Florence Highs: -- Staying at JK Place, Florence's ultimate boutique…
Our new guidebook to the best boutique hotels in France is out next week, so we thought we’d start introducing you to some of the (oh-so-lucky and oh-so-stylish) reviewer couples we sent on mystery-shopper missions to cover the 31 deliciously designed stays in Mr & Mrs Smith Hotel Collection: France.
With tastes that run to the exotic, a refined palate, and an ability to sift through the traditional and cherrypick what’s current, restaurateur Mourad Mazouz struck us as an ideal candidate for a Smith review. We thought the ideal destination for the man behind some of the most fashionable restaurants and bars in London (Momo, Sketch) and Paris (404, Andy Wahloo and Derrière) would be the South of France, so we packed him and his partner Caroline Kassar off to the glittering Côte d’Azur to review Cap Estel, a drop-dead gorgeous coastal clifftop retreat at Eze.
Here’s a little intro to the man who can probably be credited with single-handedly renewing interest in North African cuisine (outside of North Africa, obviously), and a mouthwatering tidbit of his Cap Estel review from the new France guidebook…
Mourad caught the travel bug early on, leaving his native Algeria at 16 and heading for Paris. After a stint in music PR, he spent the next six years on the move, between south-east Asia, the Caribbean and Los Angeles. Back in Paris, in 1998, he launched his first restaurant, Au Bascou, followed by 404, his first authentic North African restaurant, today part of a hip enclave that includes pop-art bar Andy Wahloo and eateries 404 and Derrière. Mourad’s London restaurants are the celebrated Momo, and ground-breaking Sketch. Music has remained a passion – Mo’Zik projects have included a collaboration between Nigeria’s Afrobeat pioneers and the British urban underground scene. He also created Almaz by Momo in Dubai and Momo at the Souk in Beirut, opening September 2010. He still has the travel bug!
Reviewing is new to me: as a restaurateur, I’m usually on the other side of the game. However, relishing the prospect of embarking on an espionage mission with Mrs Smith, I morph swiftly into a suave spy as we touch down in the South of France…
After an extravagant, breakfast-missing lie-in, we open our shutters to a magnificent view of palm trees and cliffs. Strolling, sleepy-eyed, onto the roomy terrace, we see the sea and its divine bays, and the salt air reminds us we have appetites. We head to the bar for a coffee and a club sandwich, gaze directed towards the floor-to-ceiling bay windows of the Empire-style salon. While Mrs Smith returns to the scene of the lie-in for yet more horizontality, I take a little wander into the gorgeous garden, where an infinity pool leads to the private beach and a promenade with an exquisite view.
Later on, I find the state-of-the-art spa and submit to an expert massage. The sound of the waves and the wind against the cliff give me the impression I’m drifting on a boat, far away from land. It’s very relaxing, and I’m lost to the world.
Order your copy of the ‘Mr & Mrs Smith Hotel Collection: France‘ guide, our hand-picked selection of the best boutique and luxury hotels in France.
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