Renovated last year, one of the most venerable historic seaside addresses of Biarritz now offers 19 rooms – decorated by Paris interior designer Sarah Lavoine, with spectacular views of the Atlantic breakers rolling in on the Grande Plage – and the Café Basque, an excellent restaurant by chef Cédric Béchade.
Béchade, who has a Michelin star at l’Auberge Basque, his restaurant in nearby Saint Pée-sur-Nivelle, has created a superb contemporary Basque-inspired menu for this new restaurant that features signature local dishes reimagined according to the region’s excellent local produce, including freshly-landed fish from the Bay of Biscay, trout from the Pyrenees and an Axoa – a Basque stew traditionally made with veal, cooked instead with meat from the famed Ibaïama pigs which are raised here. Decorated mostly in different tones of blue, the dining room has beautiful views of the sea and is a welcoming and relaxed setting in which to enjoy a meal that celebrates the Basque Country, which straddles the border between France and Spain and is one of the most gastronomically blessed regions of Europe.
Order hors d’oeuvres like red wine and mushroom tart with blood sausage, and aubergine and chorizo croquettes with almonds and guindillas (the small pickled green peppers the Basques like to eat with charcuterie) to share with a good bottle of chilled white Irouleguy, one of the excellent local wines. Then choose from starters like chilled razor-shell clams with corn and rocket, or a cleverly deconstructed piperade, the famous Basque vegetable stew of onions, green peppers and tomatoes seasoned with piment d’Espelette, with Ibaïama ham, since both dishes resonate with Béchade’s gastronomic wit and liveliness and his love of local produce.
Standouts among the main courses include the Axoa de cochon Ibaïama with an emulsion of burnt onion and smoked eel, sea bass roasted with an elixir of local herbs, and duckling with olives and Basque chestnuts.
With these dishes, Béchade establishes himself as one of the nimblest and most interesting French neo-regionalist chefs, those who are reinventing a distinctive regional French kitchen. The dessert not to miss is the framboisier, a raspberry sponge cake intriguingly flavoured with Rooibos tea from South Africa and piment d’Espelette, the small savoury red peppers grown in the Basque village of the same name.
Café Basque, Hôtel-restaurant Café de Paris
5 place Bellevue, Biarritz, Tél. (33) 05-59-24-19-53.
Average à la carte €60,
From France Today Magazine