L ABBAYE DE LA BUSSIERE Michelin
This 12th-century Cistercian abbey is in a quiet comer of Burgundy, surrounded by rolling hills, lakes and parkland. In 2005 the Cummings family, then owners of Amberley Castle in Sussex, bought it from the church and undertook its conversion from spiritual retreat to five-star hotel. The result is magnificent, though the project is ongoing (the 16th bedroom opened recently) and progress is slow, the huge costs and heritage restrictions inevitably requiring a floor-by-floor approach to renovations. Monastic interiors of stained glass, vaulted ceilings and elegant cloisters in the public areas give way to English carpets and chintz in the country-house-style bedrooms. Bathrooms are lavish, flooded with light and have Jacuzzis and rain showers. There are two restaurants: a bistro serving lunchtime dishes such as snails with pearl barley and rabbit stew with fresh pasta; and the gastronomic option, open only in the evening. Here, in the sublime surroundings of the cloisters, chef Emmanuel Hebrard delivers perfectly balanced dishes such as a consomme of Jerusalem artichokes with truffles from Burgundy and poached, smoked quailegg, and langoustine wrapped in fine buckwheat pancakes. This is one chef to watch.
ROOM TO BOOK Fontenay for its lake views. CONTACT 00 33 3 80 49 02 29; www. abbayedelabussiere.fr
PRICE Doubles from €249 B&B. Set menus from €89 without wine, or two courses for €25 in the bistro
LE RELAIS BERNARD LOISEAU Michelin
La table vaut le voyage is what three Michelin stars signify; and I here, even if the detour is through the somewhat bleak Morvan Natural Park, thatcertainly true. From the handcrafted oak staircase to the red-clay Burgundy tiles, the hotel exudes luxurious charm and warmth. This extends to the 32 bedrooms and suites and their splendid bathrooms. The gardens and outdoor pool are a godsend in summer, and there is a spa with an indoor pool, hammam and sauna. Chef Bernard Loiseau, who arrived here in 1975. famously said of his sous-chef. Patrick Bertron, He cooks Loiseau better than Loiseau himself. And it was Bertron who stepped in after Loiseau s death in 2003. His exquisitely presented dishes weave a harmony of flavours that nonetheless remain distinct on the palate. Somewhere between the Loiseau classic of frogs’legs with garlic puree and parsley jus and the atom of chocolate , I reached my culinary nirvana. ROOM TO BOOK Number 29, a junior suite, for the log fire.
CONTACT 00 33 3 80 90 53 53; www.bernard-loiseau.com
PRICE Doubles from €189 B&B. Set lunch menu from €68 without wine
MAISON LAMELOISE Michelin
Maison Lameloise in Chagny was family-run for three generations. but Jacques Lameloise has hung up his toque and left his Michelin stars in the capable hands of Eric Pras. Lameloise s philosophy of serving classic dishes using seasonal and regional ingredients continues, however. A marshmallow of foie gras tops a gingerbread tuile: scallops dance with Jerusalem artichokes: venison is matched with a rounded Mercurey 2007: a warm apple tart melts a Granny Smith sorbet. The oak-beamed. stone-walled dining room is filled with people who have saved up to come here, who savour every mouthful and go home with the menu as a souvenir to treasure. There are 16 comfortable bedrooms upstairs, generous in size and handsome in design, with solid wooden furniture.
ROOM TO BOOK Room 4 for its wonderful, oak-beamed ceiling. CONTACT 00 33 3 85 87 65 65: www.lameloise.fr
PRICE Doubles from €170 B&B. Set menus from €110
LA COTE SAINT-JACQUES & SPA Michelin
Beautifully positioned on the banks of the wide River Yonne, La Cote Saint-Jacques gained its first Michelin star in 1971 under chef Michel Lorain. Now, with his son Jean Michel at the helm, it has expanded to provide 32 spacious rooms and suites decorated in rich purple velvets and chocolate browns with exposed beams and stone fireplaces, and an 800-square-metre spa with a pool, a Jacuzzi overlooking the river and a wide range of treatments by Cinq Mondes, Carita and Sensotek. In the restaurant, alongside Jean Michelmore eclectic dishes ( rose of Atlantic lobster with fresh heart-of-palm salad and Tahiti spirit dressing’), there are plenty of classics from the days when father and son worked together in the kitchen, such as lightly smoked sea bass with Oscietre caviar. A superb Chassagne-Montrachet Premier Cru ’2006 and a cheese trolley that oozed perfection (try the local Soumaintrain) were worth the journey alone; but leave some room for the pain perdu at breakfast.
ROOM TO BOOK Suite 23 for its vast balcony and river view. CONTACT 00 33 3 86 62 09 70; www.cotesaintjacques.com
PRICE Doubles from €242 B&B. Set menus from €140, with an additional €66 for wine pairing
Vezelay, home to the magnificent basilica of St Mary Magdalene, has long been a place of pilgrimage for the soul. Beneath it, in the village of Saint-Pere, is a place of pilgrimage for the body. Lis in an old mill with a honey-coloured stone exterior and white shutters. Step through the front door (and over the sleeping Labrador, Bacchus), and you enter a luxurious world of haute cuisine, full of white orchids, fur throws and roaring fires. Chef Marc Meneau is self-taught, his cuisine drawing on his native Burgundian terroir. With dishes such as cromesquis of foie gras (Meneauspeciality), sweet onion confit and caviar, fillet of John Dory on a hot stone with lemon bouillon, and chestnut souffle with mushroom ice cream, a meal here is unforgettable. Have a siesta afterwards in one of the 34 boudoir-like rooms and suites, with kidney-shaped dressing tables and parquet floors.
ROOM TO BOOK Number 107, a symphony in turquoise with a lovely garden view.
CONTACT 00 33 3 86 33 39 10; www.marc-meneau-esperance.com PRICE Doubles from €176 B&B. Set menus from €60 (€96 with wine pairing)
For further information on these and other properties contact Relais & Chateaux (00 800 2000 0002; www.relaischateaux.com)
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