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Taking the bliss

Published 22 May 1994
Style Magazine
47th article

On the terrace at Le Chateau d'Eza at Eze with Sarah Alexander (Enzo Cassini)

Old film directors never die, they open hotels in the South of France. So I visited, once again, my old friend Wolf Rilla and his wife Shirley at Le Moulin de la Camandoule near the unspoiled town of Fayence some 45 minutes northwest of Cannes.

Wolf was most famous for directing The Village Of The Damned, a classic horror story about staring children, possessed. Not bad training, as it turned out, for running the old mill house dating back to the 15th century. Early on one of their helpers tried to poison Mrs Rilla by putting something extremely nasty in the drinking water she kept in the kitchen fridge; and another attempted to burn the place down, but ended up setting fire to himself! Well, we all have staff problems.

Things have now settled, and the 13 acres of orchard, grass, river, Roman aqueduct, swimming pool, assorted flowers and terrace make it one of the most delightful places in the area. We sat in the sun swapping tales of when Wolf and I helped run the Directors Guild of Great Britain (I'm still on the council but he, of course, hopped it!) and eating a petite tarte de tomate et basilic, while Sarah had a selection of lightly cooked vegetables of the season. I then had marmite de pecheurs, which was Mediterranean fish in a saffron soup with boiled potatoes and roux. I can't remember what Sarah had but she didn't complain so I guess it must have been all right. At the moment the locality is still enchanting but there are plans for housing developments and golf courses, so nastiness will one day engulf it.

About the only part of the Riviera coast that remains old-fashioned and well-preserved are the three adjacent little towns of Villefranche, Cap Ferrat and Beaulieu. In Cap Ferrat, home of the most wonderful period villas, La Voile D'Or looks over the harbour and the tiny waterfront village. I've had some extremely good meals there in the garden, but this time things were a bit off. It started with the crisps, some excellent, some half-soggy, some totally soggy! The champagne with peach juice was tip-top and my rigatoni farcis, au jus de veau et gratines au parmesan was fine, and so was Sarah's salade tiede de pates fraiches, petite brunoise a la tomate, basilic frit. But the main course, feuillantines de langoustine aux graines de sesame, was a bit of a mess. The langoustines were overcooked and soggy (to match the crisps perhaps!) and Sarah thought the spinach didn't go and made it all salty. Luckily the Grand Marnier souffle was a triumph. Don't be put off, it is a great place, but this was half an off-day.

The best meal we had on the trip was undoubtedly at Le Chateau Eza. This is in another preserved, old town, set on a hill high above Eze. The views down to the sea are spectacular. The maitre d', Enzo Cassini, had served me at the Waterside Inn and absolutely everything we ate was superlative beyond belief. I'm fed up with writing all this posh French twaddle down so I won't say what it was, but do go there for yourself and then you can write and tell me what you had. The place also does rooms with a view so you can stay if you like. Eze is an exceptionally pretty village with a wonderful cactus garden at the top.

After all this rich stuff we returned to a little, local pizza place I discovered on a previous trip in the town of Vence. This is called Chez Guy, Guy presumably being the aproned chap who throws the pizzas in the air (one at a time of course!), catches them after they've had a good twirl, and then puts them on a round thing on the end of a long pole and pushes them into a log-fire-oven. Everyone in the place was local except for Sarah and me. We sat on rush chairs at check table-clothed tables in a white stucco room with old beams above and windows looking out on to period buildings. The pizzas had built-in fried eggs in the middle, Orso's please note, as they won't give you an egg at any price! Quite delicious, unbelievably cheap, and no-nonsense waitress service. Then we went for a walk through the cobbled, moonlit, 16th-century streets of Vence. Who says film directors aren't romantic?


On May 25 my eldest sister was married. The wedding reception and celebration meal was held at One Devonshire Gardens, Glasgow. I was deeply impressed with the service at One Devonshire; it was both warm and friendly. The menu was exquisite and left my taste buds craving for more especially the strawberry sables, which were to die for. One Devonshire Gardens more than lived up to its good reputation, and made the day very memorable.
Andrew Ip, Hamilton, Scotland

I was delighted to see that Michael Winner has discovered the Grove Gallery in Ealing (April 24), one of my regular haunts. I would like to share another gem, slightly further afield Highfield House near Trowbridge in Wiltshire where the quality is only exceeded by the value. Readers should make sure they ask for the additional wines available; one Saturday we were treated to an excellent 1986 Chassagne Montrachet which at £15.75 was a steal.
Jonathan Steed, Northwood, Middlesex

While I enjoy Michael Winner's column very much, I would love to see what he thinks of a balti restaurant. I wonder if he has ever tried one. Very popular in Birmingham, baltis are a curry-style meal, only drier and spicier and served in a wok-like dish. Balti houses are cheap, cheerful and you bring your own wine. Perhaps next time Mr Winner is in the Midlands he might like to try one for himself.
Terry Heath, Solihull

I recently enjoyed an excellent Italian meal at Osteria Antica Bologna in Battersea. No doubt, many of your readers have had similar experiences at this estabishment, as I have myself on numerous occasions. However, the restaurant continues to amaze me. Despite its continued popularity it is always advisable to book your table the Osteria keeps prices down and standards up. Added to this is the fact that the food is, as far as I am aware, unique in London; I enjoyed a goat dish there at the weekend. Long may the Osteria's success continue.
Emma Hargreaves, London SW4