From a meal in 2006
Laguiole is a magical place. The landscape and setting of Laguiole is so much a part of the cuisine. It is just breathtaking to sit and watch the countryside change and unfold with the burning sun and then the emerging stars.
Quoting Michel Bras:
“Aubrac runs in our blood. We were born on the plateau, we spent our happy childhoods here, now we work here. Aubrac provides us with our inspiration, our reason for living. Aubrac is also our crucible, the place where all our creative energies converge: there where our vision is sharpened, our hearing made more acute, our senses of taste, touch and smell formed and developed. Like the waterfalls, the lakes, the beech trees, even the cattle, we are born of Aubrac. We are formed in its image, by its texture, its build, its bouquet …. its song.”
To take Bras out of Aubrac would be liking taking the essence out of the man himself. I honestly don’t think you can separate one from the other. Would Bras have been moved to be a chef in some other place – who knows. But to speculate on that is not what Bras wants you to do. The entire experience at Michel Bras is centered on the region. To quote him again,” The buildings have all been designed around the principle of discovery and enjoyment of Aubrac……The bedrooms …. have been designed to let you feel in perfect harmony with nature’s scents, with the flowers and with the songs of the birds….. The restaurant looks out over the countryside, allowing the light to flood in.”
To say Bras is absolutely gorgeous is a massive understatement. We were shown to # 11, our favorite room is the last room. It is named “Space d’Aubrac”…huge picture windows provide a breathtaking view of the country-side—absolutely magnificent.
The view from the room
By 8:00 we were ready for deux coupes de champagne. We were seated in the lounge with a different, but equally wonderful, view.
(unfortunately no photos of the meal)
Amuses were the signature Bras dishes. A perfectly cooked soft-boiled egg served in its shell, with a bottom layer of deep brown mushrooms jus (I think),accompanied by a rectangular bread stick made with whole grains and covered with seeds.
Next up was a warm cepe tart
1. quinoa and citrine
2. marinated lotte on a cauliflower cream
3. beef gelee consommé with saffron.
Our favorite was the quinoa—more for texture than taste.
After ordering dinner and wine,we were shown to a lovely table by the window. As the evening progresses you watch the country-side glow in the setting sun. Later the ceiling lights up with images of wind-blown clouds.
Le Gargouillou of Young Vegetables—this is a dish that has been described ad infinitum, but regardless, it is an unbelievable medley of 30/40 vegetables, each cooked separately. Additionally, there are all manner of leaves, herbes, and flowers strewn over the plate. Finally a thin slice of smoked ham or bacon. Then 7 vegetable purees were added, ringing the plate. Each vegetable has its own taste and texture. You marvel at the complexity of the dish.
When the first dish was presented, the younger Mrs.Bras also advised that the beautiful, custom Laguoile knives would not be replaced with the removal of the used dishes.
They wanted us to utilize the special notch for resting the knife to the side of the plate as we ate and them put the knife (dirty or not) into its position in the special sterling
silver holder provided for the knife (dirty) and a clean spoon and fork. Actually ,a beautiful, rich presentation of utensils that are fine art.
Turbot from Be’ganton poached and pan-fried with “lactee acide” (milky acid) and coriander. This was just a perfect piece of turbot. As a side-note, I was tired of so much note-taking and decided to rely on menu descriptions—big mistake!! Each course had multiple vegetables and I don’t have a clue what they were in this
Duck foie gras pan-fried in a bullion of “pomme de terre” (potato) garlic and sorrel. The foie gras was like nothing we have ever tasted. In some respects it resembled the warm Tourchon of Foie at The French Laundry—but it was so compact that you could cut the foie into 1/16” thin slices. As for texture, it was firm yet creamy and soft and it melted in your mouth. The accompaniments were lost in a blur of flavors.
This course was billed as “from the North and the South”. Four green asparagus spears from Roussillon were served with a black truffle butter. Good, but by this point we were feeling veggie overload.
Roasted saddle of Lamb on the bone from Allaito served with vinaigrette of mache and vegetables l’agastache.
Cheese—not a large variety, mostly local cheeses, but served perfectly.
We wimped out on desserts.
Over-all impression—Bras is becoming more “corporate”. It does not have the intimate, country inn feeling we remembered. It is
absolutely a beautiful place and the Gargouillou worth the price of admission. The younger Mrs. Bras could not be more cordial. We had a long conversation about children and the restaurant business.
Next day we ordered breakfast in the room – an absolute must.
Michel Bras sends a wooden basket decorated with flowers, a thermos of coffee, juice, creme caramel, honey, jam, bread, pastries, another basket of specialities of Laguiole, a cake filled with fruit, yogurt with strawberries and cheese.