Having lived in London and Yorkshire for a few years (after moving there from Los Angeles) I was always impressed with the way Brits did interiors. Maybe the weather has something to do with the fact that they generally concentrate more on the inside of a house than the French. Overall, in my opinion, the Brits are pretty good at it and the new owners at Mas de Brulat are no exception.
It’s always a great pleasure for me to discover luxurious, new accommodation like that of Mas de Brulat in Le Castellet. It’s like a secret because you’d never expect from the outside of this place that it is quite as sumptuous on the inside. The warm and hospitable Su Stephens (English, of course), purchased the run-down maison de maître a few years back when she fell in love with it, seeing its potential with her skilled eye for restoration and exquisite taste in interior design.
The small hotel is like one big house, located in the hameau of Le Brulat, just at the bottom of the perched Medieval village of Le Castellet (which in and of itself is worth visiting by the way). There is a proper entrance hall which takes you straight through to a stunning bar and stylish restaurant called L’Olivier. It has 8 bedrooms with en-suites, some are spacious suites for up to four guests and others are very well equipped rooms with super comfy mattresses and everything you’d expect from high-end accommodation with pluses like Nespresso machines and big flat screen TVs. The rooms are all named after grape varieties like Rolle and Carignan. I stayed in the room with a bath which was particularly nice (but I kept thinking this would be so romantic with a partner). There was an individually controlled interior temperature station too so I never felt cold or too hot.
The Mas de Brulat has a relaxing outdoor terrace perfect for those Summer aperos or outdoor dining in the Spring. The terrace overlooks a well landscaped garden with olive trees on one side and big swimming pool on the other with areas to sunbathe. The bassin is filled with large carp and of course, like all great Provençale auberges, there is a boules court for those lazy vacation afternoons with a glass of pastis peut être?
The colour palette of the interior is rich in teal, dusty rose, and greys and the occasional splash of bright mustard. The moment I walked into this place I felt warm and welcomed by the well trained staff, the high ceilings and squeaky clean bathrooms. The bar is by far the most attractive room not just for it’s rich teal colour and bright wall fresco but because it’s a proper bar that can make real cocktails (!!) Why this concept is so rare in rural South of France, I will never know. The Mas de Brulat-house-cocktail with champagne and bitters, a curly orange peel and a cube of raw sugar cube was, quite frankly, perfect.
The restaurant seating is located adjacent to the bar and on the way to the outdoor terrace. It’s decorated with old photographs of the hotel back when it was a large house and the working women used to take their washing to the nearby lavoir to scrub it all by hand. Fast-forward to 2018 and you have a lovingly restored, much improved, thoroughly inviting and plush, escape – away from the hustle and bustle of city life or daily grind. But what I loved most about the cuisine here is its simplicity. Using fresh local produce and quality meats, the salmon croquette (made with Japanese panko crisp) starter, the beef filet with girolles mushrooms and reduced red wine sauce, and Lardy cake (a caramelised breadpudding with what tasted just like American Egg Nog icecream) was to die-for, no joke. Yes, I felt full in the end but the kind of full you get from too much goodness and no-one forced me to eat it all, it was just too good to leave anything behind. The food, to me, was reminiscent of that from a gastro-pub, but a really good one. And with special Monday pricing of 35 euros for four courses this is hard to beat for a great way to start your week.
Coming-up the restaurant is offering Christmas eve and day as well as New Year’s eve menus and they look sublime – again, simple dishes like salmon smoked with Lapsan Suchong tea, foie gras with duck breast and poached figs, roasted pancetta turkey, cheeses and traditional French log cake. It’s so much more important to have quality ingredients here in the South of France, over fancy cooking techniques, and Mas de Brulat has this going on. The new year’s eve menu includes lobster ravioli, oysters and prawns on ice, fusing typical French festive with best of British fare. I will definitely be coming back.
Hotel Mas de Brulat and Restaurant L’Olivier: 47 route du Grand Vallat, Le Brulat 83330 Le Castellet tel: 04 94 05 06 00 firstname.lastname@example.org, www.oliveandvines.eu
Olives and Vines also have a large villa just near this hotel for holiday vacations. Mas d’Avelines is just as luxurious with huge outdoor gardens and private swimming pool and outdoor dining areas.
N.B. If you are thinking of heading there from Cotignac the drive to Le Castellet takes you through some big vineyards and hilly roads but it’s not far, just an hour and 10 minutes’ drive via La Celle, Roquebroussans and Méounes.