A beautiful gastronomic retreat in the Northern Basque Country, L’Auberge Basque is the culmination of three individual stories woven together as one by will of fate and mutual passion. The first story is that of its chef and owner, cedric Bechade, a man who has spent over a decade in some of France’s finest kitchens, many of them at the side of Alain Ducasse at Le Plaza Athenee’s La Cour Jardin, and yet is only in his early thirties.
Bechade’s professional career began at the Hotel du Palais in Biarritz, a Basque Country town just miles from the Spanish border, where he spent a year and a half practising the craft before accepting an offer from Paris. His sudden departure from the beautiful coastal town was bittersweet, but altogether necessary in the pursuit of greater heights. Years later, already an accomplished talent with a dream of establishing his own restaurant, he would meet the sommelier Samuel Ingelaere through his friendship with the Michelin chef Marc Veyrat.
Like Bechade, Ingelaere was a young man of great talent whose name was becming known on the French culinary scene through his five-year tour at La Ferme de Mon Pere. In 2005, he was named ‘Sommelier of the Year’ by the respected Gault Millau guide. The two men formed an immediate bond, with Bechade sharing his vision for a restaurant-inn, and the other man pledging to follow his lead.
All that remained was to find the right location, which is where the story of an old farm monor near St Jean de Luz comes in. Originally built in 1672, the house would need 11 months of intensive refurbishment before it was ready to receive guests. This was accomplished with the help of the architect Christian Larroque and interior designer Isabelle Juy, from Flamant Home interiors. Using a team of local artisans and workers, they restored the rundown building into the contemporary inn that it is today. Facing the La Rhune Mountains and surrounded on all sides by greenery, with a faint hint of the sea air wafting in from the nearby beach, it is a spectacular complement to Bechade’s cuisine and Ingelaere’s handpicked wine lists.
The chef’s deep-seated love for the Basque Country is evident on every plate that comes out of his humble yet world-class kitchen. Based exclusively on locally available ingredients, the imaginative and colourful presentations taste as lively and fresh as they look. All this, and a wine list of over 160 varieties, is enjoyed in a spacious dining room with a full view of the rolling parklands and mountains for an experience as close to nature as it gets.
In every one of the 11 smartly appointed rooms and suites, heating and cooling services are naturally provided throughout the year through underground geothermal systems. Water-wasting baths are replaced by ‘rain dance’ showers which blend every litre of water with three of air for a unique sensation. Bechade’s sense of responsibility towards his beloved Basque landscape extends to almost all of L’Auberge’s practises. Biodegradable mateirals and eco-friendly products are used everywhere, and the kitchen manages to find a use for every last bit of waste, even if it ends up as compost.
With two culinary ingredients at the helm, and some of the most beautiful countryside in France, L’Auberge Basque offers visitors a deeply luxurious opportunity to taste something new with every last one of their senses combined.
D 307 vieille route de St Jean de Luz
64310 Helbarron / Saint-Pée – France
+33 (0)5 59 51 70 00