Colombe d’Or, Saint-Paul de Vence

The Colombe d’Or is a legendary hotel nestled in the fortified hill town of Saint-Paul de Vence. In the cobbled streets surrounding the house dawdling tourists examine the quaint alleys and admire the magnificent views. Behind the old walls of the Colombe d’Or however the atmosphere is exclusive and elegant.

Always family run the Colombe d’Or first opened as a café in 1920 and added rooms soon after. Run by the artistic Roux family for nearly 100 years now, there is a very personal and friendly feel to the place, whether you are a regular guest or a visiting diner. Famous for its exquisite private collection of art works the indoor dining room is an impressive museum of masters, including works by Picasso, Cezanne, Matisse, Miro and Chagall.

In the balmy summer months only visitors with connections get a table for lunch here. The menu is typically Provencal, simple classic dishes made with the freshest seasonal ingredients. The timings are leisurely as the staff stroll around the terrace topping up glasses of local rose while guests chat about their summer holidays.

We enjoyed an al fresco lunch at the Colombe d’Or in early September, when the Riviera coast begins to calm down as tourists return home. Service was slow but it seemed to suit the environment, and encourages guests to sit back and relax in the romantic setting. The ornate menu features a range of dishes, it looks like it hasn’t changed much in decades. We feasted on a huge array of French delicacies for the Les Hors d’Oeuvre Colombe d’Or including thick cut pepper salami, roasted vegetables and crusty bread. For main course we each ate a whole roast poussin with sausages and creamy potato dauphinoise. It was rich and too heavy for me to finish, but the baby chicken (which had been carved at the table) was tender and had a wonderfully subtle flavour. For dessert we sampled the traditional Tarte de la Mere Roux, a soft and sweet apple tart, which had been cooked to perfection… though I felt it needed a dollop of cream to cut through the fruity acidity.

After our lunch we spent some time admiring the picturesque house and magnificent art collection. Despite its reputation and prestige the Colombe d’Or remains a quiet and intimate place to spend time whether you are staying in one of the rooms or just visiting for lunch.

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