In the first of our four part luxury travel views column from our Autumn 2021 issue, LUX Editor-in-Chief Darius Sanai experiences a taste of old world glamour at Four Seasons Grand-Hôtel du Cap-Ferrat
Cicadas trilling down a long avenue lined with high walls, behind which some of the world’s most expensive real estate lurks. Glimpses of the Mediterranean through the hedges. A security-guarded gateway, a short driveway and doormen opening doors on either side at the entrance to a Belle Époque mansion.
Arrival at the Four Seasons Grand-Hôtel du Cap-Ferrat could barely be more grand. You are in an unchanged south of France of 1920s flapper legend. Not here the camper vans, beach-going day-trippers and crowds of normal people that besmirch even the swankiest Monaco boulevard. Cap Ferrat is a place where the rich can be rich, and the Grand is the sea-facing jewel at its tip. High ceilings, light marble, big windows: first impressions are of a Parisian palace hotel transplanted and reworked to suit the setting, rather than anything like a resort. But wait, that comes later.
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Our room was light, a bedroom connecting through sliding doors to a living area with a taupe sofa, white and light grey colourways everywhere. Open the window (there was no balcony) and lavender and thyme and the sound of the cicadas pour in in one sensual flow.
Down through the palatial lobby, out of the door at the top of the staircase at the back of the building (or is at the front?), and down towards the gardens, it’s as if you are descending through layers of formality into total chillout.
The terrace of Le Cap restaurant is on the first layer of terrace, shaded by mature trees. Next layer down is a casual dining terrace and the bar where a rather good jazz band played under the canopy of the trees every evening. Carry on walking across the big lawn of the hotel and you can take various paths into a labyrinth of flower beds and trees – quite an indulgence in the place with the highest residential real estate price in the world. The gardens are on a gentle slope down towards the sea, and at night the combination of starlight, the bouquet from the plants and the sound of the jazz is intoxicating, even without a champagne cocktail.
Directly across a little road from outside the back gate at the bottom of the garden is the entrance to Club Dauphin, the hotel’s beach club (local people can also join as members). You can take a funicular down the steep hillside that descends towards the sea, or walk down along the flower-lined path. You’re then presented with the club restaurant and swimming pool, at the very tip of the Cap. It seems that there is sea for 270 degrees around you, and what isn’t sea is either swimming pool, or a terrace where very expensive people are nibbling tiny amounts of vibrant food and being served out of magnums of Provençal rosé wine.
Here, the palace hotel you are staying in feels a long way away, and you have reached the pinnacle of informal chic as epitomised by somewhere like St Bart’s – or indeed, the Grand-Hôtel du Cap-Ferrat.
Lunch at Club Dauphin and dinner at Le Cap seems to be standard practice at the Grand – preceded in our case by an aperitif next to the jazz band, our bench seat offering a gorgeous view across the lawns and trees to the sea. The food is a kind of ultra-superior Provençal: razor clams and cockles with seaweed and fennel bavaroise; grilled asparagus in thyme jelly; and a particular favourite, grilled red mullet with olive tapenade, tomato hearts and basil, fish and tomato reduction. The only thing that was missing was David Niven chatting to Audrey Hepburn at the next table.
Book your stay: fourseasons.com/capferrat
This article was originally published in the Autumn 2021 issue.