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Myrna Katz Frommer and Harvey Frommer

A pair of legendary names came together when Alain Ducasse’s Spoon opened at Byblos-St.-Tropez in the spring of 2002. It was a serendipitous reunion. Early on in his career, Ducasse had been chef of the Byblos resort in Courchevel in the French Alps. In subsequent years, he moved on to become the international impresario of haute cuisine, operating restaurants from Paris to Monte Carlo, even at the Essex House in New York, receiving a constellation of Michelin stars along the way. On the other hand, both Byblos resorts had been on the map of high-end deluxe destinations from the time they debuted -- St. Tropez in 1967 and Courcheville in 1984.

A popular bistro had long stood near the entrance of Byblos-St.-Tropez, opening off a stairway that led from the street into the resort. But Byblos owner and general manager Antoine Chevanne felt a new and different kind of restaurant was needed. “Byblos has always been a mover in St.-Tropez in terms of concept and hospitality,” he told us when we met for dinner at Spoon on a still-summery September evening. “Of late, new competition had come up, and we realized the time had come for us to move on.

“We’d kept in contact with Alain through the seventeen years since he’d left Courcheville,” Chevanne added, “and now his Spoon concept seemed the most exciting of the many suggestions we received. It fitted so perfectly with the general atmosphere of the place.  And the name Ducasse is known internationally so people coming from both within France and abroad would be drawn to it.”

It is easy to be drawn into Spoon. Wooden gates open into an enchanted gardened setting softly lit by storm lanterns sequestered in the branches of trees. Low-slung chaise lounges in cool gray and smart directors’ chairs surround tables on a floor of polished teak. Beyond is the glass fronted dining room, but as interior and exterior merge so seamlessly in this magical setting, it is only when you look up and find a ceiling has taken the place of the St.-Tropez sky that you realize you have moved from the patio to the restaurant proper.

The Patrick Jouin-designed space is strikingly ultra modern with exotic Mediterranean and North African accents. Sleek leather banquettes in bright red combine with Moroccan lamps that hang low over dining areas. The bar is a circle of blue-tinted glass and stainless steel topped with a crown of crystal goblets. Artfully arranged produce and racks of wine bottles seem to float behind transparent walls.

This Spoon is a distinctive take on the brand that originated in Paris in 1998 where, in a departure from the classic French, Ducasse presented a startlingly new dining concept summarized as “A spoonful of freedom and a multi-ethnic cuisine.” It was followed by Spoons in Mauritius, London and Tokyo. At Byblos, the cuisine is limited to the Mediterranean rim focusing on dishes of  Provencal and Italian, Moroccan and Tunisian, Andalusian and Catalonian origin under the direction of Byblos’ chef Georges Pelissier. But the key Spoon elements: unique combinations of vegetables, cereals, and sauces that are dishes in themselves; a sampling of this, a taste of that; the enhancement that comes from distinctive condiments and garnishes; courses that are prepared swiftly with an emphasis on healthy products that meet the standards of gourmet preparations –are all there.

We settled into a red banquette before a wooden table polished to a mirror-like luster that was set with stark white plates, the typical flatware arrangements, also a set of chopsticks, and a unique all-purpose utensil that looked like it could handle any preparation, and contemplated the complex menu. There are the 1+2+3 combinations like seared veal brisket, yogurt harissa sauce, and lettuce and crispy socca; or spit roasted John Dory, crispy Vierge sauce, and cereals. There are the set menus of two appetizers, two main courses and dessert that focus on Italian or Spanish cuisines. There are the a la carte listings of soups, salads, steamed fare, vegetables, and the typically Ducasse soft boiled egg paired here with salted cod. Any of the items can be mixed and matched, which is what we did, zigzagging across the menu to sample a wide assortment of flavors and textures, savoring the range of tastes, struggling to resist the flatbreads -- paired with eggplant, zucchini and tomato—moussaka style – that proved so irresistible, we finally begged the waiter to take them away.

The 300-plus wine list includes selections from Spain to Portugal, from South Africa to New Zealand and Australia, from Argentina to Chile, from America to France. Whites  are “Golds,” reds are “Rubies.” They range from the light wines: Pale Gold and Light Ruby to the fuller bodied: Intense Gold and Intense Ruby. “We felt with our international clientele, it was a perfect mating,” said Chevanne. “You can have wine by the glass. Try a different wine for each course.”

We did, and it was an adventure. The entire Spoon experience is an adventure in high-style dining, and it did not take long for St.-Tropez’s high-style crowd to discover it. Just a few steps up the stairway is Byblos’ famed disco Les Caves du Roy. Dinner at Spoon and dancing at Le Caves – what better way to spend an evening in the now and forever trendy St.-Tropez?

Byblos St.-Tropez
83990 St.-Tropez, France

Phone: 33 (0)4 94 56 68 00

Photos by Harvey Frommer

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About the Authors:  Myrna Katz Frommer and Harvey Frommer are a wife and husband team who successfully bridge the worlds of popular culture and traditional scholarship. Co-authors of the critically acclaimed interactive oral histories It Happened in the Catskills, It Happened in Brooklyn, Growing Up Jewish in America, It Happened on Broadway, It Happened in Manhattan, It Happened in Miami. They teach what they practice as professors at Dartmouth College.

They are also travel writers who specialize in luxury properties and fine dining as well as cultural history and Jewish history and heritage in the United States, Europe, and the Caribbean. More about these authors.

You can contact the Frommers at: 

Email: myrna.frommer@Dartmouth.EDU
Email: harvey.frommer@Dartmouth.EDU

This Article is Copyright © 1995 - 2012 by Harvey and Myrna Frommer.  All rights reserved worldwide.


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