Stay the night: Hotel Crillon le Brave, France
A chic country hotel in Provence has been given the Hotel du Vin makeover
Sunday 04 October 2009
How to build the ideal hotel. Find yourself a hamlet made from golden stone on a hilltop in Provence. Buy a house, then a few more – taking care not to make yourself too unpopular with the locals. Build a terrace and a pool at the heart of the huddle so that guests can enjoy the views of the vine-covered valley below. Chuck a mountain into the mix, if you can.
Peter Chittick and Craig Miller created just such an idyll in 1989 when they opened an 11-room hotel in Crillon le Brave in the shadow of Mont Ventoux. Twenty years on, the property has spread out across several more houses, linked by courtyards and cobbled alleys, to offer 23 rooms, seven suites and a two-bedroom house.
Four years ago, the team was joined by Hotel du Vin founder Robin Hutson and his long-time business associate Patrick Gaillard, who now leads the on-site staff. A makeover followed that will be familiar to fans of the Hotel du Vin brand, with slick interiors and good food and wine. But the real selling point is those mesmeric views.
In 2006, the team refurbished the tired interiors with a touch of rustic elegance. Carpets were replaced with earthy stone tiles, luxurious bathrooms were added, and some spaces were remodelled. A more recent refresh has calmed the floral flourishes with subtle tones and patterns. The experience in all 32 rooms is pared-back luxury. Antique-style furniture – a welcome relief from the over-familiar juxtaposition of ancient building and 21st-century styling – is complemented by high-spec extras such as Vi-Spring beds, Bose Wave systems with iPod connectors, free WiFi, Frette robes and generous quantities of L'Occitane toiletries. This place ticks all the right boxes for discerning boutique hotel fans.
The food and drink
The beautiful setting of the terrace and the intimate surroundings of the hotel's restaurant promise much. As does the unfussy, bistro-style menu. Yet, while lunch delivers just the light flavoursome touch that guests will be craving, dinner goes a little awry during the main course. The fresh, local ingredients used aren't given the wow factor their depth of flavour deserves and can fall victim to poor timing. The game needs to be raised for the kind of foodie-centric guests this hotel attracts. As you'd expect from the original Hotel du Vin crew, wine is central to what's on offer, with a list that celebrates the spicy reds, fruity whites and delicate rosés of the Ventoux region.
Resident sybarites are invited to keep fit by playing boules or perhaps doing a few laps in the heated outdoor pool. There's also tennis or you can take a ride on one of the hotel's bikes – steel yourself though, you'll need to get back up that long road from the valley floor. Massages and beauty treatments are available in the one-room Cowshed Spa – it's a shame they continue to import a British brand when Provence is famed for its high-quality fragrant soaps, creams and oils. Check out special packages for the vendange, truffle hunting and cooking classes.
Children and pets welcome. The multi-level nature of the hotel makes it unsuitable for wheelchair users.
A double room starts from £220 per night. British Airways (0844 493 0758; ba.com) offers a four-night fly-drive to Marseilles from £156 per person, based on two sharing, including return flights from Gatwick and car rental. Kate Simon was also hosted by Sofitel London Gatwick (01293 567 070; sofitel.com), which offers rooms from £116 B&B.
Hotel Crillon le Brave, Place de l'Eglise, 84410 Crillon le Brave, France (00 33 490 65 61 61; crillonlebrave.com).
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