Auberge Des Templiers, Boismorand
La France Profonde - Deep France - is as much a state of mind as a geographical expression. So unlike America’s Deep South, say, you can’t really point it out on a map. It’s a France that moves at a very different pace to Paris, Lyon, Marseille and the other big cities – one that looks back to a rural idyll revolving around village life and the cycle of the seasons. And it’s this France which is such a powerful draw for visitors looking to relax, destress and unwind.
Not so far south of Paris, on the route to the Loire chateaux and in the heart of one of the country’s most productive agricultural regions, the small commune of Boismorand is home to the Auberge Des Templiers. This oasis of calm, set in six hectares of gardens and parkland, can trace its roots (and name) back to the 12th century when Evrard des Barres, third Master General of the Templars built a small fort on this site. From the 18th century there was a post house here on the route south and in 1946 the Depee family – who are still at the helm - turned it into a luxury hotel and one of the eight founder members of the Relais & Chateaux guide. In 1952 the restaurant was awarded the Michelin star which it has held ever since.
A touch incongruously for this most traditional of French destinations, the kitchen is headed up by Japanese chef Yoshihiko Miura. He has created his own unique style, gently modifying classic French cuisine with Japanese techniques and flavours. Of course some dishes have been staples of the menu for years like the Rothschild Souffle with Bourbon Vanilla Ice cream. But others very much reflect the Miura style and have become classics in their own right like the starter of Spider Crab with Avocado, Yuzu, Curry Oil and Fresh Herbs. For mains, the signature Wild Sea Bass with Sologne caviar and a mariniere emulsion is a house speciality while the Grilled fillet of Charolais Beef with Wasabi Shizuoka, Sesame Oil and White Roasted Asparagus puts a subtle Eastern spin on a traditional plate. You can go a la carte or choose from the lunch menu (55 euros), classic menu (90 euros) or signature menu (135 euros) and to complement the food there is a formidable wine cellar including some of the greats like Petrus, Domaine de la Romanee-Conti and Raveneau alongside more affordable names from the Val de Loire and across France.
With its imposing oak beams, elegant furnishings and tableware from the nearby pottery centre of Gien, the restaurant is a real haven of calm. It overlooks the garden with its ancient oak trees and in the summer months you can dine out on the terrace. The hotel has 20 rooms and eight apartments, some in the main house and some in delightful thatched cottages with their own private terraces, saunas and jacuzzis. There is also a heated outdoor pool along with tennis and badminton courts. You could quite easily spend all day relaxing within the grounds but the charming wine village of Sancerre, Briare with its famous canal bridge and the chateau of Sully-sur-Loire are all within easy reach. Or with the natural wilderness of the Sologne just 15 kilometres away, you could simply embrace La France Profonde.