Summertime in the South of France markets means a dozen varieties of large red, green, and yellow tomatoes, glossy baby eggplants, aromatic basil bouquets, vine peaches, wild strawberries, delicious purple figs, and juicy lemons the size of tennis balls. And when it comes to dining in and near Saint Tropez (which was previously a peaceful fisherman’s harbor without yachts), the Mediterranean supplies a plentiful supply of seafood. Add it all up, and slip into the vineyard-covered countryside for fine sun-drenched local wines, and you have the obvious equation: trends come and go, but there’s always a whopping variety of ways to tease your tastebuds, aside from the perennial allure and unchangingly reliable Provençal fare of Club 55. Here’s a list of places where fresh locally produced ingredients and inventive foreign cuisine outshine Saint Tropez’s stereotyped decibel-blasting dining scene, allowing you to focus on what’s on your plate.
All eyes will be on the wonderfully crafted terroir dishes produced by chef Sylvain Humbert, whose elegant but inexpensive flower-lined terrace restaurant sits atop the calm mediaeval village Gassin, an eight-kilometer drive from St. Tropez. Starters include handcrafted duck foie gras with apricots and thyme from their garden, as well as slow-cooked octopus in white wine. Sea bass with eggplant, fennel, and olives, roast leg of lamb, and a featherlight Grand Marnier tangerine soufflé are among the delectable Provencal-style dishes to look forward to. After supper, linger over a Bandol vieux marc till the light fades over the yacht-filled Mediterranean and blue foothills in the distance.
This bamboo shack in the vines, hidden on a little rural road near the Plage de l’Escalet, is a neighborhood hangout sans bling where you’ll find a mix of locals and the well-heeled international crowd enjoying iced Mojitos at dusk. Highlights include homemade truffle pizza with a dollop of crème fraiche, zesty salmon tartare, a flawlessly grilled Angus steak served with crispy fries, and sweets inspired by your Provençal grandmother, such as apple crumble and oozy chocolate cake. Kikouiou’s three-course set menu washed down with luscious Domaine des Tournels rosé, may be one of the greatest buys in town, run by Laurence Dooghe and her family for thirty-one years.
With exquisite Italian cuisine and a pleasant ambiance, Gigi is the hottest spot to be for a lazy by-the-sea lunch or supper beneath the pines. Expect families (there’s a creative children’s playground), groups of friends diving into antipasti platters, and hand-holding couples sipping peach Bellinis. Laurent de Gourcuff (Monsieur Bleu, Girafe, Mn) runs the restaurant, which provides golf carts to transfer you to a forest behind Pampelonne, complete with a saffron canvas-shaded terrace and embroidered white tables. Waiters bustle around with baskets of starters, including truffle-spiked arancini, green bean pistachio and pecorino salad, and rich stracciatella cheese. The menu include lobster spaghetti, grilled fish, and meat entrees, as well as a magnificent coffee tiramisu with mascarpone and a Proustian-inspired digestif that tastes exactly like a madeleine. If you’ve had your fill of pampelonne Beach’s delicious cuisine, it’s only a short stroll back to Villa Agave to relax in the sun and take in the breathtaking view of the bay.