Beyond the celebrity guests and Michelin Stars, it’s the details that set Cheval Blanc St Tropez apart from other luxury retreats
A gem in LVMH’s heavily bejewelled crown, the rearing white stallion of Cheval Blanc first appeared in Courchevel in 2006, with the launch of a vast snow-topped chalet.
Over the next decade LVMH would expand the Cheval Blanc brand with launches in the Maldives, St Barth and St Tropez. A fifth hotel was opened in Paris in September 2021 and plans for a new development in Beverly Hills are nearing completion.
The last time Spear’s visited Cheval Blanc, it was columnist Elizabeth Hurley that made the trip to St Barths in 2017. Reading her review on the way to the airport I was struck by one remark, ‘the attention to detail is outstanding’.
What details would I discover on my visit to a different outpost, five years later?
As I leave Nice airport and spot the figurine of a rearing white horse rising through the mass of sign-waving drivers, I begin to see evidence of Ms Hurley’s point.
A short drive along the coast and we are welcomed to Cheval Blanc St Tropez by the chateau’s staff, each in crisp matching uniforms topped with straw boaters. At their head is Olivier Raveyre, the hotel’s affable directeur général.
Having already spent more than half a decade at the Résidence de la Pinède before it was purchased by LVMH and transformed into Cheval Blanc St Tropez, monsieur Raveyre is a familiar presence for many of the guests. ‘They come every year and we have dinner, these are my friends,’ he told me.
Olivier, I will discover, embodies the duality that defines Cheval Blanc – simultaneously sophisticated beyond compare while also making you feel comfortable and at home.
What are the rooms like at Cheval Blanc St Tropez?
The estate itself has 30 rooms and suites. Many of these are outside the chateau itself, with LVMH having added more accommodation since acquiring the estate.
If an inkling of disappointment creeps in as Olivier guides me way from the beautiful chateau and towards the estate’s newest suite, it is blown away completely as he opens the door to my suite.
Staring through the suite, past the living area and out over my personal infinity pool to the yachts drifting on the Côte d’Azur, my well-practised mask of world-weary indifference slips.
‘This is all for me…?’ I ask in monosyllabic innocence. ‘Of course,’ smiles Olivier, who begins to explain the suite’s digital control system.
After a brief tutorial Olivier ushers me around the suite, indicating the his-and-her changing rooms and bathrooms, each with walk in showers and beautiful ceramic bathtubs. The bedroom itself was privy to the same glorious view as the living room, looking out in a broad arc over the bay.
Next, Olivier takes me downstairs to the suite’s own cinema, furnished with rows of wide-backed sofas and even a retro popcorn machine. Down the hall was my private gym, which had everything the chateau’s main gym did (apart from the tray of freshly baked ‘gym bars’… my main reason for going).
What are the restaurants at Cheval blanc like?
Cheval Blanc has two restaurants, the three Michelin star La Vague d’Or which opens every evening apart from Wednesday, and La Terrace which serves guests a spot of breakfast or lunch under the pine trees. Both are overseen by Arnaud Donckele whose creative blends of fresh Provencal flavours have earned him critical acclaim.
Meeting my companions in the courtyard we take our seats at La Terrace. Having not eaten since leaving London I flick past the Nicoise salad seasoned with bonito and velvet red grenache, on through the Caesar salad, romaine and sliced smoked anchovies accompanied by Spanish tomatoes, until I reach the meat.
Fifteen minutes later and the waitress is mixing a steak tartar in front of my eyes, asking which flavours I want to add from a seemingly endless array of herbs and spices. The perfect blend of simplicity and performance.
The evening is the main act, however. La Vague D’or is Donckele’s second triple Michelin star restaurant; the other being Plënitude, his restaurant at Cheval Blanc Paris, which opened in late 2021 and received the award a few months later.
Despite sharing the same outdoor space as La Terrace, La Vague D’or is far more romantic. Clearly this a theme in Donckele’s restaurants as Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck were recently spotted sharing lunch in Plënitude on their Parisian honeymoon.
The flavours on the seven-course tasting menu are far more pronounced and intricate than their counterparts at La Terrace. ‘Porcini mushrooms and Tomato “Olivette” with a cloud of Pine Morells on top’ followed by ‘Caper pearls with Coeur de Pigeon Tomatoes’ is but a taster.
Each dish stretches the imagination of what food can be. Fresh oysters sit under the crest of a clay wave jutting out of your plate; streaks of green and red streak wide-set platters.
On returning to my suite, I notice that room service has tied the cable for my phone charger neatly in a Cheval Blanc-branded Velcro tie. Images of the driver’s white horse figurine and La Vague D’or’s perfectly designed crockery flash through my mind as I thought about the details that Cheval Blanc were paying attention to.
Beyond the Michelin stars and celebrity guests, this is what defines Cheval Blanc St-Tropez; the details that occasionally bring you out of a luxury-induced trance.