La Reserve - A place of perfection
We all like to say that we are striving for perfection. But what if we come across it? Well, if La Reserve is not yet perfect, then it is certainly in the process of getting there: flawless - almost, faultless - as good as.
La Reserve is emerging from its winter hibernation right now and while we were being shown around last October I found it hard to see what the charming G.M. was pointing out in terms of 'flaws' that were to be corrected before re-opening this Spring. Changing a veneer tone perhaps? Or moving an urn to another corner of a suite's terrace? Whatever, it all looked close to perfect to me...
When we arrived, myself, Peter and Bibi (then 4 months), I genuinely forgot I was on the outskirts of Europe's most star-studded glittering port, St Tropez. This is because La Reserve, although only minutes from this buzzing village, is set in a reserve, a reserve that feels unencumbered, dense with sensual coastal Mediterranean vegetation. What's more, the hotel has the most staggering vantage point atop a hill with views across the sea as far as the eye will take you. Once you have parked your car and made your way down the steps to the 'Amanesque' entrance, you are instantly transported.
This feeling of purity of perspective, combining neat lines with the drama of nature, gives La Reserve an exotic quality that is not often felt in Europe and is one of the reasons you are able to relax at such a pace. Another is the fact that the staff, almost perfect themselves ('Armaniesque' with GQ statures and eyes to match the sea or sky beyond) are exceptionally nice. It all feels a little heavenly here, the sort of spot you dream of when you are in need of an escape.
La Reserve is described as 'a new secret refuge' and was designed by renowned architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte, a man who is passionate about integrating architecture with its natural surroundings. He was certainly blessed with this location. But La Reserve, unlike the surrounding glamorous boutique hotels, is also a spa retreat, a place to rejuvenate, even detox. Now that may sound a little paradoxical for such a locale, but in fact you can tailor your stay to your exact desires or requirements. So you can dip into the 'good life' and return to the reserve for some deep tissue pampering and roasted market vegetables; or you can stay on high octane good life throughout; or you can choose to be totally pampered, getting the most from an all round bespoke programme that prides itself on health and well being above all else.
I always remain fairly open on these trips because apart from anything else I want to be able to offer an unbiased opinion and not polarise the views for a specific clientele. It is obvious that La Reserve would appeal to those of us who love outstanding Spa facilities. This is a Spa that describes itself as 'dedicated to a new quality of life' with individually targeted programmes lasting a day to days, while expert therapists and specialists trained in anti-ageing, energy building, and whole body 'fixing' are available for the duration of your stay. Treatments should always be booked in advance. The theme of water is genuinely blissful here and I do believe that they have got something special in terms of creating an environment that encourages a desire for self-improvement. There is no punishing regime here; it could even be a little addictive.
So while your stay could encompass a personal mission to lose weight, reduce stress, slow down the ageing process, improve fitness and generally revive; deep relaxation could also be achieved with less. A few days in a sensual Southern Provence paradise, beside one of the most picturesque villages in France, Ramatuelle, where simply soaking up the views and ambiance from your private terrace or garden will give you a worthy rest. It's down to budget and personal preference. Either way you feel extremely enriched.
While we know it's always a treat indulging in a lingering lunch at Club 55 or checking out the port swank from a front row seat at Senequier; the food, as a general rule, does not hit great highs. However the chef at La Reserve delivers plates with intense flavour, always fresh, exquisitely presented, and remarkably filling considering he doesn't like cream or butter. He, thankfully, does hit the high notes.
I had perhaps the best take on a Nicoise salad ever; tuna close to Nobu sashimi, with crushed spices around the edge, just enough gooey balsamic reduction, with warm truffled quails eggs lightly poached on top. Again, the menu here is designed to nourish in the positive sense, however I did spot the indulgent chocolate trio that must have wracked up a few hundred calories and you can discuss a more filling alternative with the chef if you are missing your t-bone and chips. He/they are not sanctimonious in any way, it's just that their philosophy is all about feeling good. Seriously good. There is also a notable wine list here.
I honestly think you could just 'hang out' in your suite with your terrace or garden and go no farther. They are divine. The beds are like eating an aero bar after lent (peppermint in my case), the bathrooms are slick in the extreme and the lighting is blissful throughout. The interiors are invitingly contemporary and extremely warm with it, while every one of the 23 suites has either a large terrace or private garden with jaw dropping views across the sea and down to thick umbrella pines and the glistening pool. Design and function have wedded in perfect unison here. It rained while we were there, and it still felt magical.
There are private villas, too. 19 of the most incredible provencal-style villas with pools all set in private gardens with stunning sea-views, served by the hotel when required. Quite brilliant for families.
On leaving and saving up to return...
Well, I still go back to near perfection in retrospect. I had a 'signature' back massage (quite beyond anything I have ever experienced) that still stands me in good stead; I have renewed my allegiance to Crème de la Mer face cream; I have been to Nobu twice and thought of La Reserve's tuna both times; and I am uncertain whether I will ever find a bed quite as good. I do remember, however, that there is a price to pay for staying here, but for those of you who can afford a stay that leaves Trip Advisor for the less privileged, then this is the place for you.