That this restaurant has ended up with its own review is a bit of a surprise. In the past, visiting vineyards in the Fréjus region has lacked the charm of visiting other regions. Admittedly to the north is the very expensive restaurant Hostellerie de la Pennafort in the Gorges de la Pennafort, with a scenic drive to get there, but the rest of the region is not the most scenic in Provence.
To start with, much of the area covers the plains and low hills of the wide Argens river valley between the Esterel and les Maures. South of the A8 motorway, on the way down to Fréjus and St Raphael is less picturesque than north where the gently sloping hills are covered in copses, vines and grassland.
It is hardly a surprise to discover that many of the vineyards of this appellation are located within a network of roads and commercial centres. What is a surprise, with all of this business activity, is the difficulty in finding anywhere good to eat, with as cafeterias in supermarket malls, fast food chains and American-style places abound – to the extent that I considered an autumn picnic on the beach. I asked, without much hope at Domaine Vaucoulers where they would recommend. The lady said almost apologetically that the restaurant St Roch was good – traditional French, as if that were a fault.
We followed directions – dual-carriageway, past Mercedes salesroom, and found the restaurant hidden behind a DIY shop. It was empty – OK it was a Saturday and it was probably largely used by local workers for lunch Monday to Friday – but it was also busily getting ready for a big wedding reception in the evening. So we were the only people in the large dining room.
Oh dear, we thought – this is going to be bad … but – we were wrong. The charming personality of the owner and his wife made up for any silences.
I jumped at the chance to start with a glass of punch, offered with great enthusiasm, as I am writing a book on the history of punch.
We juggled the various menu options so that we each had a meal we liked.The staff ably coped with vegetarian and allergy requirements and said they could do more with advance notice.
We had a glass of wine from Domaine de la Plaine with the meal. The main drawbacks were a lack of vegetables with the kebabs, and the desserts, as far too often is the case, were a big disappointment.
After lunch the owners showed us the mural they had painted (the wife had been involved in set design in the cinema) of the legend of St Roch.
I am now pleased to have found a good place to eat near Roquebrune-sur-Argens.