Matthew Steeples suggests the utterly charming Chez Madeleine as the best place for seafood in Saint Tropez, France
To those that aspire to be Mary Berry, Saint Tropez is famous for its Tarte Tropézienne – created in a bakery in the main square in the 1950s by Alexandre Micka, a young Polish baker, and made famous by Brigitte Bardot’s obsession with it subsequently in the 1960s – and to the flash with wads of cash, this is a summer spot that is all about hedonism and high fashion.
If you want Celine, Dior, Hermès, Loro Piana or Louis Vuitton, in Saint Tropez you will find yourself in your idea of heaven and in terms of dining, the coastal town is primarily divided between restaurants that cater to tacky tourists and dining destinations that pander to the cravings of the super, super ultra rich. However, for those desiring something a little more authentic there’s a wonderful little oyster bar hidden behind a small fish market named Chez Madeleine that you simply just couldn’t fail to fall in love with.
Owned and operated by a delightful lady named Garance Fonquerne and her family since December 2019, Chez Madeleine is certainly petite. With just a few bar stools, it’s a quick pitstop for some but, if you linger, you’ll soon discover the charm of this dining destination is based upon its atmosphere and jolly staff.
Garance is thoroughly French, but her father runs a hair salon in London’s Gloucester Road. She was educated partly in South Kensington and as such has an ability to click with her international clientele. Here, indeed, is a hostess exceptionnelle and someone whose dining spot is deservedly buzzy.
Featuring primarily a menu of oysters including the Josephine and the Gillardeau – both famously farmed by the family of the latter name since the 19th century. As you sit observing these delights being shucked, you’ll soon realise the truth of Andrew Carnegie’s quote on this most delectable of shellfish: “The first man gets the oyster, the second man gets the shell” as you then witness the suave staff of the ‘have yachts’ arrive to collect stunningly presented takeaway baskets of such for their masters to consume on their nearby gin palaces.
Offered here also is king crab, prawns, salmon and caviar and washed down in the sunshine with a bottle of rose, you’ll also realise you’ve found the best thing in life in Chez Madeleine: A simple, yet utterly glorious culinary paradise.
Chez Madeleine, 14 Place aux Herbes, 83 990, Saint Tropez, France. Telephone: +33 (0) 9 52 04 39 47. Instagram: @la.fine.equipe.chez.madeleine
Pictured top: Garance Fonquerne outside Chez Madeleine.