Michel Bras is the all-time-favourite chef with a high reputation in the culinary industry.  To experience his world-class cuisine, our exploration had to make a stop in the middle of France.  Accompanied by an ultra-modern setting overlooking the French countryside, Bras offered a dining journey that one could only dream of.

About the Chef

Voted as one of the ten most influential chefs in the world, Michel Bras interestingly never intended to become a chef. Partly through his science degree, his mother fell ill and he helped out his family’s country inn business. With his natural talent, he was soon drawn in.

The cuisine of Bras is rooted in Aubrac region in Laguiole, the area where he grew up. Locality is what his culinary style is all about.  His menus are defined by his relationship with the land and inspired by the change of the seasons.  His constant use of local ingredients and rare herbs and plants in the hillsides creates enormous surprise and joy.

Not only being an internationally renowned chef himself, Michel Bras has also been training his son Sebastien for the last ten years. The ladies of the family, Michel’s wife Ginette and his daughter-in-law Veronique, are always there to welcome you in the dining room.

About the Restaurant

After driving through meadow and forest, the landscape is broken up by a glass and steel complex situated on top of a hill.  This futuristic upscale design by architect Eric Raffy up on the Aubrac plateau offers a superb panoramic view of the countryside and has been housing Restaurant Bras since 1992.

Walking passed Bras gift shop and continuing along a classy hallway with running water on the side, we entered into their elegant dining area.  The spacious dining room with abundant natural light resembles a contemporary art museum with a moving Bras’s logo projected across the ceiling.  Even the candle on each table casts the shadow of their logo. Decorations were produced by local artists using local materials.

About Our Meal

Our dream began in a stylish lounge.  While admiring the beautiful sunset and sipping away Bras’ 2007 seasonal cocktails, we were offered six different amuse-bouches: an egg sabayon; warm sesame bread stick; delicious duck and porcini tart; and a series of delicately arranged spoons containing red mullet, refreshing cereal and broccoli, and finally a perfectly balanced lamb pâté with mustard.

The first two courses were paired with a glass of sauvignon-semillon white wine, Bergerac Sec, Tour des Gendres 2005 – nice citrus and flo­­ral aroma.

Our colourful first course was the famous masterpiece gargouillou. With no doubt, this was the best vegetable dish on earth! We simply could not believe a “simple” salad could be that spectacular! But was it really simple? The kitchen would definitely not agree. As Veronique, the daughter-in-law of Michel Bras, explained to us, this salad was composed of more than 30 different local vegetables and herbs in season. Each vegetable was cooked separately in its own pot of water in order to reach its perfect cooking time; each vegetable was seasoned individually with a light, yet perfectly matched sauce to bring out its most natural flavour. You could truly enjoy each vegetable’s uniqueness — its different colour, different aroma, different texture, different flavour … When combined together, the whole dish was totally harmonious.  For a moment, we realized that it was not too bad to be a vegetarian after all!  This breathtaking dish was simply a work of art, an inspiration from nature, a gift from heaven… It made us wanting to return to this restaurant again and again…

While still carried away by the previous dish, the second course arrived — turbot with wild garlic and ham juice.  The meaty turbot was beautifully pan fried to its optimal, accompanied by a roasted leek cooked just like a continuation of the previous vegetable course.  The garlic and ham sauce smothering the fish was light enough to conserve the natural freshness of the fish.

Next came the foie gras with strawberry sauce and rhubarb jam, garnished by fresh slices of strawberry.  The foie was of high quality and firmly cooked.  The marriage of strawberry sauce and rhubarb jam tied brilliantly with the foie.  However, the fresh strawberry was a bit too acidic which destroyed the delicate richness of the foie gras.  Using a sweeter fruit as its companion would definitely be a better choice.  This course came with a glass of strong bitter-sweet wine – Gaillac doux, Causse Marines, Grain de Folie Douce 2005.

Our fourth course was onion covered by a black olive crust with black truffle sauce.  It is very unusual to assign onion as the main character of a course.  However, this sweet onion was well poached that it melted on the tongue.  Its mild taste allowed us to fully enjoy the deep olive flavour and the delicate black truffle sauce.  Another simple but ingenious dish!

Our main course was a simple strip of lamb dusted with pepper, decorated by some raisins and spice juice.  In addition, there was chinese cabbage on the dish, which provided an oriental touch.  The lamb was beautifully done to retain its tenderness.  The sweetness from the raisins cuts through the rawness of the meat, resulting in a perfect match.  This dish was accompanied by a glass of Coteaux du Languedoc, Grès Saint Paul 2002, a smoky aroma with a touch of spice flavour.

The side dish accompanying the main course was a specialty of this region, aligot, a rich, elastic purée of potatoes and Laguiole cheese.  Michel Bras’ mother, Angèle, still prepares it daily in their kitchen.  The proportion of potato versus cheese was just spot-on!  Just like gargouillou being the best vegetable dish ever, this aligot was the best side dish ever!  So smooth, sinfully rich, completely beyond your imagination…  The melting cheese just makes you wanting more and more.  Most of the diners could not resist and asked for a refill.  This mashed potato really made us regret having too much bread during the meal!

Next came another Michel Bras’ signature dessert dish. In 1981, Michel Bras created the chocolate coulant – chocolate cake with a warm liquid interior, often called fondant. He applied for a patent for his creation, which has been subsequently copied all around the world. It was our great honour to come to his restaurant and to discover a variation of his own invention.

Today, the variation was an orange syrup fondant and a red sweet wine sorbet with a touch of minced ginger at the side. The sweet shortcrust pastry was crumbly outside but soft inside, soaked with the well balanced citrus-sweet warm orange syrup. It was just stunning!  The freezing cold sorbet also offered a nice sensational temperature twist.  I know that I already commented that the gargouillou was the best vegetable dish ever, and the aligot was the best side dish ever, but I really have to add this dessert into the “best ever” list. This dessert alone is enough to make you coming back to this restaurant.

The second dessert was pineapple wrapped with banana cream inside. A light, yet delicious dessert.  Our dessert courses came with a glass of sweet wine, Rivesaltes Ambré, Domaine des Chênes 2001, walnut aroma with an intense sugar and alcohol flavour.

Next came our last dessert, a chocolate ice cream topped by a crystallised balsamic leaf.  It wasn’t particularly amazing.  The leaf’s herby bitterness along with the bitter dark chocolate was actually quite unpleasant.

Finally, we were provided with a variety of petits-fours to conclude our meal, such as orange, coconut, pineapple and chocolate popsicle balls.

Overall, we had a few best dishes of our life this evening. Without a doubt, we have to say this meal was one of the best and we have already decided to revisit Michel Bras again next year!

About the Service

Servers were professional and friendly to answer all you questions, as expected from a 3-Michelin star restaurant.  All courses were delivered in a timely fashion.  Servers were attentive and thoughtful.  All the cutleries here are custom-made for Bras.  They even have a utensil to hold your cutleries instead of resting them on the table!

Diners are welcome to use the lounge for a pre-meal cocktail or a post-meal coffee.  They are flexible in serving you amuse-bouche and petits-fours in the main dining room or in their spacious lounge.

Practical Information

Michel et Sébastien Bras
12210 Laguiole (60km north of Rodez)
France
tel: +33 05 65 51 18 20
www.michel-bras.com

Open only from April to October.
Closed Monday all day, Tuesday and Wednesday lunch.

Evasion and Earth: €104
Discovery and Nature: €167
À la carte menu: About €50 appetizer and €60 main course

Useful Tips

  • Since the restaurant only open six months a year, the easiest way to secure a reservation is to complete the online reservation form in early January.
  • If you want a luxury holiday to accompany your extraordinary meal, you could stay in Bras’ Relais & Châteaux hotel from €200 per night.  It is more difficult to book a room than dinner due to a small number of rooms available.  Otherwise, you could stay in the Best Western hotel in Laguiole, only 6km away.
  • Laguiole is 50km north of Rodez, where only small airlines like Ryanair flies to.
  • After a short drive from Laguiole, you will spot the restaurant on top of a hill at distance. You will soon see a small road going up that hill on your left hand side. That is the only road leading to the restaurant.
  • Do stop by their gift shop during your meal break to have a glance at Bras’ product line, ranging from postcards of Bras’ famous dish to expensive Bras’ knife used during the meal.  Feel free to spend a few hundred euros to add an extra knife to your kitchen collection!

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