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For a gourmet, what could possibly be more representative of a fairytale experience than dining in a castle restaurant? Hidden deep in a forest or set amidst the vineyards with a distant view of the coast or situated in a nature reserve. Wherever the location, it is a truly magical experience to enjoy delicious food in venues steeped in history.
Here are a few we have selected for you from around the world.
Château Saint-Martin & Spa
Château Saint-Martin & Spa is a romantic and exclusive castle at Vence, in the South of France. It was originally an ancient Knights Templar's fortress dating back to the XII century. Its position overlooking the coast was of strategic importance for spotting enemy incursions. Some even say that its main terrace offers the most extensive view over the Mediterranean sea.
In this little gem belonging to the Oekter Collection, apart from its rooms, villas and Spa, guests may also enjoy the starred cuisine of Jean-Luc Lefrancois. When not at work in the kitchen, the chef is a marathon runner who spends his free time training on the slopes of Courchevel, at the Apogée, where he goes in the winter season. He has just obtained his first Michelin star, the only one awarded on the French Riviera this year, out of 56 new stars.
Order a dish of eggs, the chef's favourite ingredient, such as his Oeuf mollet en coque de brioche, with brioche bread, breadcrumbs and spring veg. Neither should you fail to try one of the marvellous desserts on the menu prepared by a very young pastry chef, Eve Moncorger, Jean Gabin's niece.
Belmond Le Manoiraux Quat’Saisons
Now we are going to hop over to Oxfordshire (UK), to the Belmond Le Manoiraux Quat’Saisons, a most impressive and sumptuous country manor house converted into a hotel by chef Raymond Blanc, with two Michelin Stars to his name. The chef owes his fine palate to Maman Blanc who gave him a taste of her own passion for a cuisine based on authentic, locally grown seasonal produce. Blanc started out as a waiter in Oxfordshire, until the fateful day when he was asked to stand in for a sick chef. From then on, he has never looked back.
Gardens, potagers and orchards are an essential part of the Blanc philosophy; 90 different types of vegetables are grown by dedicated gardeners and botanists. There is even a plot of land entirely given over to 20 types of edible mushrooms. He never disdains traditional fare comprising the mythical recipe for onion soup. In Blanc's own words: "Onions are what make this dish and the best variety is the Pink Roscoff from Spain".
The 5 course menu at Les Saveurs offers dishes that are highly satisfying and quite memorable, such as the Confit Cornish hake, red pepper fondue, parsley, chorizo beignet and octopus.
Castello del Nero
A castle that would be equally entitled to define itself as a Wine resort is the Castello del Nero, a typical XII century aristocratic country residence. It is located at Tavarnelle Val di Pesa, in the heart of the Chianti district, in Italy. Here too, the main attraction is the panoramic terrace of the gourmet restaurant called La Torre, which has been awarded with a Michelin star under the management of Giovanni Luca Di Pirro.
Here the stars rub shoulders with the Sangiovese vineyards and the olive groves of the estate. One of the most popular dishes is Essenza, Zeri-bred lamb in pink, purple potatoes mashed and aromatized with lemon, a soupcon of cardamom, crisp kale from the castle grounds and a little sauce of smoked Tuscan buttermilk or sweetbreads with morel mushrooms and asparagus.
Castle Hill Inn
Castle Hill Inn at Newport, Rhode Island is an austere-looking mansion erected in a sea-facing position back in 1875, but also endowed with luxuriant organic vegetable gardens which still supply the kitchen generously. It also houses a gourmet restaurant whose chef, Lou Rossi, boasts Italian origins and a working experience at the Per Se, Thomas Keller's Michelin starred restaurant.
One of the venue's many attractions are the 800 labels of its wine cellar, awarded for ten years running with the “Best of Award of Excellence” by Wine Spectator. At The Lawn restaurant, it would be a great pity not to try the magnificent selection of oysters, shellfish and seafood salads. Along with dishes taken from the local tradition such as the New England Lobster Roll, an authentic Italian risi e bisi makes its appearance on the menu.
Château du Sureau
From a seaside location to one of California's National Parks, that of Yosemite, which provides the setting to the Château du Sureau. Here the background noise is the roar of the waterfalls on the granite rocks. Surrounded by silence and nature, it offers a gourmet restaurant, Erna’s Elderberry House, first opened in 1894.
Chef Jonathon Perkins' cuisine is considered to be a mandatory culinary experience. Most of the products come from Central Valley farms. Inspired by European castles, the restaurant is furnished with antiques, precious fabrics and works of art. In Spring, it is a triumph of elderberry blossom, hence its name. One dish by chef Jonathon Perkins you cannot afford to miss is the Summer Truffle Gnocchi pasta crisps, citrus-ricotta mousse, pistou, herbs.