|La Grande Maison Bordeaux’s décor reflects the bourgeois Bordeaux of centuries past.|
If you haven’t been to Bordeaux recently, now’s the time to go. After a years-long restoration of the historic center, Bordeaux clinched UNESCO Word Heritage site status in 2007 for its 18th-century architectural heritage. And with the opening of La Grande Maison in December, the city now boasts an exceptional hotel and restaurant for luxury-seeking bon vivants.
La Grande Maison is the pet project of wine magnate Bernard Magrez, who famously owns 40 vineyards around the world, including four Grands Crus Classés (like Château Pape Clément vineyards). For the hotel, Magrez teamed up with Chef Joël Robuchon and it’s a match made in gastronomic heaven. Restaurants of this high caliber had been lacking in the city, and judging by the popularity of this gourmet mecca (booked solid for months), les Bordelais were hungry for one. Robuchon already holds 28 Michelin stars in his global restaurant empire, and he isn’t shy about his ambition to garner a Michelin trifecta for his new Bordeaux venture.
Located across from the Institut Culturel Bernard Magrez, La Grande Maison occupies a stately 19th-century mansion that’s made from the same gleaming limestone as the landmarks of Bordeaux. The setting couldn’t have been more perfect for Magrez to create a sumptuous realm devoted to the arts: wine and gastronomy, the visual arts (as showcased at the cultural institute), and the art of hospitality à la française. Just consider how VIP guests arrive at La Grande Maison: via Rolls-Royce chauffeured by Magrez’s personal driver. Behind the grand wrought-iron gate, the courtyard features a 2,000-year-old olive tree, symbolizing resilience and fortitude. (Magrez nurtures olive groves at each of his vineyards as symbols embodying his motto: Ne Jamais Renoncer, or “Never give up.”)
Step inside the hotel particulier and you’re immersed in a sumptuous décor reflecting the bourgeois Bordeaux of centuries past. In fact, the Napoleon III style evokes the year 1855, when the Bordeaux Grand Cru wines were first classified. There’s marble, silk wallpaper, rich velvets, and walls of antique books, left-over from the house’s previous owner (a law professor). With the décor, interior designer Frédérique Fournier chose to exalt French luxury brands; think Baccarat crystal chandeliers, fabrics by Braquenié and Pierre Frey, furniture by Moissonnier, and Christofle silverware.
Upstairs, there are only six suites, each named after a wine vintage, like Espérance (St Emilion) and Lumière (Sauternes). In room, guests are treated to a bottle from the matching vineyard. Other thoughtful touches include Hermès bath products; fresh flowers and pastries atop the marbled fireplace mantel; and a Moleskine notebook on the bedside table for scribbling middle-of-the-night epiphanies. Clad in Carrara marble, the bathroom features a stand-alone soaking tub, and a bath butler service is available.
|La Grande Maison Bordeaux has only six suites, each named after a wine vintage.|
In these felicitous surroundings, the restaurant is a showcase for the region’s natural bounty like caviar from Aquitaine, Dordogne foie gras, and Pauillac lamb. The kitchen is orchestrated by Robuchon’s right-hand man, Chef Tomonori Danzaki, whose culinary prowess helped clinch three stars for Robuchon’s restaurants in Las Vegas and Tokyo. The holy grail for oenophiles is the restaurant’s wine book; the list contains an extraordinary selection, including all 259 Grands Crus Classés de Bordeaux.
Our meals at La Grande Maison were simply sublime. Your epicurean extravaganza starts off with a trio of small plates that Robuchon likens to a “gourmet symphony” — Lobster in a chilled sweet and sour turnip ravioli, Salmon confit topped with imperial caviar, and Alba white truffle with pan-fried quail egg. For your main course, an absolute must is Robuchon’s signature dish, which is a twist on tournedos Rossini. Perfectly cooked Chateaubriand steak is topped with foie gras and drizzled with a Port-based sauce. This decadent concoction is served with a sinfully rich purée that’s made from half-mashed potatoes and half butter. If you care for seconds, your waiter will keep the rest of the tenderloin heated in the kitchen. But save room for the cheese course! To cap your sublime meal, the dessert trolley makes its dramatic entrance. Frilly and fabulous and straight out of Marie Antoinette, the cart is piled high with cream puffs and candied fruits and rainbow-colored confections.
The hotel is overseen by Magrez’s daughter, Cécile Daquin, who’s worked for her father for 27 years. In a conversation with Luxury Travel Advisor, Daquin shared her passionate vision for luxury wine tourism. “Bordeaux wine is complex, and guests are looking to learn as much as possible about the terroir and the wine-making process.” Hence they recently launched a program that combines a Bordeaux stay at La Grande Maison with an overnight at the Château Pape Clément vineyards. Transfers are via helicopter or Rolls-Royce, and various tastings and wine workshops are included. They can also arrange private boat tours on the Garonne or the Bassin d’Arcachon, and wine-blending workshops, where you learn to be a vintner and even design your own wine label. For bookings for VIP clients, contact Reservations Manager Caroline Apoux-Ripoche ([email protected]; 011-330-535-38 1-616).