L’Hostellerie Les Gorges de Pennafort. Photo: David Emmanuel Cohen

Several years ago, friends who live in Sanary-sur-Mer tipped me off to their favourite weekend getaway without going too far afield. “This well-run, family-owned hotel in a beautiful setting has attractive, comfortable rooms for fair prices, a pool and a spa, and an excellent restaurant. It’s also an easy drive from some of the best wine estates in the back country of the Var, which means a great day out of wine-tasting without too much driving,” they said.

And so, recently wanting a breath of fresh air as spring arrived in southern France, we booked here for the weekend and took the train from the Gare de Lyon in Paris to Le Muy.

Yellow tufts of mimosa lit up the tender green vineyards and ochre fields as we drove deeper into the country to arrive in Callas in the early afternoon – after a good, simple lunch of deep-fried courgette flowers and lasagne with a nice bottle of rosé at La Maurette (route de Callas, La Motte. Tel. +33 (0)4 94 45 92 82).

A beetle-browed man with a warm smile and an animated face welcomed us at reception and insisted on pouring us a welcome glass of rosé. And so we met the charming Philippe Da Silva, a native of Cogolin who left Le Chiberta – where he’d won two Michelin stars
– in 1995 to return to the south and take over this charming inn and its kitchen.

Chef Philippe da Silva

Dinner that evening was a delicious reflection of the generosity, humour and finely-honed palate of Monsieur Da Silva, too. Opting for the mid-range €95 menu, we began our meal with a delicate tartelette of scallops and homemade ravioli filled with foie gras and garnished with parmesan shavings; and continued with a main course of sea bass with caramelised endives, mandarin oranges and veal sweetbreads in port sauce. The lushness of both these dishes had us hesitating slightly before the cheese course that was included in the price of this menu, but the puff pastry with pears and Fourme d’Ambert cheese was delightful for its earthy flavours and lightness, and a dessert of pineapple and grapefruit with basil ended the meal on a refreshing note.

When I asked Monsieur Da Silva to describe his cooking style at the end of the meal, he became bashful. “Perhaps you could call it a cuisine de joie,” he ventured, which is apt. There is a delightful shaded terrace for summer dining outdoors, too.

8660 RD 25, Callas. Tel.+33 (0)4 94 76 66 51. Prix-fixe menus €160, €95, €85, €59, average à la carte €35. www.hostellerie-pennafort.com

From France Today magazine

Carpaccio de langoustine à la mangue et au caviar at L’Hostellerie Les Gorges de Pennafort
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