The South of France’s markets is at their best in the summer, with a dozen different varieties of ripe red, green, and yellow tomatoes, shiny baby eggplants, fragrant bouquets of basil, vine-ripened peaches, wild strawberries, ripe purple figs, and juicy lemons that are even bigger than tennis balls. And the Mediterranean offers a plentiful supply of seafood when it comes to dining in and around Saint Tropez (as you may remember, it was previously a yacht-less quiet fisherman’s port). The obvious conclusion is that, aside from the enduring allure and consistently dependable Provençal fare of Club 55, trends come and go but there’s always a whopping variety of ways to tease your tastebuds. Add all that up and slip into the vineyard-covered countryside for fine sun-drenched local wines. Here is a list of eateries where you can focus entirely on the food on your plate and throw a light on Saint Tropez’s tired, decibel-blasting dining scene with fresh, locally sourced ingredients and inventive international cuisine.
All eyes are on the wonderfully cooked terroir dishes created by chef Sylvain Humbert, whose magnificent but unassuming flower-lined terrace restaurant lies atop the peaceful mediaeval village Gassin, eight kilometers from St. Tropez. Don’t bother to flaunt your summer finery here. Starters include slow-cooked octopus braised in white wine or delicious homemade duck foie gras with apricots and thyme picked from their garden. From sea bass with eggplant, fennel, and olives to roast leg of lamb, expect delectable Provencal-style dishes. A delicate Grand Marnier tangerine soufflé will round everything off. Wait until the sun sets over the yacht-filled Mediterranean and the distant blue highlands to sip an after-dinner Bandol Vieux marc.
This bamboo shack in the vines is a neighborhood hangout without bling where you’ll find a mix of locals and the well-heeled foreign crowd enjoying iced Mojitos at dusk. It’s hidden on a little country road close to the Plage de l’Escalet. Highlights include a homemade truffle pizza topped with crème fraiche, zesty salmon tartare, a flawlessly grilled Angus steak served with crispy fries, and desserts like homemade apple crumble and oozy chocolate cake that your Provençal grandma might make. One of the greatest buys in town might be Kikouiou’s three-course set menu, washed down with luscious Domaine des Tournels rosé, which has been run by Laurence Dooghe and her family for 31 years.
For a leisurely lunch by the sea or dinner among the pines, Gigi is the place to go. It offers sophisticated Italian cuisine and a welcoming atmosphere. Expect to see families (there is a creative playground for kids), groups of friends devouring antipasti platters, and couples holding hands while sipping peach Bellinis. The restaurant, run by Parisian hospitality maestro Laurent de Gourcuff (Monsieur Bleu, Girafe, Mn), offers golf carts to take you to a forest behind Pampelonne where there is a terrace covered by saffron canvas and white tablecloths that have been embroidered. Here, attentive servers bustle about with abundance of starters, like luscious stracciatella cheese, green bean pistachio and pecorino salad, and arancini with truffle seasoning. A delicious coffee tiramisu with mascarpone and a Proustian-inspired digestif that tastes exactly like a madeleine is also on the menu, along with meat entrees like lobster spaghetti and grilled salmon. After a stomach full of food, retreat back with a few minute’s walk to Villa Agave for a lazy afternoon in the sun while appreciating the view of the bay on pampelonne Beach.