The spectacular, recently-opened, glass-walled dining room of the new 28-suite Villa La Coste hotel, will surely be one of the most sought-after tables in Provence this summer. Not only does three-Michelin-starred chef Gérald Passédat sign the menu, but the restaurant is located in the magnificent new hotel designed by Japanese architect Tadao Ando. The hotel is the latest addition to the 200-hectare Château La Coste estate, a luxuriously-groomed domaine of vineyards, fields and forests endowed with installations and works by some of the world’s greatest artists and architects, including Jean Nouvel, Renzo Piano, Frank Gehry, Louise Bourgeois and Alexander Calder.
This remarkable place is owned by Irish businessman Paddy McKillen, who also had the astucious idea of inviting the Marseille-based Passédat to run the kitchens. “What we wanted was a menu that was sophisticated, but rustic at the same time,” said Pierre-Alexandre Francin, general manager of the Villa La Coste, when I met him one night for dinner during the restaurant’s soft opening. “Hotel restaurants in Provence always seem to have trouble getting it right in terms of what their clientele wants. They’re always too fancy; people from big cities like Brussels, Dublin, Geneva and Boston come out to the country in search of an experience that’s refreshingly simpler than their usual lives. So this was what we explained to Monsieur Passédat in terms of the type of cuisine we hoped he’d create for us.”
Suffice it to say that Passédat has succeeded deliciously at his mission. As one of the lucky debut-diners at a table of four, we shared the seven-course, €145 tasting menu, and it was exquisite. Foie gras wrapped in seaweed began the meal, and the iodine-bright tastes of the plant were unexpectedly flattering to the politely feral richness of the duck liver. Next, a delicate carpaccio of turbot with truffles – another fascinating pairing of earthy and marine flavours – and then sea bass in a ruddy jus de bourride with black-olive extract – a potent reference to Passédat’s love of the Mediterranean – followed by the gently pastoral palate of a leg of Sisteron lamb cooked in hay from the Camargue delta. An excellent selection of local goat cheeses preceded two luscious desserts, and we enjoyed the gorgeously smooth biodynamic wines produced on the estate with dinner.
Restaurant Louison, Hôtel Villa La Coste, Château La Coste, 2750 route de la Cride, Le Puy-Sainte-Réparade. Tel: +33 (0)4 42 50 50 00. Prix-fixe lunch menu €89, prix-fixe dinner menus €95, €145.
From France Today magazine