Aerial view of Club Dauphin in Cap Ferrat, France

Grand-Hôtel du Cap-Ferrat, A Four Seasons Hotel
Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, France


 

Trying to pin down a specific property as the single-most magnificent in Four Seasons’ exemplary global portfolio of hotels and resorts would quite possibly amount to a Sisyphean task: each time you choose a new favourite, another blindingly gorgeous address opens. But some hotels still manage to stand out, among them without a doubt the Grand-Hôtel du Cap-Ferrat, A Four Seasons Hotel. An impeccably manicured hideaway on the southern tip of the Côte d’Azur’s Cap Ferrat peninsula, this is a modern-day Gatsby mansion.

Admittedly, ‘modern-day’ doesn’t quite do justice to the property, which originally opened in 1908 towards the end of a construction boom that saw the emergence of French ‘folies’, architecturally ‘mad’ and often bombastic structures expressive of the Belle Époque’s incessant optimism and ambition. For more than a century, the Grand-Hôtel du Cap-Ferrat has welcomed the world’s elite, from Elizabeth Taylor to Winston Churchill and Aristotle Onassis – Picasso even got swimming lessons in the hotel’s show-stopping 1939-opened 33m pool. So when the resort rebranded as a Four Seasons hotel in 2015, expectations were high, to say the least.

Though the Canadian mega-brand has added greatly to the hotel’s 7 hectares/17 acres grounds, its standout features have remained entirely intact. There’s the original Gustave Effel-designed rotunda dating back to 1908, landscaping by Jean Mus from 2007, and chic interiors courtesy of Pierre-Yves Rochon, who refreshed the property in 2009. The lobby is of course where guests get a first impression of the interiors (and potentially a flashback to a certain Emily in Paris episode that was filmed here). White, bright and polished, the entrance area and an adjoining lounge feature pastel turquoise accents, golden touches, ultramarine flowers and, one night during our stay, soulful live music courtesy of a local band.

From here, you can walk down the stairs and enter the resort’s romantic outdoor dining area, which runs into perfectly groomed gardens that in turn tumble towards the peninsula’s cliffs, where the hotel’s very own glass funicular (all set with a bench, should all the gaping have you need to catch your breath) carries guests down to the aforementioned heated saltwater infinity pool, itself flanked by the Club Dauphin restaurant, luxurious sun terraces and private cabanas set atop the coastal rock, all backed by the 18th-century Cap Ferrat lighthouse, which towers over the setting… in scenic hotel grounds terms, this is a near-Olympian level.

Accommodation options at the Grand-Hôtel du Cap-Ferrat, A Four Seasons Hotel, are arguably as inspiring. Of the property’s 76 rooms, 24 are suites and 3 are private villas, one of which features one of the compound’s two tennis courts. We stayed in a 38sqm/409 sqft Palace Sea-View Room, equipped with a Kingsize bed, a full marble bathroom stocked with Diptyque toiletries, a generous minibar and coffee-making station, as well as smart extras to help make one’s stay more convenient (think a charging socket in the safe, for example). Though not ultra-contemporary, our room’s interiors were sophisticated but friendly, making them a perfect fit for this classic holiday destination. We really appreciated the playful art adorning the walls, which infused the space with a lightheartedness that a property steeped in so much history and renown can only benefit from. Our room was a little petite for our liking, though a clever mirrored wall behind our bed went some way in creating the illusion of a more generous space.

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While you’re Out There
We will personally come after anyone who stays at this property and doesn’t make the time to visit the nearby Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild and its magnificent gardens (try us!). But beyond that, there’s more to discover across the Cap Ferrat peninsula: we enjoyed a leisurely walk along its eastern coast, starting at the Jardin de la Paix all the way up to Beaulieu-sur-Mer with its beautiful Plage Petite Afrique. Ah, the French Riviera!

What it didn’t do, however, was to create the illusion of more diet-inclusive menus across the hotel’s gastronomic offerings, this being the one thing we felt let down by. Aside from the aforementioned Club Dauphin, where lunches and light bites are served in the afternoon, the Grand-Hôtel du Cap-Ferrat is also home to Michelin-starred Le Cap and La Véranda, at the time of writing all under the supervision of Executive Chef Yoric Tièche. Now, there was a lot we liked about our dining experiences: efficient yet ever so charming service, short waiting times despite the freshest ingredients (some of our meals were entirely grown in the hotel’s nearby produce gardens), a flawless wine pairing infused with just the right amount of banter by Head Sommelier Alessandro Nigro Imperiale (who is, amazingly, Gault&Millau’s Sommelier of the Year 2023), and the kind of elegant atmosphere that has diners dress to the nines – it’s Chanel brooches galore.

But no dedicated plant-based options with the exception of a single starter at La Veranda led to lengthy elaborations about what could be made vegan-friendly by leaving ingredients out of meals that had clearly been conceived with those very ingredients playing a vital part in their culinary coherence. And when our waitress at Club Dauphin explained to us that ‘végétalian’ (as opposed to ‘végétarian’) actually meant fully vegan in French, yet later mentioned that the sauce from our main had been made using a dollop of butter, we weren’t quite sure whether vegan meant the same here as it does elsewhere. 

We smiled this off, not least because the team was so charming and tried hard to accommodate our dietary requirements, but upon being served a piece of sad tofu sitting in brine for breakfast, alongside equally bland steamed vegetables and a plant-based chocolate bar that looked store-bought and had been broken up into small chunks, we were frankly baffled (not least because breakfast, even this breakfast, sets guests back an additional €60). Though our other meals at the Grand-Hôtel du Cap-Ferrat were considerably more appetising, a luxury resort with an international clientele and limited nearby dining options should arguably cater to different diets.

Luckily, we felt a lot more catered to in the property’s spa, which entices with an indoor pool that features a countercurrent system, a whirlpool, saunas, steam rooms, water therapy showers, outdoor pavilions and five treatment rooms, one of which is a couple’s suite. You know that reassuring feeling when you notice the amount of thought that’s been put into an aspect of a hotel stay that’s all too often overlooked? It’s something we felt even in the changing rooms, where branded Marvis toothpaste, face moisturiser and the like evidenced amazing attention to detail. Our Signature Sodashi Aromatherapy Massage featuring an exfoliating foot rub, seductively scented oils and Tibetan bowl vibrations did the rest in sending us to a state of pure and utter relaxation. Put simply, there are good treatments and there are treatments that make you melt like butter (or, well, margarine in our case), and to our sore muscles’ delight, the Grand-Hôtel du Cap-Ferrat offers the latter kind.

With all it has to offer, this truly gorgeous property sat on similarly – if not even more – gorgeous grounds, could easily be a flagship hotel for any luxury hospitality brand. And while our plant-based diet meant we had to do with a fair share of compromise during our stay, we still loved our time here, not least due to the Four Seasons’ formidable staff who would even enquire about the correct pronunciation of our name and pass it on to their colleagues (truly, a rarity). On our last night, when a thunderstorm blew along the coast and woke us up at 1am, we walked up to our window and looked out over the sea, half expecting a green light to appear in the distance. Really, this is a place that makes you feel like the protagonist in your own novel.

www.fourseasons.com

Photography courtesy of Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts




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