hubs and decided to take a road trip from biarritz to provence over the summer. in search of a place to stay and eat along our driving route, we stumbled upon michel guerard’s les prés d’eugénie, located about 20 minutes from the city of Pau and about a 90 minute drive from Biarritz. a member of the relais & chateaux alliance, the property is a series of old mansions and farmhouses that have been charmingly decorated by michel guerard’s wife, christine into a sort of palatial french country home fantasy with no detail in any of its 1000s of corners forgotten.
les prés features a world-class spa with healing thermal waters, and of course, the 78 year old chef guerard’s magnificent cuisine. the restaurant earned 3 stars in 1977 and has maintained the standing since.
we turned up for dinner around 7.15pm and were shown to the lounge area (complete with real zebra hide upholstered chairs). while we considered the menu, we nibbled on a plate of canapés to go along with our apperitifs — basque ham, fresh oysters and lightly fried shellfish without the slightest bit of greasiness.
for our starter, i selected the langostine while hubs opted for the mushrooms. for our mains, i got the duck and hubs ordered the tuna. and finally for dessert, hubs picked the peach, and i the soft bechamel cake. michel guerard has his own vineyard and we were served those wines to accompany our meal.
Le Croquembouche de Langoustines: isn’t it beautiful? langostines sprinkled with flowers, greens and in bright and refreshingly citrus sauce. the dish is accompanied by a razor clam similarly inspired!
L’Oreiller Moelleux de Mousserons et de Morilles: you could say that this is the world’s most decadent mushroom soup. chef guerard invented the dish after a trip to china. it’s packed with all sorts of exotic mushrooms: morels, slabs of truffles, chanterelles, etc. . . and a mushroom dumpling in the center of the dish.
Le Supreme Soyeaux de Caneton Rôti: duck & foie — two rich and hearty dishes that chef presents in a clean and modern manner. i liked the contrast. the foie is caramelized. i would almost say that he used a blow torch to do so, rather than cooking it in a pan. the crispy skin of the duck is sandwiched between two perfect pieces of duck breast. the fat has been completely rendered in a rather precise manner. chef does something really interested with the accompanying purees — they’re flavored with citrus and topped with a bit of candied citrus rind. i thought it was a remarkable adaptation — to pair something that’s typically starchy, rich and comforting with the brightness of citrus.
Le Saumon Sauvage Grillé “Minute”: chef decided to substitute a local white tuna for salmon that day. i don’t know how he did it, but the white tuna wasn’t a bit dry or tough. it was juicy, tender, and fully cooked — something that i’ve never been able to achieve when attempting to fully cook tuna on my own. maybe it was cooked sous vide style and then lightly grilled?
Le Gateau Mollet du Marquis de Béchamel: this odd-looking cake is one of the chef’s signature desserts. the texture is between that of a creme caramel and a souffle. it sits on a bed of semi-melted ice cream and is drizzled in caramel soft.
after dessert, we were moved back to the lounge area to enjoy our tea & coffee with a plate of house made chocolates, tuiles and candied fruits. And before i forget, the bread and butter at the restaurant are excellent. i must have helped myself to 3 pieces of their freshly baked, toasted and warm olive bread!
les prés d’eugénie is a magical place with magnificent cuisine created at the hands of a seasoned french master chef. i don’t think someone with less experience, wisdom and simply years on this earth would be able to achieve the same tone, pitch and vibrato in flavours. as we waddled back to our room that evening, hubs and i started to plot our return in the near future . . . next time we would try the magical thermal waters!
les Prés d’Eugénie
40320 Eugénie-les-Bains (Landes)
Tel. : + 33 (0)5 58 05 06 07
3 course meal runs about €110 per person