Le Relais Bernard Loiseau, Saulieu
The story of Bernard Loiseau has all the elements of a Greek tragedy. A perfectionist who drove himself relentlessly, he took a down-at-heel property in an unfashionable part of Burgundy and turned it into one of the three-Michelin-starred temples of French gastronomy and country hospitality. He became a television celebrity, the first chef to launch his business on the Paris bourse, the second chef ever to be awarded France's Legion of Honour, then -- at the height of his fame in February 2003 -- he took his own life, apparently over rumours that his flagship restaurant might lose its third Michelin star (which it didn't). Rudolph Chelminski's fascinating 2005 biography The Perfectionist charts the extraordinary life of Bernard Loiseau and explores the arcane world of French haute cuisine. But to experience the Loiseau legacy first hand, you must pay a visit Le Relais Bernard Loiseau itself.
Roughly equidistant between Paris and Geneva in the sleepy country town of Saulieu, this really is hospitality of the highest order, although without a trace of stuffiness or formality. The property encompasses restaurant, wine cave, lounges, spa, gardens and 32 bedrooms - all beautifully appointed in French country style. Bernard's widow Dominique has worked hard to maintain the Loiseau ethos and still personally greets guests in the dining room. Patrick Bertron, his long-time protege in the kitchen, has both preserved and developed the famous Loiseau style (which eschewed textbook Burgundian cooking with its use of butter and cream in favour of new techniques emphasizing the natural purity and flavours of local ingredients). Loiseau classics such as Frogs' legs with garlic puree and essence of parsley remain on the menu alongside new Bertron creations. And the precious three Michelin stars remain. Le Relais Bernard Loiseau can also boast one of the region's best wine cellars with over a thousand bins, a real treasure trove of Burgundian wine. If you're travelling here from the UK this isn't the easiest place to get to - but it is well worth the effort.
The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner with a choice of menus:
Lunch Package: 3 courses, 2 glasses of wine, mineral water, €66 (except Saturday, Sunday and Bank Holidays)
Delice Menu: 2 courses plus cheese and dessert, €120 (except Saturday, Sunday and Bank Holidays)
Delice Menu: 3 courses plus cheese and dessert, €145 (except Saturday, Sunday and Bank Holidays)
Bernard Loiseau's Classics: 3 courses plus cheese and dessert, €155
Degustation Menu: 6 courses plus cheese and desserts, €185
Menus change both daily and seasonally.
One of Burgundy's best cellars with 20,000 bottles, 1,000 bins and a fantastic selection of Burgundian wines. You can visit the wine cave below the restaurant.
There are 32 rooms and suites, most featuring Burgundy stone, red-clay tiles, period woodwork and antique furnishings. Open all year except for a month between Jan 7 and Feb 7. Rates for a standard room (double or single occupancy) are €150 in low season (Nov-Mar) and €240 in high season (every Sat and Apr-Oct).
Saulieu is on route Nationale 6 roughly equidistant between Paris, Geneva and Lyon (allow three hours by car). Montbard station on the Paris-Lyon rail line is 45 minutes away by bus or taxi
Saulieu lies in the heart of the Burgundy wine-growing region with Chablis to the north and Beaune to the south east. The medieval town of Auxois is nearby and the beautiful Morvan region is well worth exploring
Le Relais Bernard Loiseau
Tel: +33 (0)3 80 90 53 53
Le Relais Bernard Loiseau website
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