At this time of year it is common for Italians to be shuttling over to the Côte d’Azur. Condominiums and studio flats have mushroomed in the area between Menton and Cannes in the last few years. It doesn’t take much to pop over to top hotels for weekends and feel part of the scene—shared with celebrities during the film festival, with their exclusive parties on the beach or on yachts moored offshore. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it is becoming obvious that the downsides of people’s legitimate holiday aspirations are blighting the area; in some places you seem to be somewhere between a holiday park and a shopping mall rather than in an attractive Riviera town.
But if you move inland away from the busy tourist routes it is still possible to find places that can provide the sort of atmosphere you expect from a holiday in South-East France. For example, about 20 kilometers from Antibes, not far from Vence, there is a lovely village called Tourrettes sur Loup. It is a medieval village sheltering in the steep gorges typical of the area. Artists live there and exhibit high quality work in the shops and studios. Picturesque locations have a beautiful panorama of the Maritime Alps as a backdrop; there is nothing artificial about the relaxing atmosphere, which allows tourists to take a break from the hectic activity along the coast.
On the gastronomic front, there is an interesting confectioner’s shop, Confiserie Florian, with handmade products a few kilometers away in Pont sur Loup. Here you can buy delicious sugar violets, fruit jellies and outstanding jams. In Tourrettes sur Loup itself there is a restaurant worth keeping an eye on, with a capable and promising 35-year-old chef at the helm. Only three years since it was opened, Christophe Dufau is taking the l’Auberge de Tourrettes (0033 4 93593005) to ever higher standards. It is situated at the entry to the village, has a balcony with view, a garden where the chef grows herbs for his dishes and, true to the origins of the Danish owners and some of his staff, is furnished in a modern linear style.
If I may repeat the well chosen expression used by a French guide to describe Christophe Dufau’s style, it is a cuisine of “inspiration and respiration”. A light cuisine, rich in aromas, which is the result of a conscious creative streak and experienced technique refined alongside masters of the caliber of David Bouley in New York, and developed while working in various places around the world. Dufau is committed to exploring delicate original combinations—though not nonsensical ones —with a focus on vegetables and herbs.
All of his raw ingredients are of high quality and star dishes include quail with basil and grapefruit or bass cooked with apples in red Bandol wine and frothed milk. Dufau gives special attention to local and seasonal products, to which he dedicates theme menus. On the occasion of my visit there was a menu totally based on courgettes. You will spend between 42 and 58 euros to experience the cuisine of a definite star of the future.
First printed in La Stampa on 21-06-2003