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Before you read any further take a look at Hotel Castel. Do you agree it’s got the WOW factor? Are you, at this very moment, making a reservation to stay there? Ashton’s making ours, but that’s why one has an Ashton darling.
Le Seu d’Urgell, framed by the Pyrenées, belongs to the Tàpies family, has done for years and they’re proud of it. There are breathtaking views of the Urgellet valley and Cadi-Moixero, Catalonia’s biggest nature reserve. As Jaume Tàpies, International President of Relais & Chateaux, told me over lunch one day last week at the handsome Saint James Club, Paris (more of that later).
Hôtellerie is in Tàpies’ blood, his eyes sparkle when he speaks of his R & C family. And it is a family, all properties with the R & C insignia being family owned.
Tàpies, born in Andorra, Spain 1968, studied in Switzerland, France, USA, Germany and now, when in Paris, lives in Neuilly where he jogs in the Bois de Boulogne, at the crack of dawn, before breakfast and his daily newspapers, La Vanguardia, Les Echoes, Le Figaro and The Independent. “By 9am I’ve read them all”. Tàpies speaks 7 languages, is a pilot, and is 3 times champion of Spain cross country-ski, finds time to write a daily diary and has penned three, as yet unpublished, novels.
At lunch he’s relaxed, although there’s a bulging brief-case by his side for a fast getaway, he’s off in the pm to Brazil. “Each R & C property develops its’ own identity”, says Tàpies. “We have nine inspectors and they work very hard”, he adds”.
“The main question I ask myself when considering a new hotel/restaurant is, “is it worth the travelling time? Everyone’s in a rush these days, need to be pampered and happy to reach their destination”.
And, does he have a favourite R&C? “Impossible, but I do have a soft spot for Chewton Glen where I worked for four years and I’m happy to tell you that Cliveden has joined our R & C family.”
New in the 2013 guide is the very hip bistro Passage 53. “Do you have a favourite Paris restaurant Monsieur Tàpies?” “For me Apicius ticks all R&C boxes, chef Vigato is a genius who knows how to treat his clients, he has created a unique atmosphere in the former Rothschild owned Hôtel de Talhouet-Roy”.
“And what about Richard Gere and his hotel outside New York, any goss?” “Well you can’t sleep with him”, laughs Tàpies. “He’s happily married to Carey Lowell, an ex-James Bond girl. Their 8-room Bedford Post is a delightful auberge dating from 1860, one hour from New York. They didn’t know anything about the hotel business before they acquired the Bedford Post, and tell me. “We’ve stayed in enough hotels to know what they should have”. “That’s the R&C spirit.
And with that President Tàpies, International President of Relais & Chateaux, is off to new adventures on our behalf.
Le Sell d’Urgell,
Relais & Chateau,
Carretera N-260km 229
E-25700 La Seu d’Urgell (Lleida)
About 269€ for a double, dinner for two,
Breakfast. Spa treatment and use of spa.
St. James Club
Save the date! Saturday 20th April, 2013 for the first “Run & Brunch”. A 10km jog through the Bois de Boulogne, arrive back at the Saint James Club (two minutes from the Bois) for a delicious brunch planned by chef Virginie Basselot. T-shirts for all and prizes. Could be a great way to discover this handsome addy which has been revised, corrected and tweaked into the 21st century with astonishing décor by Bambi Sloane, read Napoleon 111 meets The Who.
In the garden, a potager, centuries old trees and three Montgolfier structures about to take off. They don’t! They’re part of the restaurant, which moves outside in summer. The theme is Montgolfier in hommage to the brothers who achieved their first flight in 1783 from this very spot!
Talented young chef Virginie Basselot (ex-Frechon, Guy Martin etc.) joins the ever increasing band of women taking over the copper casseroles of top addys. Read, Amandine Chagnot, Adeline Grattard, Stephanie LeQuellec, pastry chef Claire Heitzler, Ghislaine Arabian, Flora Mikula, creating a “Cuisine Club des Femmes”.
Deauville born Basselot suggests begin with her favourite:white and red quinoa, bulgur. Smoked quail’s eggs wild mushrooms, parsley and garlic juice: Duck foie gras from the Landes, pomegranate jelly, stewed red apples: Mackerel in white wine, Greek-style vegetables: Crispy Dublin Bay prawns cucumber, yuzu and fresh mint: A little caviar white sturgeon from La maison Kaspia.
Continue with line caught cod cooked with winter vegetables, light butter sauce with lemon and melissa: Gilt-head bream in a salt-crust. Lovage infused sea- bass, red onions, ginger, anchovy butter: Sautéed turbot, béarnaise sauce, confit of tomato and potato crisps with Kampot pepper or, for Ashton/ Suckling pig in all its’ glory: chops, belly, sausage, charcutière sauce, braised lettuce: Vendée Quail glazed with pink berries, red cabbagge : Braised chuck of beef, red Crozes-Hermitage wine sauce, ratte potatoes “au gratin”, shallot kromesky fritters: Lozère lamb, carrot semolina flavoured with cumin, eggplant tapenade and chickpeas.
Cheese from La maison Quatrehomme, delicious breads from Boulangerie Moisan
Desserts include Cafe Gourmand Saint James with cream puffs/ Jivara chocolate sphere, banana, passion fruit and iced mousse: Iced meringue cake with grapefruit: Lemon bergamot cheesecake, caviar lime. Sommelier Micael Morais will pair glasses of wine or select from the list, the red Burgundy Nuit-St-Georges from J. Drouhin 2000, will go down nicely.
Saint James, Paris
& Spa Gemology,
43 Avenue Bugeaud, 16th
M: Porte Dauphine
T: 01 44 05 81 82
Shut Saturday lunch & Sunday dinner
Hotel: 18 rooms from 340€ 30 suites from 630€
Breakfast from 28€
Restaurant average spend: