WIN: A trip for two to Provence

PUBLISHED: 15:37 22 March 2014 | UPDATED: 15:37 22 March 2014

Le Mas Candille

Le Mas Candille

Archant

If you like fine food, fine weather, art and high end accommodation then packing a weekend bag and heading to Mougins, France, should be on your bucket list

Maximising the convenience of Gatwick plus low-priced flights, two of us jetted off to France for a glorious weekend at La Mas Candille.

After arrival at Nice airport, we were taken by private transfer to a stunning member of the Relais & Châteaux group, nestled in the ancient town of Mougins. The total travel time is less than it would take to drive from Canterbury to Penzance.

Set in four acres of lush hillside tranquillity, Le Mas Candille is a multi-award-winning, five-star luxury hotel that weaves fresh, modern hotelier services and facilities into the fabric of a converted 18th-century farmhouse.

Adjoining the farmhouse (‘La Mas’) is the recently built ‘La Bastide’, a collection of rooms and a suite that honours the traditional architecture of La Mas. Many of the rooms offer astounding panoramic views that take in the ‘pre-alps’. Quite breath-taking. And that doesn’t even include the ‘villa suites.’

Shortly after check-in it was essential to get familiar with our get-away retreat. Walking around the quiet grounds of the hotel felt like a mini-exploration. Winding, rough-cut stone stairways meander under stately olive trees, connecting lavender-lined paths with the sparkling pools, magnificent rooms and jaw-dropping views. Striking sculptures by local artist Marion Bürklé were to be found in prominent and secluded spots around the gardens, playfully encouraging the guest to engage in a game of hide and seek.

We thought we were unlucky during the first day, as an unseasonal torrent of rain lashed at the windows. This proved to be of little bother, however.

My fiancée enjoyed a massage and facial treatment in the onsite, internationally renowned Japanese Shiseido Spa, the only one of its kind in Europe. Treatments at the spa embody the ambience of the hotel and gardens, relaxing, quiet and elegant. A perfect antidote to the stresses and strains of the modern lifestyle.

While Madame was being massaged, Monsieur took comfort in the bar, aside the enormous open fire, which fills the room with a pleasant but not overpowering aroma of wood smoke.

While enjoying my bière with a view, I reflected that fragrance was already a theme of the stay - the hallways of the hotel carry a pleasant scent of raspberry, the spa is a pioneer in ‘Aromachology’ and the rain was stimulating the plants and stirring up their natural bouquet.

Not surprising, given that the birthplace of perfume sits under the nose of the hotel, in the town of Grasse. Next time we will take the option to go in to Grasse and make our own scent.

Such indulgences inevitably led to a guilt-free afternoon nap. To revive ourselves it was the perfect opportunity to take a refreshing dip in one of three pools at the hotel. There are two for adults (quieter) and one that’s child friendly (where kids can have some fun without disturbing other guests).

Before long it was evening, so as vegetables were sautéed in the kitchen, we prepared ourselves for dinner in the room. The hotel’s Michelin-starred restaurant provides an exquisite opportunity to try the works of chef Gouloumès’ creative talents, which have earned him his star since 2005.

Around the room, artistic representations of flowers adorn the tables, metal-worked sculptures are lamp shades. The restaurant is perfectly placed to take in the view and in summer is barely used at all, as everyone dines al fresco on the terrace outside. Even in the off-season, the restaurant does a great trade: all 11 tables were occupied with happy diners.

While reading the fanciful menu, we were offered some tasty amuse bouche. Bite- sized portions of anchovy cream with lime, salmon on a horseradish cream and a most delightful croque-monsieur made with coconut. A tantalising insight into what we were to enjoy over the coming courses.

To start, I enjoyed the early spring asparagus and pea purée, with a supremely earthy morel mushroom foam, flavoured with Tio Pépé. On the opposite side of the table, a fresh scallop with Royal Baerii caviar was enjoyed, decorated with a whipped garden pea cream and slices of crunchy radish.

For the main course, I was presented with ‘egg surprise’ – something quite unlike anything I have seen before. A recreated poached egg, where the white has been fluffed up to marshmallow-like consistency, with the yolk inside, sitting on a delicious leek sauce, and crowned with shavings of truffle.

The other main enjoyed was the Norwegian Skrei Cod with Japanese black beans – a new legume to me, but a fabulous bean that had a woody, chestnut-like quality.

As it was a holiday we opted for a pre-dessert cheese course – and the cheese table was wheeled to us, on top of which was something that resembled a model of Dartmoor.

Tors of hard cheese grouped together next to low-rising, soft cheeses encrusted with Herb de Provence and pepper. To the east, a creamy selection of fromage became the foothills of the alpine peaks of three blue cheeses from across Europe.

The feast was finished with the dessert round –the playground of the Michelin-starred chef. We were not to be disappointed either. It was impossible for my dining partner to decline the ‘Illusion of Granny Smith apples with beetroot’, and I’m afraid the chocaholic in me just had to have the ‘Manjari Grand Cru 64 per cent chocolate tube, kumquat confit and salted butter caramel’.

Both choices were a sublime treat for the eyes and the mouth. The ‘apple’ was the chef’s work of wonder, a perfectly formed green apple with a firm but chewy shell and a delightful soft beetroot-flavoured filling.

The Sommelier matched our courses perfectly, starting with a glass of Macon 2012 Blanc Le Manoir de Lajucin from Burgundy. Our main courses were complemented by another white, this time the Hermitage De Pas 2011. The cheese course was courted by Diadema Rouge 2007, a fine red from Tuscany.

After such fine wining and dining it was time to savour the very comfortable bed.

On the Sunday the sky was a beautiful blue, and the sun cast a warming glow. To round off our stay, we enjoyed a stroll to the centre of Morgins, less than 10 minutes away. Perched on a hillside, intersected with a capillary network of intriguing side streets, it’s a perfect slice of the region, away from the coast.

Anyone who is a fan of seeing an artist at work in their own studio, should take a visit; Mougin is famous for art (Picasso spent his final years here) and fine dining.

We each enjoyed a perfectly prepared pasta dish at La Gaudinade - one with lobster, the other with truffles. The bottle of red, a 2011 Premiere de Figuiere, washed it all down very nicely, and made for a perfect end to the holiday.

Next time we visit we will spend more time and rent a car to explore the area. The hotel is positioned so well for accessing the best of Provence; you are just 45 minutes from Monaco, and one hour from St Tropez. In the winter, skiing is 90 minutes away, and in the summer the best beaches are only half an hour away. Best of both worlds.

READER COMPETITION

Kent Life has teamed up with Le Mas Candille to offer one lucky reader a one-night stay for two people to include:

● one night in a double room (traditional)

● breakfast for two

● dinner in the gastronomic restaurant for two

● a 60-minute spa treatment in the Shiseido Spa for two

The prize is valid until 19 December 2014, except in July, August, Cannes Congress and Bank Holidays, but does not include flights or transfers.

To be in with a chance of winning, just answer the question below and then send your answer with your name and contact details (including a daytime contact number) and email to: editor@kent-life.co.uk or send a postcard to: Kent Life, Archant Kent, Apple Barn, Hythe Road, Smeeth, nr Ashford TN25 6SS.

Please put ‘Le Mas Candille’ in the subject line. Archant competition rules apply (for full terms and conditions see www.kent-life.co.uk). Once the winner has been notified, they will need to book directly with the hotel.

Which famous artist spent his final years in Mougins?

a) Pissarro

b) Pollock

c) Picasso

Deadline for entries: 30 April 2014

GET IN TOUCH

Le Mas Candille

Boulevard Clément Rebuffel 06250 MOUGINS

+ 33 (0)492 28 43 43

info@lemascandille.com

www.lemascandille.com

Rates start at €315 per room, per night in the low season, through to €1,450 for the Deluxe Suite. Le Mas Candille has been a member of Relais & Châteaux since 2004.

Le Mas Candille is located between Cannes and Grasse in the village of Mougins, in the south of France. It is 20 minutes drive from Nice International airport, and 7km from Cannes.

After the war, Mougins had a great number of starred restaurants. With its seven stars in 1992, Mougins became the most starred French commune.

Getting there

easyJet flies from London Gatwick to Nice daily, with prices starting from £29.74 per person (one-way, including taxes based on two people on the same booking).

All flights can be booked at www.easyjet.com

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