelin Star, and it wasn’t difficult to see why. Serving light, healthy dishes, using the highest quality produce, La Voile is careful to honour the authentic flavours of the South of France. Headed up by Chef Eric Canino – who previously worked under Michel Guérard, the inventor of cuisine minceur, a form of healthy, low-calorie cooking – menus are light but delicious. Dishes exclude all added fats (aside from olive oils selected for their aromas and delicacy) and refined sugars, and the divine results tickle those taste buds, but can be enjoyed without any tinges of guilt. How refreshing!
Canino focuses on conserving and promoting the purity of each ingredient’s natural flavour, taking enormous care in meticulous sourcing and preparation to create authentic and simple recipes. Many of the ingredients come from the hotel’s own kitchen garden, and other varieties are sourced from small local producers. La Voile’s signature dish of traditional salade nicoise with rare, spicy tuna, is as mind-blowing to look at as it is to taste, and the aromas remain fresh on the tongue even months later. The Bresse chicken and lobster with mascarpone ravioli was another memorable dish worth travelling back for alone. Puddings come looking like works of art, and include strawberry and tomato peaks, with ruby tomato chutney, mint and basil pesto with strawberry sorbet, and Peruvian grand cru chocolate with peppermint from the garden and Perrier Mint sorbet. Despite the fact we’d eaten three courses, we still left the table with a spring in our step.
The state-of-the-art spa has 11 treatment rooms, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, a steam room and a fully equipped gym, and offers an impressive treatment list. Individual or limited-group exercises on offer include Pilates, Stretching and Yoga. There are even Bootcamp programmes for those looking to achieve more serious results.
Cocooned in the calm and serenity of the property, it’s easy to forget that outside is a whole other world. Within a 15 minute drive of St Tropez, the hotel’s shuttle is happy to drop guests off in town or at the surrounding beach clubs, meaning they can avoid the challenges of parking and are free to indulge in a glass or two of rosé at lunch. La Réserve’s Concierge are there to advise on restaurants and make a reservations on your behalf. Found in the picturesque old port, Café Senequier has been proudly greeting its customers since 1887. It was the perfect pit-stop to take in some of the atmosphere for which St Tropez is famous. We happily munched on salade de chèvre frais and frites on the terrace while watching the mega yachts come and go and the world go by.
With the stresses and strains of daily life in the city, people are often looking for a little more from a holiday than just relaxation: they want to come back refreshed and rejuvenated, and some may even want to achieve results, whether it’s weight loss or improving their health. Not too far from home, La Réserve Ramatuelle is just as I remembered; even a short break there can be wonderfully restorative. An exceptional retreat designed not only for pure relaxation, but also the well-being of its guests, there’s something for everyone here, whether you’re looking for a bootcamp programme, to indulge in the delights of St Tropez or are simply in search of some guilt-free good food and relaxation in luxurious surroundings.
La Réserve Ramatuelle closes on the 5 October 2015, reopening in April 2016. In the meantime, if you’re keen to experience some of that La Réserve ambience, their original property is an award-winning spa and 102-room and suite hotel set in ten acres of private parkland just outside Geneva’s town centre, and is also a great escape to recuperate and regenerate. More recently the group has created a splash with its new property in Paris – a hotel with the chic and confidential feel of a private club and the first Nescens Spa in France – hidden between Avenue Montaigne and Faubourg Saint-Honoré. That’s next on my list…