Dylan Jones: If you ask me

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The Independent Online

If you ask me, La Colombe d'Or has become the most English restaurant in all France. The famous hotel and garden terrace restaurant in the hill village of St Paul de Vence in the Côte d'Azur is where the vacationing Brits come for solace after the pier-pressure at Villefranche or Paloma Beach, and it is now so heavily populated by them in the summer that the French no longer visit in August. There are hardly any Americans, either. Not even the newly rich and confidently shirted Russian come; they don't understand the art – the hotel was once so popular with impoverished artists such as Picasso, Rouault, Matisse and Léger that they paid their bills in artworks – or how to dress down with style. No, when the Russians invade, they come – and stay – on their boats. The hotel doesn't care though, and they appear more than happy to embrace the admen, yachties and merchant bankers from the more consequential London postcodes rather than the snooty Parisiennes, with their icy tiara smiles and old-fashioned cigarettes.

The rosy-cheeked women pile in wearing their white linen dresses and floppy hats, the men come complete with their pale blue tailored shirts (tucked in, collars up), their white trousers and loafers and their well-oiled receding hairlines. And if you don't bump into someone you know, you'll certainly see someone you recognise – La Colombe d'Or is the home of ex-Bond girls, fashionistas, art directors, photographers, writers and pop stars. The parking spaces on the hill are full of rented Mercs, Fords and BMWs, all of them driven from nearby villas or the "good" hotels along the coast.

And as soon as you enter through the small door in the wall that surrounds La Colombe d'Or you understand why every Brit loves it so. Not only is it an oasis of calm, it really is the most exquisite country garden, the sort that every Englishman would like if he had the money. You eat figs and parma ham, break bread on the thick white linen tablecloth, and then spy the ceramic Léger wall-painting hiding underneath the ivy. And then you sample the truffle salad (expensive enough to cover the insurance for the Léger), you sip your peach champagne and all is right with the world. Or at least the little bit of England we wish was back over the Channel.

Dylan Jones is the editor of 'GQ'

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