The sleepy and historic town of Chablis has been shaken up
by the opening of Michel Laroche's boutique hotel and contemporary restaurant.
Laroche Hotel & Restaurantby Tom Cannavan, 10/07
Visiting the vineyards of France is easier than ever before. Budget flight operators like Ryanair and Easyjet, have opened up huge swathes of regional France, and of course the Channel Tunnel means Paris - and a whole host of onward destinations - are but a hop away. In November 2007 the London Eurostar terminal moves to St Pancras, cutting the journey time, Capital-to-Capital, to just two hours and fifteen minutes.
A quick flick through the Michelin Red Guide is all that is needed to show that France offers an extraordinary infrastructure of quality hotels and restaurants to service both domestic and international tourists. The French passion for gastronomy means a Michelin-starred experience is never far away.
Hotel & Restaurant LarocheThe latest of those is Michel Laroche of Chablis. Laroche is without doubt one of French wine's most ambitious and enterprising producers, who over the last decade or so has not only promoted the Laroche Chablis 'brand' to the forefront of the region, but who has created estates in the Languedoc, Chile and South Africa. Laroche has run a smart wine bar in the beautiful small town of Chablis for many years, but his newly opened hotel and restaurant brings a wonderful new dimension to this slightly staid corner of Burgundy.
High Season rates run from 120 Euros per night to 255 Euros for a large suite with two bathrooms and terrace. But possibly even more attractive are package deals to include dinner, bed and breakfast for two, plus a wine tasting and tour of the nearby l'Obédiencerie, Laroche's 9th and 15th century headquarters and barrel cellars, for 250 euros per night.
Inside, the space has been given a similar treatment to the rooms, with the ancient fabric of the building offset by sleek, modern furniture and lighting, and gleaming glass and silverware.
The Laroches have created a casual dining room, but with a kitchen that is serious about its food. Apart from a selection of Champagnes, only Laroche wines are featured, but as those range from inexpensive Chilean Sauvignon Blanc, to Languedoc Syrah, to Grand Cru Chablis, there is plenty of choice. What's even better, all are offered at shop prices plus 10 Euros (about £7), so drinking those top wines is well within reach.
The town of Chablis also boasts the one-starred Hostellerie des Clos, a comfortable and very traditional restaurant with rooms, but Laroche has created a world class, contemporary venue in this tranquil corner of Burgundy whilst respecting the unique charm and history of the buildings. And the truth is that such vision and commitment is needed throughout France's wonderful wine regions as we near the end of the first decade of the Millennium.