There is no other word for the Colombe D’Or at St Paul de Vence than sublime and the best possible venue for Bob’s birthday. Even the weather, a blue sky with a touch of breeze and 18 degrees was superb.
The Colombe D’Or is for a variety of reasons not yer normal hotel/restaurant. For a start it’s no corporate chain but it is still in the hands of The Roux family. Paul Roux converted an open air cafe Chez Robinson to a 3 room inn. The artists began to move down to the South when during the second world war it was a free zone. Son Francis inherited his father’s eye and built a collection that you can see in the interior dining room of Picassos, Matisses, Braque, Leger, Miro and Bonnard. Many of these were impoverished painters offering a canvas for a meal. No restaurants and few private collections can emulate this. There are also outstanding sculptures and murals, including another fine Leger on the terrace.
We arrived early so an already excited Grania and Polly could see the hotel and collection properly. They were also hopeful that they might see Rupert and Jerry who were honeymooning there. Of them there was no sign. The greeting was warm, helpful and friendly. We were afforded a full inspection though they will only allow diners and of course hotel guests to do this. Well, you can’t blame them as the collection must be worth north of £250m.
We sat in the open air terrace under a sprawling lemon tree but soon needed an umbrella to provide extra protection. The menu had a Roux collection reproduction on the cover and the choice in large print. I had been recommended the hors d’oeuvres with charcuterie.
Les girls went for simpler options of smoked salmon and vegetable soup. 15 platters of hors d’oeuvre duly arrived accompanied by a vegetable basket which was just as well as Polly who does not care for heavy cuisine soon tucked into these with Bob and I.
There was an enormous sense of well being around the table in the hot sun and the restaurant began to fill with international diners. I particularly appreciated well-spaced tables.
There was a murmur of conversation but I so detest a restaurant so noisy you cannot hear properly. For mains I ordered turbot with an exquisite creamy sauce.
For desert I chose a delectable almond cake with a glass of Beaume de Venise. With half a bottle of house wine (another plus point they do not push the wine list but offer house wine on the menu) it’s about 80 Euros per head which I thought was reasonable. You would pay 15 Euros alone to see the collection.
The only surprising part was that a photographer was allowed into the restaurant and offered to take a photo. From 1951 when Yves Montand celebrated his marriage here to Simone Signoret it’s been a destination for the famous right now to Jerry and Rupert so it was odd that privacy was not respected. A minor criticism. As Polly said to Bob he would be pushed to better this next year so we may as well all come back here. Here, here!!!