Le MonteCristo in the Hôtel du Castellet
June 25, 2013
Christophe Bacquié, born in 1972, grew up in Corsica at Lumio, where his step-father ran a hotel. After hotel school, he worked in restaurants in Paris and on the Côte d’Azur, returning to Corsica in 1997 at the age of 25. At La Villa in Calvi in 2007 he became the first Michelin two-star chef in Corsica. In 2009 he took on a new challenge as chef at Le MonteCristo in the Hôtel du Castellet. The following year Michelin awarded him two stars again. The hotel is located up the hill from the old village of Le Castellet and the vineyards of Bandol. It is next to the Paul Ricard Circuit, a race track with varied auto and motorcycle events. Linda and I went for the night of June 6, 2013. The hotel was calm and relaxing, but I imagine that it can be just the opposite when there is a major event at the track. I reserved the Séjour Gastronomique, which included the room, hotel facilities, the tasting menu at dinner with wine pairings and breakfast.
We sat on the lovely terrace outside the bar for our Champagne apéritif before dinner.
After being seated inside, we were served a little dish of braised cuttlefish.
Next came a slate with varied hors d’œuvres.
On the left is a little glass of fish soup. We were instructed to eat the cracker at the end with it, which amusingly provided in one bite the crouton and rouille traditional with soupe de poissons. The other hors d’œuvres were also interesting and good.
A cast iron pot arrived containing two buns of warm, steamed tomato/olive bread.
This provided a provençal touch. The butter was also delicious.
The first menu course was
Les queues à la plancha ! Artichauts, fèves et petits pois de Provence
These are the famous red shrimp from the Ligurian coast. Three large ones had been quickly seared and served with a sauce made with a reduction of their shells. The garnish was pieces of small artichokes, fava beans and peas. Superb.
The paired wine was a Macon Chardonnay. (We only had a glance at the labels and so I don’t have names for most of the wines.)
Fleur de Courgette
Farcie, printanière de légumes des Jardins du Beausset
Continuing the provençal garden theme, a zucchini flower had been stuffed with very thin zucchini sticks and steamed. It was served with a variety of fresh local vegetables and a vegetable broth. Very nice.
The wine was a Chenin Blanc from the Valley of the Loire.
Pagre de Palangre
En pavé, conchiglies cuisinées comme un risotto à,
« L’or rouge de Sillans la Cascade »
The thick part of a filet of line-caught daurade was served with a rich sauce based on mussels, crab and locally-grown saffron. The sea-shell shaped pasta continued the theme and helped soak up the delicious sauce. Bravo.
The white wine was a Marsanne, Grenache Blanc and Roussane mix from Les Alpilles (near Saint Rémy.)
Veau du Limousin élevé sous la Mère
Le quasi simplement rôti à l’ail et thym frais, asperges verte et cèpe grillé,
Jus aux olives et sauge.
A chunk of rump of milk-fed veal had been roasted with thyme and garlic, making it tender and giving it a provençal flavor. It was served with a thick asparagus stalk, a firm grilled cèpe (porcini), a roasted garlic clove, olives, a swirl of sage purée and the veal ‘s roasting juices. Excellent.
The wine was 2008 Domaine de Souviou, a good red Bandol wine from a vineyard just down the hill from the hotel.
Les Pâturages ! Visitez notre cave à fromages…
Pain à la farine de châtaigne de « Cuttoli », quelques jeunes pousses et pommes vertes
At the entrance to the dining room were two glassed-in refrigerated rooms, a wine cellar and a cheese cellar. We were invited into the latter to choose from the wide selection. We only selected from the local cheeses, shown in the second photo and at the lower right of the first photo. The third photo is my plate with a swash of fig jam. (We were offered a little salad of young lettuce and green apple, but declined it.) The bread was made from chestnut flour and included some nuts and dried fruit. Very nice.
The wine was a 2010 Crozes-Hermitage « Caprice. »
The pre-dessert was a brousse, a soft, creamy local cheese, with raspberries and a pistachio tile.
Fraise du Jardin d’Antoinette
Crémeux à l’estragon, fraises arrosées de leur jus et sorbet
Seasonal, local strawberries were served with strawberry sorbet and juice along with tarragon ice cream. Very good.
The wine was a provençal muscat.
Mignardises followed. The one on the right was a thin, hard shell filled with lemoncello that one had to eat in one bite. The bowl had dark chocolate with walnuts.
As you can tell from my comments above, the meal was superb. It had variety within a consistant provençal theme. All of the sauces and garnishes were perfectly matched with the main ingredients; all were fresh and top quality. There was no excess complexity or preciousness. The service was always friendly and efficient. The pace was just right. The ambience and noise level of the dining room was good. Bravissimo.
In the morning we had the good buffet breakfast in the orangerie looking out onto the hotel’s well-kept golf course amidst the pine trees.
Then we drove down the hill to buy some of the excellent Bandol wine at Domaine Tempier and Château de Pibernon before heading back to Beaulieu-sur-Mer.