Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Oh I do love to be beside the seaside...

For as long as I can remember I've loved the sea. When we've earned our millions (or won the lottery) the first thing I'll do is buy a house on a beach somewhere.
Having the beach five minutes from the house has been one of the best things about living here and I'm going to loathe not having it on the door step anymore.
There are hundreds of beach bars and restaurants down here within a stones throw of another and each one is completely different to the next. The food on the whole in the beach restaurants isn't amazing. I know that that's quite a bold, sweeping statement but generally, before you've even walked through the door, you know what's going to be on the menu; you're never far from a sea bass, lamb cutlet, steak frites, moules mariniers or veal Milanese and they're usually pretty average in the taste department. Knowing this makes it really exciting when you find a really good, different menu.

Chaz and I on Pampelonne beach

Club 55

An obvious choice maybe but not somewhere necessarily to go for the food. I love it for the atmosphere, the pretty blue table cloths, the crudite platters, the veal Milanese, the champagne framboise, the owner Patrice, the people watching and last but certainly not least - it's actually the main reason why I love it here so much - is the boutique.
A tiny, white washed, wooden shack on the beach that is filled with the most beautiful creations you can imagine; Cotton lawn dresses, the softest sarongs, tiny delicate gems, hand painted wooden children's toys, huge piles of jewel coloured cushions and ditsy print bikinis. Corinne, the owner, the epitome of laid back French chic, has the best taste which means if you're in the mood to shop, you're in the right place.

The bar, restaurant and boutique at Club 55.

Plage de Pampelonne
Boulevard Patch

0033 (0)4 94 55 55 55

Plage des Graniers

Graniers is very unlike all the other beach restaurants in St Tropez. For starters it's not on Pampelonne beach. It's a five minute walk from the town and is the most laid back, chilled one of them all. It's in it's own little bay where the sea's always calm there and is a real feet in the sand, old fashioned, family beach bar. There's no fancy wine list or swanky seafood platters with sparklers, just simple barbecued fish, the best moules farcies in the World and huge ice cream sundae style puddings worth their weight in gold. It could be my best.

Chemins des Graniers 83990 Saint-Tropez
04 94 55 90 00

Friday, 20 August 2010

Figs and flowers v's Starbucks....

Now it's time to go and I'm beginning to feel a bit sick. The thought of city life slightly terrifies me. After all this calm, the space, the sea, the endless open skies and generally seeing no more than five people a day, it's going to feel like we've moved to another planet.

I'm most going to miss not having Chaz and Wolf to myself. We're used to spending every single waking second together and now I'm going to have to share them.

The pace of life here is similar to how I imagine retirement to be. Very very slow and laid back. Everything closes from 12 til 4pm so the window to get anything done is tiny. Then you have to write off August as locals just won't work then, or on a weekend, or a friday afternoon, you get the picture... In the beginning it was seriously frustrating but now we see it as completely normal and are amazed when we go somewhere and see things that are open at lunchtime.

I'm going to miss being able to walk out the door and pick a huge bunch of beautiful wild flowers, an armful of the most delicious figs or bunch of juicy grapes whenever we want to. Looking on the bright side I guess now, I'll be able to walk out my door and get that coffee I've been dreaming about instead.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Au Revoir

Sitting among my hundred packing boxes, it's slowly sinking in that we are actually leaving. This time in three weeks, we will have left France behind and be starting the next chapter of our lives in London.
When we first arrived in France four years ago, I thought that I'd never get used to it. I'd lived in London since I was eighteen and loved everything about it. Everything there was so accessible. You could do or get anything at the drop of a hat and see friends in ten minutes of picking up the phone. It was all very 'now, now, now' and I loved it.
So arriving here, at a vinyard in the middle of nowhere was a bit of shock to the system. Fine, St Tropez is just down the road but by October when the sunbathers have gone home, everyone there shuts up shop too. So it really was just me, Chaz and Alice the miniature daschund, alone in the vines, in the middle of nowhere, in a new country. People thought we were mad. At times I thought we were mad too.
It seems strange now, looking back remembering those first few months and how much we missed certain things we had left behind.
Obviously there was all our friends and family. It was only a two hour flight away but as soon as you throw an aeroplane in there, it becomes mentally miles away. I used to get most upset when I'd speak to my girlfriends as they were all about to meet up for dinner together and I couldn't be there anymore. I was sure they'd forget me.
Then there was the food. Sausages, cheddar cheese, bacon, Dairy Milk and Chinese take out being top of the most missed list. Friends could come and go as they pleased as long as they arrived with suitcases full of Cathedral City and Tesco's Finest pork and apple sausages every time they came to stay.
For some reason, despite not even being a die hard coffee fan, I found not being able to just nip out to Starbucks for a coffee strangely hard to deal with. In fact, the real problem was that I couldn't really 'nip' anywhere.
But this is what comes with living in the countryside and as soon as I'd accepted that this was just the way it is, the lure of London got smaller and smaller, the pace of life slowed down and I began to love it here.

Saturday, 7 August 2010


My mother found this bowl at Jas de Roberts sunday brocante in May this year. I love it's simplicity.

I've always wanted my own little space that is selfishly,totallymine. Somewhere I can hoard away all my random bits and pieces; somewhere all my scraps of fabrics, cookbooks and Edwardian clothes could hang out together. In a dream world I would have a little summer house at the bottom of the garden as my escape.

Summer house made by Mark Harvey.

Carrying on in my dream world, everything would be mostly white. There'd be dusty white floor boards, billowing faded floral fabric for curtains, chipped, white-washed wooden furniture, mismatched plates, bowls and mugs with huge jugs of peonies and cabbages roses dotted around. My friend Christina Strutt is Queen of shabby chic and owns one of my absolute best shops in the World, Cabbages and Roses. When I'm back in London I can easily while away the whole afternoon in there, mostly just day dreaming about re-doing my house to look like the shop. I sometimes think I could live in her shop.

Dream bedroom decorated by Christina Strutt

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

On the table

With Chaz being such a good cook it's easy to get lazy and just let him do everything. Our unspoken deal is that I look after Wolf and he makes all the meals. I sometimes get a real urge to cook though - mostly cupcakes - and go for things that he wouldn't really ever cook. Thai green curry is my latest craze. I adore really healthy, vegetable creations; lots of sweet potatoes, jewelled couscous, tarts, roast vegetables etc. Real 'girl food' as Chaz calls it. He's not a huge fan but is definitely getting happier to give it a go. He now loves a toasted sunflower seed in his salad and wont eat white bread anymore but still draws the line at couscous.

We always seem to have a full house. At one stage we thought about turning the house into a hotel and earn our living that way. Cooking for lots of people all the time has meant that we've ended up with a repetoire of all the meals we cook. If you came to stay you'd be guaranteed to be served one of the following.

Chaz's new Lemon and Thyme spatch-cocked chicken cooked on the bbq.
A huge asparagus, toasted seed, avocado, coriander and parsley salad.
Baked Potatoes with sour cream and chive sauce and grated cheeses
Chili and garlic tiger prawns quickly cooked on the bbq
Seared tuna with a soy and mirin dipping sauce
A whole seabass cooked in white wine and lemons
Pea, feta and mint salad
Jewelled cousous
Grated raw courgette salad with Chili and organic olive oil

We're usually too full for pudding but if not our freezer has enough mini Magnums, Malteser ice creams and dulce leche Haagen Dazs to sink a ship.

Salads from the lovely Ottolenghi restuarant.

Monday, 2 August 2010

Food for Thought

My husband Chaz and I spend probably 90% of our time talking about food. The balance changed though when our baby, Wolf, arrived in November. Conversation was now split 50/50 between Wolf and Food.
Chaz is the most incredible cook. He is renowned with all our friends and family for the way he can magic up incredible feasts just like that and stay as cool as cucumber the whole time.
When we first moved to France, our plan was to earn our living through food. We were going to write a cookbook. Start a sushi restuarant in St Tropez. Provide luxury picnics for the mega yachts up and down the Cote D'Azur. Evidently, none of the above have happened yet but we are always dreaming of somehow making our millions through food.
So we talk and think about food a lot. We talk about what we're going to cook for supper when we're eating our lunch. Our house is bursting with cookbooks and my ideal bed time read is lots of take out menus. One of the best presents I've been given is a subscription to Delicious magazine from my Mother in law, Suze. You're basically getting a new cookbook every month. I never really make anything from them, just like looking at all the recipes and photos and make myself hungry.
For the last year or so my best cook book has been Tamasin Day Lewis's Kitchen Bible. There aren't a lot of photos - usually a prerequisite for whether I'm going to like it or not but the recipes and way that it's written is brilliant. It's written in such a chatty, familiar way that makes you feel Tamasin's there helping you herself.

Nigel Slater is another of my faves. Not so much his books- I haven't read many of them yet but he had a great program on TV called Nigel Slater's Simple Suppers. Not only were the recipes very delicious looking but it was filmed in his house in London in the most divine kitchen I've ever seen. A huge open room, wooden floors, massive open windows, clean white walls, with beautiful random bowls here and there and a splashes of colour from the pots of basil and coriander in the corners. Despite my love of clutter, Nigel's kitchen is top of my dream kitchen list.