Bermicourt: La Cour de Rémi

Bermicourt: La Cour de Rémi

The rolling plains of the Pas de Calais, France’s northernmost province, were green and golden, as I headed north from Paris to La Cour de Rémi. Highway 39 was punctuated with tidy brick towns that inevitably featured a war memorial or two, a busy café where local residents were downing draught beers, and the occasional hand-written signs announcing FRITES! Church spires and old-fashioned blue-and-white road signs signaled villages tucked away off the main road. Bermicourt was one of them.

Part of the fun in discovering the new auberges is that they bear the distinct, sometimes winningly quirky imprint of their owners. What drew me here was that Sébastien de La Borde had trained at L’Ami Jean with Stéphane Jego, one of the best bistrot chefs in Paris. To create La Cour de Rémi, Sébastien and his brother Balthazar had renovated the farm buildings on their family estate and turned them into a hip but low-key auberge.

The estate’s handsome 19th-century château, formerly a hunting lodge, belonged to their great-grandfather, Jean de Hauteclocque, a dashing local grandee and tobacco planter who also had a distinguished career as an international diplomat. The hotel was named after Rémi Portemont, the fourth-generation farmer who worked the estate’s fields, well-known for the excellence of his kitchen garden. The farm buildings that became the hotel had been Rémi’s fief.

I settled into Room 4, a cozy suite under the eaves of an old brick barn, until time for dinner. “The Pas de Calais is one of the great crossroads of Europe,” Sébastien de La Borde told me. “And this is why I take my inspiration from all over France and beyond. As a gars du Nord (boy from the North), though,” he added, “I love generously served country cooking.” Which is exactly what he proposes on the blackboard menu that changes almost daily.

We began with bulots (sea snails) with guacamole, and continued with a luscious chicken liver terrine; rabbit braised in white wine with shallots and tarragon; casserole-roasted pork tenderloin with a rich sauce of pan drippings; and a terrific cheese course that included a Losange de Saint Pol, a strong Northern cheese that almost never makes it to Paris. “Our great-grandfather loved a good time—great food and wine, lots of laughs, and a mix of people—that’s what inspired us. I think he’d be proud to know that we’re serving delicious northern French farm food at the auberge,” Sébastien said, over a tear-inducing after-dinner snifter of genièvre, a Northern juniper-berry specialty that’s a lot like gin.

La Cour de Rémi 1 rue Baillet, Bermicourt, website

Originally published in the June 2010 issue of France Today; updated in March 2012


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