They say good things come in small packages. Those people clearly have never been parents, as I can tell you that tiny humans are capable of producing vile things. With only 30 rooms, Cheval Blanc St. Tropez is the baby of the group – not physically or emotionally, just in terms of size. And it’s the size that is both its strength and weakness.
A small hotel has the luxury of truly getting to know their guests. It can be more intimate, personalised and focused. That was clearly the case when their pre-arrival questionnaire arrived, which was 28 questions long. I probably spent more time answering that than writing this review. I love to see a hotel get the welcome experience right, but maybe not to the point where it becomes a novel, and I need a break, a long shower and a cry before I can finish it. I wondered when they would ask questions like: “Two fathers and two sons are in a car, yet there are only three people in the car. How?” and “What is your mother’s maiden name?”. To their credit, they used the information to enhance our stay, but then they better have, as I was delirious and likely threatening them by question twenty-five.
Once you arrive, you might be a bit underwhelmed by the location. It is next to the sea, so definitely has one up on their competition in that regard, but it’s also on a busy, rundown street. I don’t know what magic they’ve used, but the noise never makes it into the property, but it’s not exactly the palace of Versailles should you decide to walk into town. Think more a piss-stained alleyway in Soho on a Sunday morning.
They managed to pack in everything you could want, with one exception: the Kids Club. A strange omission from a company with a kids club in a city hotel. Unless there’s no need to, as only an idiot would bring their children to St. Tropez…
It also has an on-premise, private beach club, which the competition lacks, but it’s not exactly the Maldives in terms of quality. Yet this is Europe, so you take what you’re given. I never used it as I’m not gonna let some pansy star millions of miles away dictate how I die; instead, I’m gonna go out fist fighting a giant squid.
There’s a single restaurant, which serves breakfast, lunch and then transforms into a Michelin three-star restaurant for dinner. They manage to up their game as the day goes on, whereas I begin to sound more like a drunk and badly beaten Sylvester Stallone.
They offer indoor seating for the restaurant, but the outside terrace and beautiful gardens are where you want to be. The food was excellent, and I particularly liked breakfast, which brought different selections each day, a made-on-the-spot yoghurt selection and bread trolley. Beside the gardens rests their 2m deep swimming pool. I’m starting to think this place isn’t for families.
Inside is a small bar and sitting area, then downstairs in the basement, you’ll find the spa and gym. We never had a treatment, but I did get a haircut in the hair salon, as Lucie’s hints were those only a wife could give. You know, how it starts “Oh look, a hair salon, you should go” until a few hours later I find myself with an appointment I didn’t book.
All Cheval Blanc spas are alluring. There’s the usual product line, but then some design that somehow makes you relaxed. Here, the hallways with their water features lead you through to the ice shower, hammam and gym, which features some TechnoGym equipment and a Peloton.
Much care went into the service, but not everyone’s English was at the level I would expect, and with almost everyone being new, there were a lot of uncertain answers, which made us unsure of anything we were told. However, stingy is not a word you will associate with Cheval Blanc; they did some beautiful turndowns, including flowers for our anniversary, presents for our unborn baby and a beautiful card. The minibar is restocked twice a day and, like the arrival gifts, their turndown gifts are things you’d actually want to take home.
But then we have the room.
I knew what I was getting, so it did not come as a surprise, but if you were told you’re getting five years in prison, then it’s not any easier when you serve it. The rooms are tiny. Our so-called suite was advertised as 40-50sqm. It offered two balconies, one large enough to home a sofa and two sun loungers, whilst the other had two dining room chairs. The balconies offered a hidden feature: luggage storage. It’s not what they were designed for, but it’s how we ended up using them through necessity. Without them, I guess we’d have lived the true St. Tropez lifestyle – buying Louis Vuitton clothes and burning them in front of the homeless on departure.
The bathroom is so small that it looked like it was on a cruise ship. Hats off to the architects for managing to fit both a bath and toilet into this square meterage, as any other designer would have combined the bath and toilet. Maybe they placed the toilet so far away as it was so loud it sounded like geriatric Megatron jerking off.
It was one of the smallest rooms we’ve had in a long time. When you can get over that, there’s also the issue of privacy, as we could see other rooms from our balcony, meaning they can definitely see you. One balcony practically starred into ours.
Everything looks lovely, everything is quality, and everything is very Cheval Blanc, but it’s hard to get over the size of the room, particularly as we were in a suite. Not even my beloved free minibar, free movies and blackout blinds that murder all light, allow me to get over that.
- Easy access to St. Tropez, if that’s your thing
- Room sizes
- Free Bentley transfers to town
St Tropez is not one of Cheval Blanc’s best properties, but they have made the best out of their circumstances. It offers good food, service and facilities but doesn’t possess something you cannot get elsewhere. Unless your thing is staring at large yachts fleeing sanctions.
Where the small size is a pro is the feeling of exclusivity. It was at full occupancy, but there were always plenty of free beds in the beach club or tables for dinner. Yet with such small rooms and the top suite being only 90 sqm, it’s not one that I’d consider particularly family-friendly. We were the only family here, which made sense. It’s a place designed for couples. It felt like the room fell silent when we walked in with a toddler.
If you come as a family, you will need to either take a suite and joining room or consider one of their two villas, which are bizarrely not advertised. We were shown around the 4-bedroom villa, which looked great, but at €25,000/n, I guess one could expect such pleasures like wardrobes.
So would you rather stay somewhere that lacks a sense of place, that is ultimately a man-made slab of concrete next to the sea, which itself is next to a busy road, or would you rather head up into the hills and enjoy the French countryside? Something special, relaxing and enjoyable about here still made that question harder to answer than you might imagine.
I left here wondering whether I would return and I couldn’t definitively say. That is, until we arrived at our next stop, which made it clear there is a much better option nearby.
Room type: Sea View Suite Duration: 13 June > 15th June, 2022. Approx. €3,850/n