Though Saint-Jean-de-Luz is a charming little seaside town on the Basque Country’s Atlantic coast, I’ve always had a special affection for Ciboure, just across the Nivelle River. It retains the nonchalant allure of a working port and has some excellent and very reasonably priced seafood restaurants, notably Arrantzaleak, which serves sublime griddled baby squid and sea bass with a terrific garnish of garlic chips and chopped parsley (18 ave Jean Poulou, 05.59.47.10.75). And now the Ciboure scene has expanded with L’Ephémère, a new seafood house with a tongue-in-cheek nautical decor by chef Sylvain Mauran, formerly at the good but très bourgeois Kaïku in Saint-Jean-de-Luz. Mauran’s menus follow the market, but his fish soup is wonderful, as are his elaborately prepared langoustines, cooked in a sauce of ground cashews and shellfish stock and served with a sauce poulette and herring caviar. My catch of the day, cod steak poached in olive oil and served with watercress purée and baby clams was one of the best dishes I’ve eaten in a long time. Desserts could be more interesting, but the wine list is friendly, including a good 2008 Jurançon Clos Uroulat Cuvée Marie at €4 a glass.
15 quai Maurice Ravel, Ciboure. 05.59.47.29.16. Fixed-price menus €30 (lunch) and €60, à la carte €50. Prices are per person without wine.
Originally published in the July/August 2010 issue of France Today
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