The first glimpse of L'Abbaye de la Bussiere as you enter the driveway is breathtaking. All that is missing is a Gallic version of Mr Darcy emerging wet and white shirted from the lake.
|A Paul Day sculpture you might recognise|
The Abbaye is a stunning country hotel with Relais and Chateaux accreditation, set on 15 acres of beautiful parkland in the heart of Burgundy wine country. It was founded in 1131 by the third Abbot of Citeaux (cheese connoisseurs have already pricked up their ears), and later became a spiritual retreat before the Abbaye's acquisition by Clive and Tannith Cummings 4 years ago. It's serene, calm and luxurious. And for the gourmands, the Abbaye's restaurant has held a Michelin star since 2007.
Accepting an invitation to stay during our trip around Burgundy's wine and gastronomic circles was not one I had to ponder for long.
|Fabulous bathrooms, complete with fluffy gowns, deep spa baths and Armani body products|
It's obvious that every detail has been meticulously planned, from the relaxing deep baths with spa jets, to the charming antiques and Paul Day sculptures (including a replica of the kissing statue at St Pancras), right down to the cute fluffy toy dog that is placed on your pulled down bed at night. The beds are massive. Oh, and you receive scrumptiously jammy macarons with a bottle of kir and the local cremant on ice on arrival. Our room lacked some light since, in keeping the original style of the building, there's only one window across the long, spacious room but each room has a spectacular view of the grounds or lake.
|View from our bedroom window|
There are also beautiful rooms to relax and lounge around in - proving perfect for me to catch up on the royal wedding drama in every glossy mag. There is a computer with internet access but a lack of WiFi, in keeping with the chilled out nature of the setting (but bear it in mind if you can't relax without constant on-line contact with the world).
In the restaurant, we were thrilled by the skills of chef de cuisine, Emmanuel Hebrard who retained the Michelin star of his former head chef after the latter was poached by Pierre Gagnaire for the Mandarin Oriental in Hong Kong. The Abbaye provides seriously good fine dining.
|Chef Emmanuel at work|
The restaurant is set in 2 charming rooms, in the Abbey's refrectory and the Garnier II room overlooking the park. The menu balances traditional Burgundy fare with Emmanuel's own unique flair. Emmanuel's lovely manner and skill is matched by that of sommelier extraordinaire, "Freddy", who wedded each dish to a perfectly matching mystery wine (testing the extensive practical research we had been indulging in over our previous days in the vineyards and cellars of Burgundy). We left ourselves completely in the hands of the chef and the sommelier and were not disappointed.
Think king prawns in curried batter, beef tataki in ponzu and dijon soup, asparagus, sabayon, grapefruit and caviar, brill with rhubarb puree and rice with salmon, sesame and lemon rind, wrapped in leek and with salad puree. The cheeky frogs legs were outstanding and the cheese trolley is heaven on wheels. After a sesame snap dessert, try a selection of marshmallows, Burgundy cake, chocolate and jellies.
Earlier in the day, we had enjoyed a relaxed lunch in the garden bistro with The London Foodie and Dr G who were coincidentally on their amazing, grand wine tour of France and Italy, overlapping with us in Burgundy for a day.
The bistro food is also smashing - my mullet with mussels and chervil was beautifully cooked, fresh and creamy. Luiz's garlicky escargots were gorgeous enough on their own, but the accompanying pearl barley risotto and goat cheese foam was sublime. TPG's haddock with smoked garlic cream from Arleux entree and main of brown trout with basmati rice and herbs were also hearty and excellent. The entrecote of the local, famed beef Charollais is also available on the lunch menu. I highly recommend this as a gorgeous spot to wallow in good food and sunshine.
|Trout filleted at the table|
Although we tried to save room for dinner, we couldn't resist having the cheese trolley rolled our way, where a fine selection of local cheeses are up for grabs.
Breakfast includes, with your view of the grounds, tangy fresh orange juice, a delicious basket of breads and pastries with lovely jams, gazpacho with cheeses and cured meats, and fruit poached in vanilla with mousse and other sweet bits - or you can pay extra for a cooked breakfast. The Abbaye also has 4 bikes, a Westfield 2 seater sports car, a World War 2 Willis jeep, or a classical 2CV all available for hire.
Yet despite all these perks, one of the highlights of the stay is the relaxed yet faultless service and the friendly nature of Clive (who lives on the grounds with his family) and his team. As grand and luxurious as the Abbaye is, it still holds the charm of a beloved family run business. Freddy will recommend and arrange tastings at local winemakers, such as the fantastic tasting at Maison Capitain-Gagnerot in Ladoix.
It is indeed a wonderful base to explore the gastronomic playground that is Burgundy.
Abbaye de La Bussiere, La Bussiere-sur-Ouche, 21360 Dijon, Cote d'Or, France, Tel: +33 (0) 3 80 49 02 29, www.abbaye-dela-bussiere.com
Rooms at the Abbaye de La Bussiere start at €195 and there are 2 day Abbaye break packages including dinner in the Michelin star restaurant and a continental breakfast. The 6 course gastronomic menu in the restaurant will cost approx €95 Euros per person (including a glass of champagne), while lunch in the more informal bistro will set you back a mere €25 for 2 courses, €29 for 3 courses and €33 for 4 courses.
Greedy Diva was a guest of the Abbaye de la Bussiere.