Michel Bras retreat and restaurant

A restaurant/hotel so embedded in the countryside of south western region of France, Laguiole that you have to arrange to stay in its accommodation or somewhere nearby in the town. We chose spring time for our visit but there was constant rain, cloud and mist so it felt like we were in the deepest of winter. Our contemporary room was thankfully bright and fresh with blonde wood furniture and crisp white linen and so we just had to get over the fact that the only thing missing was the view! It helped us focus on the food experience ahead, which is exactly why we decided to drive for around 7 hours around winding hills and mountains from our base in Provence for this special restaurant. If eating the food of true culinary artists is of interest to you then this is definitely in the category of the restaurants you should try before you die.

When you arrive at the restaurant you are taken into the lounge area where you are offered an aperitif and some savoury delicacies to get you started. On being escorted toward the dining room you are asked if you would like to see the kitchen.  Would I? this is every food lovers dream and here the kitchen brigade are used to it so you do not feel you are intruding.

The family Bras are all in attendance, in back of house and front of house and therefore service is exemplary. What did we eat, well it is all in the slide show and I won’t be painstakingly pedantic and describe it all. But I will say one thing, and that is where I discovered the charms of Aligot, the local method of making mashed potatoes. This version is creamy and garlicky with a texture that allows it to be almost stretched over your plate as it is being served.

The garden was not visible on our visit but all the vegetables are grown on Bras land and beef is sourced locally as this is deep cow country, hence the cow horn handled knives so well known for this area. Since it was raining we drove into town to buy some knives and along the way came across the Phillipe Starck designed workshop and showroom but it was depressingly deep with tourists so we quickly sped off into the town proper. The little town seems to be thriving with this industry, similiar shops all up and down the streets. However in town we still could not avoid France’s premier designer, falling for a Starck designed cheese knife and acquired a set of 12 stainless steel knives with the emblematic bee symbol. Couteliers – knife makers began by making hunting knives and it has expanded to such an extent and variety that many chefs all over the world who have their own restaurants are using them. You can look at the ranges on this website.

The day we were leaving we returned to the kitchen, this time to meet Michel Bras and saw that the family table in the centre of the kitchen was being set for luncheon. Michel Bras told me his mother still makes the Aligot daily for the restaurant. His son Sebastien works in the bakery department. The Bras wives combine roles as mothers with hosting and no doubt accounting and other management roles. Our visit was an experience to savour and we plan to return in the height of summer so we can not only revisit the culinary experience but enjoy the view from the Bras wonderful building on the l’Aubrac plateau. Roz MacAllan

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