For a few years now, I have really enjoyed visiting St Tropez market. It’s a bustling market held on a Tuesday and Saturday in the town’s square. The square is lined by coffee shops and restaurants and is normally the hangout for petanque players, but twice a week, it changes completely.
You have to get there early, and if you don’t, you will not get a parking space either in the small multi-storey or the harbourside.
Like most markets, it has an array of all sorts of goods for sale. You can buy everything from antiques to clothes and from jewellery to salami. On my latest visit, I was amazed at the sheer variety of tomatoes and strawberries. This year seems to be a bumper year.
It’s a real joy for me to wander about and smell all the foods available. I’m drawn to the salami and cured meat stalls to taste and try to have a conversation in my pigeon French about what they all are and where they come from. Next to that is a bread stall selling the most wonderful Fougasse, baguettes and Pain De Champagne. So again, we converse, well sort of. I feel at this point mildly embarrassed not studying harder at school in Mr Lagasse’s French class.
Moving on, the wonderful aroma of roasting rabbit and chicken filled my nostrils. Here in the middle of a bustling market in 30-degree heat, was a rotisserie. The rotating bars are crammed full of golden chickens, rabbits, and large pieces of French trimmed veal and beef, a spectacular sight.
Can you imagine trying to do this in the UK? The local council would be on you in a flash, probing, testing and shutting you down. Here the old ladies queue up to get their cooked, jointed rabbits or chickens. If you look closer, you can see potatoes sitting in all the cooking juices below the meats. The spuds and juices here are as prized as the succulent meats.
Next door, just out of shot, is a middle-aged St Tropez resident who is discussing the merits of which loin of veal to choose with the stallholder. He finally chooses, the butcher removes from the fridge, part cuts, then finishes off on a small band saw and wraps one thick chop. I bet he was going to have a fabulous lunch.
Another joy was to see fresh what they call wet garlic, a new season. Fresh, pungent and sweet aroma, huge piles of the stuff were everywhere—also, a fresh truffle seller who in no uncertain terms told me not to photograph. Mmmm, I wonder why, probably because they are so expensive and truffle hunters and sellers are very secretive people.
After a good couple of hours, it’s nice to slide into a restaurant for a coffee or a nice glass of chilled rose. There are many vineyards to choose from. Château De Marres or Château Minuty are a couple of crackers. Be aware though the standard can vary greatly year by year. Another good one I have found, Chateau Volterra 2011, it is very good indeed, not too sweet with a nice pale colour.
Finally, a quick walk from the market to the harbourside, you will come across the most amazing pastry and cake shop. Here you will be blown away at the range and the quality of all the goods on show. It’s crammed full of bread, cakes and pastries.
The most famous of all and I adore it is the Gateau Tropezienne. Invented by a Polish pastry chef in the 50’s, apparently, he served it to Bridget Bardot right here in St Tropez (it’s the large sponge discs at the back)
It’s a light yeast-based sponge, similar to a rich brioche. Cooked, cooled, sliced and filled with thick-set custard, set with a little buttercream. Sometimes it’s flavoured with orange blossom water, then sprinkled with sugar nibs. If you are here, buy one, I guarantee you will not resist eating it all.