Renovated last year, one of Biarritz’s most venerable historic seaside addresses now offers 19 rooms – decorated by Parisian interior designer Sarah Lavoine, with spectacular views of the breakers of the Atlantic crashing over the Grande Plage – and the Café Basque, an excellent restaurant by chef Cédric Béchade.
Béchade, who has a Michelin star at Auberge Basque, his restaurant near Saint Pée-sur-Nivelle, has created a superb contemporary Basque-inspired menu for this new restaurant which offers signature local dishes redesigned based on excellent produce local products from the region, including freshly landed fish from the Bay of Biscay, trout from the Pyrenees and a Axoa – a Basque stew traditionally made with veal, cooked instead with meat from the famous Ibaïama pigs raised there. Decorated mainly in different shades of blue, the dining room offers wonderful sea views and is a welcoming and relaxed setting in which to enjoy a meal that celebrates the Basque Country, which straddles the border between France and Spain and is the one of the most gastronomically blessed regions of Europe.
Order appetizers like a red wine and mushroom pie with blood sausage and eggplant and almond chorizo croquettes and guindillas (the small marinated green peppers that Basques like to eat with cold meats) to share with a good bottle of fresh white Irouleguy, one of the excellent local wines. Then choose from entrees like chilled clams with corn and arugula, or a cleverly deconstructed piperade, the famous Basque vegetable stew of onions, green peppers and tomatoes seasoned with Espelette pepper, with Ibaïama ham, because the two dishes resonate with the verve and the gastronomic liveliness of Béchade and his love of the land.
Among the main dishes are the Ibaïama pig axoa with an emulsion of burnt onions and smoked eel, roast sea bass with the elixir of local herbs, and duckling with olives and Basque chestnuts.
With these dishes, Béchade establishes himself as one of the most agile and interesting French neo-regionalist chefs, those who reinvent a distinctive French regional cuisine. The dessert not to be missed is the raspberry bush, an intriguing raspberry sponge cake flavored with South African Rooibos tea and Espelette pepper, small salty red peppers grown in the Basque village of the same name.
Café Basque, Hotel-restaurant Café de Paris
5 place Bellevue, Biarritz, Tel. (33) 05-59-24-19-53.
Average à la carte 60 €,
From France Today magazine