Located just ten kilometres from the heart of Bordeaux, this quietly chic and strikingly modern hotel by architect Jean Nouvel is a terrific winter destination for anyone who wants a short-break getaway or even a longer trip through southwestern France. The very comfortable, modern rooms were inspired by the architecture of local tobacco drying barns and are bright and airy with beautiful views over the surrounding countryside and vineyards.
Chef Nicolas Magie, a native of nearby Cenon, runs the kitchen here and has won a Michelin star for his superb contemporary interpretations of southwestern French cuisine de terroir. To emphasise his deep connection with and knowledge of the region, his menu leads with a long list of his suppliers, which include farmer Bruno Giraud as a producer of boeuf de Bazas – considered some of the best beef in France – and the spectacular charcuterie of Eric Ospital in Hasparren, in the Basque Country.
The menu changes regularly, but stopping by for lunch on a recent Saturday after we’d spent a morning tasting our way from château to château, we had an outstanding meal of ormeaux (rare crustaceans caught in the waters off the Channel Islands) with raw, dried and sautéed Médoc ceps, John Dory cooked over a wood-burning fire and served with grilled fennel, tomatoes and a seaweed emulsion, and a brilliant hot raisin soufflé with Merlot sorbet for dessert. Weeks later, I’m still thinking about how good this meal was, so don’t miss this table the next time you’re in Bordeaux.
3 Place Camille Hostein, Bouliac. Tel. +33 (0)5 57 97 06 00. Average à la carte €140; prix- fixe menus €150, €110, €75, €65 €45. www.saintjames-bouliac.com
From France Today magazine