This review is taken from our guidebook, Mr & Mrs Smith Hotel Collection: France.
On a balmy evening just out of season, fetching up late on an exclusive promontory of the Côte d’Azur is confusing. It’s dark and eerily quiet. We can see inky Mediterranean waves, inches from the coastal road, and the glitter of lights from discreet villas on one side and ultra-expensive yachts on the other.
Rusty French combined with a first-gen SatNav sees us swing past Cap d’Antibes Beach Hotel twice before we hit the bull’s-eye. Yet once we arrive we wonder how we could ever have missed it; the entrance is chic, brutalist- modernist, low-slung and bright white. Positioned on the littoral road – literally and conceptually between the Cap’s two Significant Other places to stay, the grande dame Belles Rives and the ostentatiously glitzy Hotel du Cap Eden Roc – our destination is unusually contemporary for this well-developed Medside playground.
Owing to a warm welcome from kind young staff, who ply us with champagne and smiles, our journey woes quickly melt away. Dinner timings are strict, as we’ve come to fear in La Belle France, and we’ve missed the last service. Not to worry: a plate of local cheeses and glorious cured ham, and a chilled Provençal rosé arrive swiftly on our private terrace. We’re protected by rustling palms and lulled by the sound of boats bobbing nearby.
Built on the hallowed ground of a beach club that attracted Hollywood royalty such as Cary Grant and Sophia Loren at the height of their fling, this wedge of land between two bijou marinas has been intelligently transformed into a stylish mini-resort. Cleverly crammed onto a relatively small footprint, Cap d’Antibes Beach Hotel has 27 rooms, two restaurants, a bar, spa, garden, pool and beach.
Our quarters are faultlessly designed, with smart divisions: the bedroom zone is separated from the bathroom by the three-quarter height, tiger-striped wenge-wood bedhead, providing a feeling of spaciousness. The headboard also incorporates a panel of frosted glass looking into the ensuite, for some sexy peeping. The bathroom is perfectly planned, with a double sink,bath for two, walk-in wet room with rain shower, piles of plump white towels and locally produced L’Occitane unguents. There are moments of invention, too. The iridescent purple mosaic tiling reminds us of the pearly insides of mussel shells.
Neutral floor tiling in smooth stone, textured cement on the ceiling, and electric roller doors on the full-length windows out to the terrace may make our room sound like a glamorous garage, but it’s far from coldly minimal. A palette of mushroom, white and sand is picked out with glimmery metallic accents, such as golden velvet pillows and a delicately sequinned throw on the bed. I especially love the Italian-designed desk chair, covered in silvery techno fibre, and a low, comfortable chair that integrates a table into its armrest – it looks as though it’s been built of plaited rope, covered in glue and left to harden. To top it all, each room has a wall-sized digital artwork, celebrating the secrets of the sea. Ours has the electrified outline of a mammoth stingray on a moody background of copper, chocolate brown and amber. It’s time for bed, Cap d’Antibes Beach Hotel Côte d’Azur and the last lights to be turned off are the glittering LEDs that are built into the bedhead, like stars.
Waking to a view of incredible coastline, you’re reminded of just what a desirable bit of real estate this is. Once the garage doors are up, and we’re no longer hermetically sealed in our cooled room, we hear the lively shore, abuzz with the sounds of motorbikes, speedboats, yacht bells and other visitors. The energy is infectious, and we’re anxious to join the throng – after breakfast, of course.
Peerless pastries and oeufs en cocotte are served on a peaceful back terrace. Looking out across the waves and yachts to the Iles de Lérins, we decide to dedicate our morning to all-action watersports. Waterskiing from Belles Rives hotel is easily organised and, in no time, we’re skiing straight off the private jetty. I wish I had got some practice in beforehand to emulate the nonchalance of the old hand ahead of me, who casually slips onto the water, glides between million-pound yachts and returns, after 30 minutes, barely wet at all.
We get our scuba fix with a single dive from the Cap (seeing mostly seaweed and costly hulls – the Med ain’t the Maldives), and finish our odyssey with an afternoon trip to the wild and wooded Ile Sainte-Marguerite, one of the two Lérins islands we spied earlier. Surprised by hidden rocky beaches backed by scented pines and eucalyptus, we sip Orangina in the shade of the fortress that once held the Man in the Iron Mask. On the way back, we stop off at ritzy Juan-les-Pins, where tarnished blondes in mini minis and every speck of land are dedicated to sunning or posing. It’s a lot of fun.
Two of the greediest people on the planet, we’ve had our pulses speeding up steadily about dinner at Les Pêcheurs. Designed like an ocean liner, with full-length windows facing the port on one side, and an extended terrace overlooking the blue sea on the other, Les Pêcheurs is modern and streamlined. The hotel’s marine theming reaches its logical peak here, with all manner of fresh fish and just-caught crustacea given the star treatment. All the ingredients that aren’t plucked from beneath the waves are sourced from the coastal hills of the Côte d’Azur and the Italian Riviera; pungent French thyme, salty little olives from Taggia, Genoese basil, and sweet, tart Provençal tomatoes play supporting roles. The dishes are all zhuzhed up with a dash of orientalism, creative presentation skills and a set of very sharp knives.
Afterwards, we eddy off for a last digestif aboard our deck – sorry, I mean on our terrace. As the noises of the day are replaced by a soundtrack of swishing palms and swaying masts, we’re lulled, finally, into a sea of tranquillity.