Restaurant Review: Château de Collias

Restaurant Review: Château de Collias

Dine in style in the elegant Château de Collias overlooking the Gorges du Gardon, near the iconic Pont du Gard.

It took seven years of negotiations with the diverse heirs of the Château de Collias before Christophe Tailleur and Philippe Huber finally acquired this magnificent property overlooking the Gardon river in Collias, a village near Nîmes. Selling their hotels and restaurants in Strasbourg, they arrived in 2019 and began the heroic task of renovating the building, an amalgam of architectural elements ranging from the 14th to 19th centuries, into a hotel.

The restaurant opened in December 2022, with young chef Julien Martin in charge of a modern bistro lunch menu, a trio of gastronomic ones in the evening, and brunch on the weekend. Martin most recently cooked for two years at the Château Les Oliviers de Salettes in the Drôme, and did stints at Les Sources de Caudalie, Lameloise and the Hôtel des Pyrénées before becoming head chef at the Château de Collias.

Impressed by Julien Martin’s culinary precision and elegance during the opening night service at the restaurant, we recently returned to see how he was settling in. Suffice to say, we had an exquisite meal, and that in the space of three months, Martin’s restaurant has become the best table in Le Gard outside of Nîmes, this department’s largest city.

After a suite of witty hors d’oeuvres, our tasting menu began with first-of-the-season asparagus cooked in olive oil, a poached quail’s egg, crushed hazelnuts and a Hollandaise sauce made with hazelnut oil, with a tartelette of caviar on the side. The salinity of the caviar joined the unctuousness of the egg with the vegetal minerality of the asparagus to create a dish that thrilled by being both original and gastronomically logical. And this was equally true of the very beautiful edible cameo that followed, a perfectly poached Mediterranean prawn with a fragile tartelette of shrimp tartare and fermented Buddha’s Hand lemon grains, and a magnificent and depthlessly rich chocolate-coloured jus made from the prawn’s shell and the juices of its head.

The culinary creations of chef Julien Martin © Château de Collias

A tiny mauve pigeon breast flanked by a miniature lake of its own luscious juices contained by an oval wall of puréed Cévennes onions followed and was one of the most impressive dishes I’ve eaten in France for several years. Everything about this preparation delighted, from the plating, which was minimal but beautifully legible, to the careful declension of flavours, including a dab of white miso seasoned with smoked pepper to add a refreshing ricochet to the richness of this dish.

I’m usually rather wary of chocolate desserts, because the richness of restaurant cooking often has me wanting something simpler and fresher at the end of a meal. Here, though, chocolate ganache with a cocoa madeleine, an emulsion of hot chocolate, and a sorbet of puckering wood sorrel was as playful as it was elegant, and ultimately very invigorating.

With chef Julien Martin in the kitchen, the Château de Collias is poised to become an exhilarating new gastronomic destination in the south of France.

Château de Collias Hôtel and Restaurant, Collias, Tel. +33 (0)4 48 27 09 50

Lunch menu €49, prix-fixe menus €110, €150, €180, average à la carte €130.

From France Today magazine

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Alexander Lobrano grew up in Connecticut, and lived in Boston, New York and London before moving to Paris, his home today, in 1986. He was European Correspondent for Gourmet magazine from 1999 until its closing, and has written about food and travel for Saveur, Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Guardian, Travel & Leisure, Departures, Conde Nast Traveler, and many other publications in the United States and the United Kingdom. He is the author of HUNGRY FOR PARIS, 2nd Edition (Random House, 4/2014), HUNGRY FOR FRANCE (Rizzoli, 4/2014), and MY PLACE AT THE TABLE, newly published in June 2021.

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