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The Basque country of France and Spain is unique: awkwardly straddling the Atlantic end of a precipitous Pyrenean divide, the region envelopes a pristine kingdom of surf-washed beaches, rugged river valleys, snow capped mountains and vertiginous passes, whose bloodied history helped shape the proud spirit of an ancient race. The dogged character of Basque people is renowned, forged by many centuries of struggle and a continuous effort to remain independent. Holding on to the past can be a dangerous thing, but the preservation of a great gastronomic heritage has offered a benign means of retaining their noble cultural identity.

 

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'The towering antenna crowned peak of La Rhune'
O
n a late afternoon in early April, two Black Kites circle high above the garden of my St Jean home: their sepia feathered fingertips caress a steady supply of undulating thermals from nearby Spain. As the elegant pair rise and fall, a sinking sun casts long oak-wood shadows and mesmerizingly, the gliding birds soar beneath my elevated eye line, just as an unrefined clinking of sheep-bells breaks the silence. Straight from the pages of Thomas Hardy, a stream of bustling Brebis sheep perform their twice-daily commute, totally unaccompanied and untroubled by aerial voyers, they wend their shuffling way back to night-time quarters, the sheep's milk contributing to our finest local cheese. The view across this broad roller-coaster rift affords a pleasing aspect: first, a central ridge surmounted by white painted, red shuttered too-neat houses and far beyond, the purple-brown gorse strewn flanks of La Rhune, be-speckled with wild Pottok ponies idly grazing. To my far right lies Spain, the dromedarian contours of a skyline whose opaque form conceals a dramatic landscape of culinary treasures and comforting hospitality. A place of starry Michelin standards, squid ink and cod cheeks... San Sebastian, where the fizzing Txakoli flows and food is religion... Tracing the horizon to my left, a large breach indicates the ancient smuggler's pass of the Col d'Ibardin, after which a scalloped series of false summits and the towering antenna crowned peak of La Rhune.

 

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'Dromedarian contours conceal a dramatic landscape of culinary treasures'

 

 

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The 'cranial dome' of Bizkarzun
The mountain's north facing slope gradually descends to the jewelled red and white village of Ascain, behind which, the cranial dome of Bizkarzun and the beautiful Nivelle valley beyond. The River Nivelle empties into the Atlantic Ocean between Ciboure and St Jean de Luz, threading its way en route through the enchanting Basque villages of Ainhoa, Sare and St Pée sur Nivelle, white washed with green and red painted shutters set beneath gently pitched rooftops... a simple architecture solidly matching the landscape and its people. The Nivelle's tumbling flow races to the ocean and paradoxically unites two contrasting worlds: from the rustic Pyrenean interior of sheep farming, wild ponies, harsh mountainous winters and hilltop vineyards, to the affluent Atlantic coast, a place of fine-dining, luxury golf and Karl Lagerfeld. The coastal resorts of Biarritz and St Jean de Luz regularly play host to France's rich and famous, with a long history of celebrity patronage from Belle Epoque Royals to 20th century deities, including Hemingway, Matisse and Coco Chanel. Famed for combining sun, sea and great gastronomy, this gourmet paradise is founded upon the finest local ingredients and a strong cultural identity - something one particular culinary star holds dear.

 

"a place of starry Michelin standards, squid ink and cod cheeks"

 

A subtle revolution
The Pays Basque is a long way from Paris, but ex Plaza Athenée chef Cédric Béchade has chosen the environs of St Jean de Luz to start a subtle revolution. L'Auberge Basque sits alongside the winding D307 old route from St Jean de Luz to St Pée sur Nivelle, a charming 17th century inn thoroughly remodelled and renovated to a very high standard by this modest culinary genius with impeccable credentials. L'Auberge is the fulfilment of one man's personal dream, underpinned by the support and advice of the world's greatest chefs. To combine luxury accommodation, an innovative menu of modern cuisine, together with an intellectual and considered wine list might not seem entirely original, but Cédric Béchade is partnered by master sommelier Samuel Ingelaere and this dynamic duo offer a totally different perspective. The two consummate professionals have adopted a democratic approach to wine and food in their restaurant, a regime of equality between chef and sommelier prevails and only fully trained sommeliers work front of house. Cédric and Samuel have named this egalitarian approach ‘Cuisinier-Sommelier'. Within this gastronomic democracy, energy and enthusiasm abound - l'Auberge is a place of Zen-like reflection and the pursuit of pure gastronomic expression - a culinary precision that is mirrored in the eclectic well-stocked cellar. In a world so often filled by tired cliché and unimaginative repetition these two young men bring original thought to their own respective disciplines, whether porcelain plated or within a crystal glass - this is both refreshing and inspirational.

 

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Cédric Béchade in his compact Palux double galley kitchen

 

Cédric Béchade

Consecrated and confirmed by Gault Millau, Cédric Béchade has achieved a stratospheric ascent to his newly found fame. At only thirty-one years of age, this tall and elegantly slim Frenchman is already a great chef. A long-standing protégé of the legendary Alain Ducasse, arguably the world's most successful Michelin star, his youthful appearance belies a formidable culinary wisdom, firmly founded upon a rarefied and substantial Paris based career. Béchade began his working life at the famous Hotel du Palais in Biarritz, with a discerning international clientele and atmosphere of excellence it is a grand location for any young man to discover the refined world of high gastronomy. He rapidly progressed to Parisian success via the prestigious Hotel Crillon on the Place de la Concorde and then to the Michelin supremacy of the Plaza Athenée under Alain Ducasse. Cédric is a chef whose respectfulness and humility remain intact: untainted by a sea of gilded metropolitan opulence, he resurfaced 600 kilometres south-west, returning to his culinary roots in the region he had grown to love, albeit, now equipped with a substantial arsenal of gastronomic acumen and acute knowledge distilled from ten years beside the greatest of chefs.

 

Early career
Born into a family of shoemakers and educated in Limoges and Lozeres, he received his initial culinary training at the noted cooking academy in Souillac, an establishment closely linked with Alain Ducasse. It was here Cédric and his soon-to-be mentor were introduced and thus began an inspirational friendship from which the young chef would truly benefit, both personally and professionally. As a child he spent idyllic summer vacations with his maternal grandparents in Lozeres, where, among many things, he discovered the rural delights of trout fishing and a great respect for nature. It was in his grandmother's kitchen he learnt the importance of fresh produce with authentic unaffected flavours. After cookery school, Cédric's first professional placement was under Chef de Cuisine, Jean-Marie Gauthier at the Hotel du Palais in Biarritz. As ferocious winter waves crashed over the sea wall, the young chef was closeted in the hotel's kitchens, studying complex techniques of haute cuisine while cultivating a love for this hothouse environment in a constant search for culinary perfection. He had found his true metier, a hungry vocation that would drive the eager apprentice on and within a mere eighteen months, deposit him at the Parisian high altar of fine cuisine. Within just one year Cédric had moved from the nursery slopes of a culinary academy to the elite circle of Michelin chefs whose gastronomic beatification was assured. Hard work had brought its reward, but Cédric was determined to reach the highest level and though working at the Crillon was a fine achievement, a new opportunity beckoned when in 1997 he was invited by Alain Ducasse to join his team, which included Jean-François Piége, for the master's first restaurant opening in the French capital.

 

"...Cédric had moved from a culinary academy to the elite circle of Michelin chefs whose gastronomic beatification was assured"

 

59,Poincaré is a restaurant originally made famous by its former three star owner Joel Robuchon, immediately after the great man retired in 1996 it was Ducasse who inherited his 16th arrondissement mantle. Cédric Béchade had more than three years of fantastic experience with Piége at 59,Poincaré before Ducasse invited him to join his exciting new venture at the Plaza Athenée, a unique opportunity to remain alongside Piége, while continuing to hone his now considerable skills. Two landmark openings with the world's leading chef, but sandwiched in between his time in Paris, a twelve month period of obligatory national service... being a young and talented chef in France, this necessitated a year working for Jacques Chirac at the Elysée Palace Presidential kitchens, where he experienced full Service a la Française, harking back to the time of Escoffier. During this enforced sojourn Cédric was privileged to be one of only two chefs invited to accompany the President on his Cote-d'Azur summer vacation and every morning President Chirac would visit the kitchens to discover exactly what he would be enjoying for lunch! Cédric concluded his remaining years with Ducasse as head chef at the Plaza's La Cour Jardin and late in 2006 bade farewell to the city for a new adventure of his own in the distant Pays Basque.

 

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Sommelier Samuel Ingelaere seated in the comfortable and well appointed bar of l'Auberge Basque

 

Samuel Ingelaere
Samuel Ingelaere is standing in the dimly lit bar of l'Auberge Basque before a regimental row of New Douro wine bottles: offering gentle encouragement to the straw tinted liquid in his elegant Spiegelau glass, thumb and forefinger lightly pinching the finely drawn stem as if it were a conductor's baton, he sensitively swirls the contents - a crisp white Ázeo from João Brito e Cunha. The sommelier's piercing gaze penetrates the translucent liquid with a laser beam intensity as he lifts the tulip shaped bowl to his nose, breathing in the reticent and slowly evolving aroma, Samuel considers the gently oscillating draft and reflects upon his encyclopaedic knowledge of taste and sense. To accurately identify the multiple layers of nuanced scent and flavour in any fine wine requires great experience and a capacity to describe without affectation. The precision with which Samuel Ingelaere elucidates, defines why he is considered by his peers to be such a fine judge, "For me this wine has fresh acidity, it has lime and white peach and puts me in mind of a fine Chevergny from the Loire... there is contrast between the classical, very fresh expression of the lime and the maturity of the fruit...for me it is the contrast which defines this particular wine."

 

Background
Samuel Ingelaere is thirty-one years of age: with pale blue-grey eyes and sporting a sand-coloured goatee beard, his fair complexion hints strongly at northern origins. Though born in Decize near Nevers, the land of fine French oak, his family roots are planted firmly in and around the city of Lille. Samuel's modest and understated disposition fits perfectly the ethos of l'Auberge Basque - permitting the superlative food and wines to speak for themselves. Although respective reputations have been forged within the upper echelons of a rarefied Michelin environment, ego plays little part and modesty prevails. Trained by Georges Pertuiset in Beaune, he understands how to appreciate great wine and is not impressed by reputation or pedigree alone. His passion is for pure liquid expression of terroir, whether in the grandest cru or humblest village wine, he seeks authenticity beyond the label - integrity and typicity are qualities that command his respect. As a young man Samuel spent two full years studying in Burgundy with Pertuiset, visiting and tasting at many great domains with dedicated winemakers - "this was very important for me, to study the many different terroirs, vinification and grapes"... though the first great wine which truly impressed Ingelaere, before his more formal education, was from northern Rhone, in the elegant shape of Chapoutier's Chante Alouette. Samuel has developed a deep appreciation for the biodynamic low sulphur approach to wine making and his viticutural heroes include Marcel Lapierre of Beaujolais fame and Philippe Pacalet from Gevrey Chambertin. From the beginning Samuel Ingelaere has worked with the very best teachers and gained a broad perspective on wines from lesser-known regions. Olivier Masmondet, past head sommelier at the Royal Park, Evian and three star Georges Blanc is now a senior figure with Louis Jadot and had a significant influence on Ingelaere, helping him to comprehend the importance of purity and natural techniques in winemaking. After working with Masmondet, two further Michelin posts followed, both on the Cote d'Azur, firstly a year at Les Terraillers near Antibes and a second at the Vista Palace close by Monaco - with superb aerial views across the bay of Monte Carlo.

 

 

sam_1A miraculous invitation from legendary Michelin star Marc Veyrat provided Samuel with his biggest ever challenge: at 26 years of age he was offered the post of head sommelier at La Ferme de Mon Père and Auberge de l'Eridan Veyrat's superlative Savoyard restaurants, placing the precociously talented Ingelaere at the very summit of haute cuisine and fine wine. A selection from Veyrat's three star a la carte menu might easily separate the solitary diner from more than 500 Euros... before ever contemplating the stunning array of wines on a list of epic proportions. Working with such a demanding and exigent chef, Samuel was compelled to raise his game: this was food and wine pairing practised to provide a profound gastronomic experience. With two menus from which to choose, there were 17 and 21 dishes respectively, matching the finest of wines to such a variety of acute and subtle flavours becomes an exacting science. Acidity and balance are all important when matching delicately flavoured vegetables and herbs... "for the first three or four months my job was very hard, it was a steep learning curve...I was working with 80% white wine and only 20% red" - a result of the health conscious menu with a vast array of complex tastes and aromas. The five years spent working as head sommelier for Marc Veyrat stretched Samuel Ingelaere, fine-tuning his palate to a very high degree. With a vast menu of unforgiving dishes and without the sommelier's safety net of meat or game, Samuel was compelled to pay attention to the smallest details of sense and taste when selecting wines for Veyrat's restaurant list. This specialist approach now informs his own selection process at l'Auberge Basque, affording visitors the special and rare opportunity of tasting wines disporting unique provenance and great subtlety, served at the perfect temperature. The vast knowledge Samuel Ingelaere brings to l'Auberge Basque makes choosing from his lean and intellectual wine list a real and refreshing pleasure, its modern and constantly evolving form engenders curiosity among diners and tempts one to try the new and unexpected. In 2005, before moving to the Pays Basque, Samuel received the prestigious Gault Millau Sommelier of the Year Award for France.

 

"A miraculous invitation from legendary Michelin star Marc Veyrat provided Samuel with his biggest challenge"

 

The Michelin Men
As a young and popular chef, Cédric Béchade is blessed with a prestigious circle of culinary allies: numbering among his friends and mentors are those whose distinguished names adorn so many gastronomic volumes and chic restaurant façades: Bocuse, Guerard, Ducasse, Roellinger, Alléno, Goossens, Berasategui, Piége, Arzak, Subijana, Veyrat et al... Olympian, cotton-clad geniuses with enough combined culinary knowledge to reduce Larousse Gastronomique to the status of a mere instructional pamphlet. Acclaimed and lauded by food lovers worldwide, these grand chefs still remember their own tremulous beginnings and actively support the next generation. When planning the launch of his solo career, it was to these top toques whom Cedric Béchade turned for advice. With a close adviser, Cédric visited many of his culinary friends whose careers were long established - this gastronomic grand tour provided many answers and while spending time with Marc Veyrat, was fortuitously introduced to Samuel Ingelaere - another young man with great ambition. The Michelin men concurred: in order to succeed alone, Cédric must combine ample accommodation and first class service built around fine produce and outstanding wines. No simple task for one so young, but Cédric's would begin the search for a place of his own in his beloved Pays Basque...

 

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l'Auberge Basque: where 21st century design blends easily with 17th

 

L'Auberge Basque
In the tiny quarter of Helbarron, midway between St Jean de Luz and the village of St Pée sur Nivelle, a great Basque tradition has found a modern voice: departing the D918 trunk road by turning left onto the ancient D307, rising up along a narrow route, one quickly arrives at the tiny cluster of white washed buildings known as l'Auberge Basque. Cédric Béchade's original dream was to create a contemporary inn with traditional Basque values of hospitality and fine cuisine. Having found a perfect building in Helbarron, with a long inn-keeping heritage dating back to 1672, Cedric engaged respected Bordeaux architect Christian Larroque to metamorphose the noble 17th century auberge into a superlative contemporary country hotel, complete with gastronomic restaurant and finely engineered kitchens built by BMW owned Palux. The juxtaposition of ultra modern design with an ancient timbered structure has proved a huge success, both aesthetically and practically. The judicious use of plate glass and steel along the entire white-stuccoed western gable, enabled Larroque to illuminate an otherwise dark interior, simultaneously providing superb panoramic views of a Pyrenean descent trailing into a concealed Atlantic Ocean... this vista encompasses La Rhune and the majestically pinnacled les Trois Couronnes. A glass and pillared wall runs the entire length of an acoustically engineered restaurant, during warm summer months the glass panels slide within broad supporting columns, permitting open access to an elegantly narrow terrace and wooded lawns beyond. The stainless steel kitchen pass opens directly into the restaurant and through the resultant elongated aperture, diners sense the unusually rarefied silence of a double galley kitchen, occupied by a miniscule brigade of three chefs - each reverentially engaged with his or her respective tasks. Unlike so many modern restaurants whose harsh canteen-like interiors reverberate with noise, the muted ambience at l'Auberge Basque has been carefully crafted by acoustic specialist Jean-Pierre Lagneau and conversation is magically absorbed. The dimly lit bar is attractively decorated in subtle grey tones with armchair seating and incorporates a temperature-controlled floor to ceiling wine storage, adjacent to the restaurant/bar entrance.

 

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The gently sunlit bar (left) and modern acoustically designed restaurant (right)

 

Standing in the tasteful, modestly proportioned hotel reception, an internal polished glass window offers a charming culinary cameo of chefs at work in the pristine kitchen. This rectangular ‘porthole' conveys iconic status to the craft of Escoffier, framing a silent epicurean show to stimulate the appetite and remind one, l'Auberge is not simply a place to stay, but more precisely, it is a fine restaurant with accommodation. The fully equipped bedrooms total nine, including two ample suites and in addition, a pair of self-catering apartments for those with independent needs.

 

A meeting of minds..
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A room with a Spanish view: 'Les Trois Couronnes' at the foot of the Pyrenees
When Cédric Béchade first met Samuel Ingelaere at Marc Veyrat's La Ferme de Mon Père, he was far from realizing a long held ambition of owning his own restaurant and developing a solo career. Though conversations with Roellinger, Bocuse and Ducasse helped enormously, his visit to Marc Veyrat brought him together with another kindred spirit. During exchanges at the restaurant, Ingelaere had listened intently to Béchade's enthusiastic ideas, completely understanding his aspirations. As the two men bade farewell, he boldly suggested to his youthful contemporary, "whenever you find your restaurant in the Pays Basque, I would truly like to join you in this adventure." A brave and exciting new partnership was about to be formed. Béchade had purchased the ancient Bastigerrea inn near St Jean de Luz in March 2006 and construction plans were well underway. Cédric and Samuel formed the partnered nucleus of a young dynamic team, built upon shared values, the finest Basque ingredients and fabulous fine wines. Two men whose reputations were already well established, two men full of modern ideas, daring to push the boundaries... Cuisiner-Sommelier had been born.

 

Cuisinier - Sommelier

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Assistant sommelier Jean-Marc Jouart
Dining at l'Auberge Basque is original and informative: during lunch or dinner wine questions are courteously fielded by trained professional sommeliers. In the expectation of burnishing the whole dining experience, Béchade and Ingelaere have established a clearly defined policy to inform and improve understanding of food and fine wine, within a cloistered culture of excellence. The attractive wine list at l'Auberge Basque is steadily evolving and provides a fine example of thoughtful application. By uniting one of France's most dynamic and exciting chefs with a truly outstanding sommelier, the stage is set to develop new and original themes, embracing food and wine pairing, wine culture, master-classes and winemaker's dinners. Displaying a great ability to distil and create without resorting to excess - decisions are never hurried and new wines only debut after rigorous tasting and experimentation with the current menu. Though restaurant and hotel are relatively new, the combined knowledge of Béchade and Ingelaere brings a meticulous and patient attention to detail, more readily associated with old and venerable establishments. In a region amply served by Michelin stars, it is hard to stand out, the artisanal non-commercial feel of l'Auberge sets a fresh tone, experimentation is continual and the social demographic of diners epitomises Cédric Béchade's egalitarian philosophy of ‘fine food for all'. Though trained within an elite Parisian circle he is far from elitist, offering a Menu Découverte at only 48 Euros (without wine). His philosophy and approach to gourmet cuisine adheres to making simple ingredients exceptional, by the application of refined technique and culinary ingenuity. This modern take on fine dining provides haute cuisine at affordable prices, hence the eclectic seasonal mix of affluent diners alongside middle class families and local farmers.

 

"by uniting one of France's most dynamic chefs with a truly outstanding sommelier, the stage is set to develop new and original themes"

 

The Menu
oeuf Cedric Bechade's combined and constantly evolving menu is pared down and focused- with less than twenty dishes in total, including desserts and cheese. It demonstrates a strong commitment to local quality ingredients, permitting clarity of purpose and offering the chef an opportunity to show local produce to best effect. Béchade's principle aim is to interpret traditional Basque ingredients in a new and exciting fashion, to offer startling concepts of flavour and presentation while remaining true to the Basque innkeeper's tradition of generous hospitality. The Basque country is famed for its use of artisanal ingredients, encompassing freshly baked bread, A.O.C. Brebis cheeses; red and green peppers from Espelette; distinctive Bayonne ham; tender hill grazed Castillian lamb, heated Chorizo sausage; a dazzling array of sparklingly fresh sea food, including the locally revered salt-cod known as Bacalhau and silvered gourmet sardines; the blackest Tolosa beans; with a multitude of tantalizing black puddings in differing shapes and sizes. Local food markets offer all of this and more: the vivid colours of Matisse unfold across a broad range of fishmongers stalls and fresh farm vegetables in every town and substantial village, from Bilbao in the extreme south of the region, through San Sebastian, all the way across the frontier to Biarritz in the north.

 

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A selection from Cédric Béchade's innovative cuisine (click for full size)

 

Béchade's defining dish to date, one that reveals his culinary imagination more than any other, is a humble poached egg. ‘L'Ouef Pipérade' is a joy to behold: the complexity and sheer inventiveness of Michelin technique applied to the simplest of ingredients, offers a satisfying gastronomic balance. Years of toil and research applied to staples of everyday life - this is what separates overblown cordon bleu pretension from cuisine of a much higher order. A dish with gentle humour evoking childhood memories while conveying the height of gastronomic sophistication, must surely distinguish Béchade as a thoughtful chef with a profound sense of his art. The complexity of this particular dish comes from presenting a liquid poached egg yolk within a firmly set Pipérade (green pepper) jelly, encircled by a delicate radius of tomato consommé. When penetrated by crisply toasted dipping fingers of Poilâne onion bread, the cadmium yolk bursts forth from within its vibrant green cloak, enveloping the accompanying slivers of delicately smoked eel - a benign rupture offering a pleasing melange of contrasting colours, the whole assemblage uniting exquisite flavours with artistic presentation... when I first tasted this dish I was reminded of breakfast time eggs and childhood toasted soldiers. Other memorable dishes use superb flavour combinations: plancha roasted pork and pistachio, braised Castillian lamb with anchovies, salmon with red cabbage and raspberry mustard vinaigrette, or salt cod with beetroot juice and quince jelly...

 

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A wooded idyll and the startlingly modern façade of l'Auberge Basque (right)

 

Wine List
Samuel Ingelaere's inaugural wine list at l'Auberge Basque is exciting and refreshingly original: not in the sense of big blockbuster vintages of great chateaux, but due to its studious, considered and affordable approach, with great emphasis on subtlety and refinement. This is an intelligent wine list for the modern age, though continually expanding, the current selection contains little over 160 references and echoes the simplicity of Cédric Béchade's menu. Five years of experience gained with Marc Veyrat have helped Samuel gauge precisely how to pair wine with delicate food flavours. He is a master at identifying key complementary tastes and discovering new wines of pedigree, whose qualities command respect and perfectly match the restaurant's cuisine. The whole essence of Cuisinier-Sommelier is to balance fine wine with food while articulately expressing why specific flavours work together. By dispensing sound wine and food advice within the restaurant, in a helpful and friendly manner, diners gain a clearer perspective of how to safely choose new wines from an unfamiliar list. Detail is everything at l'Auberge': house champagne is made by the small and accomplished marque of Dosnon, a delicious biscuity cuvée made especially for l'Auberge defining the whole concept of excellent quality at a realistic price. Samuel Ingelaere has become a great ambassador for the white wines of Savoie and though only five Savoie growers feature on Auberge's current list, they are of the finest breeding, not least a 1966 Crépy from Fichard. Equally reassuring is Ingelaere's enthusiasm for ‘foreign' wines - Spain is a great favourite with both young Frenchmen. Situated at the midway point of a great wine belt running all the way from Bordeaux to Portugal's Douro valley, encompassing Bergerac, Gaillac, Gascony, Jurancon, Irouleguy, Madiran, Navarre, Rioja, Galicia and Txakoli, Ingelaere is able to visit winemakers regularly and source new and dynamic wines to supplement the classics on his list. Fortuitously located on the fine wine frontier, between France and Spain, a great eclectic swathe of vineyards surround l'Auberge Basque, rendering it the perfect location for wine courses and estate visits.

 

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The world's most enigmatic chef Yoshiaki Takazawa from Tokyo (right) visits l'Auberge Basque

 

In pursuit of perfection
2008 is an auspicious year for l'Auberge Basque: Gault Millau has named Cédric Béchade ‘Discovery of the Year' and as a result the restaurant perpetually full of eager and discerning diners. With many excellent reviews and much media attention, this culinary shooting star is securing his place in the gastronomic firmament. Encouraged and respected by mentors and peers alike, his modesty conceals a fierce determination to excel and spread the gospel of authentic modern cuisine. Even the old guard of Bocuse and Guerard admire his ambitious spirit and endless search for perfection. Sitting in the heart of a Basque riviera of star spangled Michelin restaurants, it seems inevitable l'Auberge will become a stopping off point for culinary glitterati. En route to San Sebastian's annual LMG Chef Congress - the best in food, this restaurant provides a perfect pit stop for Parisian kitchen maestros and international chefs, flying in via Biarritz airport. The silent aura of Cédric's tiny Palux temple extends a metaphorical nod to Japanese sensibilities and an ethos of reverence and disciplined self-control. Over the past two years Cédric has spent several weeks in Tokyo as guest chef at Alain Ducasse's Benoit auberge_bully_1
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restaurant, this winter pilgrimage seems set to continue, offering Cédric the chance to gain fresh perspective and inspiration from a distant culture, while busily researching new ideas to dazzle his European clients. Though closely tuned to the culinary zeitgeist, Cédric Béchade is no slave to gastronomic fashion, with such a vast array of fundamental knowledge and cooking skills, he is free to develop his own original thought and plough a unique and special furrow.

 

 

"the silent aura of Cédric's tiny Palux temple extends a metaphorical nod to Japanese sensibilities"

 

In November 2008, the world's most enigmatic chef will be a guest in the kitchen of l'Auberge Basque: Japanese ‘cult cook' Yoshiaki Takazawa, whose tiny two tabled Tokyo restaurant makes securing a reservation at El Bulli seem like child's play, will spend a whole week working his magic for fortunate diners in the Pays Basque. Béchade dined at his new friend's extraordinary restaurant, proclaiming, "it was the best meal I have ever eaten" - high praise indeed from one so talented. The culinary times in France are changing and together with wine master Samuel Ingelaere, l'Auberge Basque is well placed to seize this new momentum, and in so doing, could help to change the face of French gastronomy. Cuisinier-Sommelier in the heart of the Pays Basque - the French New-Wave are on the move..

 


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auberg_logo_3 Copyright The World of Fine Wine 2008 - to download an illustrated PDF of this feature please visit www.finewinemag.com or click here to visit www.aubergebasque.com

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