Monday, September 26, 2011

Le Clos des Cimes St Bonnet le Froid

As the name of the village indicates one is in the mountain here, although actually in the sub Alps. The scenery is pleasant if not spectacular, there are good views of distant peaks. The hotel, a somewhat bleak tructure, sits on an isolated, wind blown plateau. The rooms are good sized, the furniture modern, functional, but not particularly esthetic. There's a small restaurant, Le Bistrot, that serves good regional fare with a prix fixe at $35. The price of a double is $260 for the night which, as more than one traveller has observed, is out of keeping with what you get. So why come here at all? Well, as always in France, the answer to that question is the food. There is a second restaurant attached to the hotel, Regis et Jacques Marcon, and it has three Michelin stars. The chef/proprietor is a renowned mushroom and wild herb connoisseur and, in the spring and fall conjures up marvelous mushroom dishes. One of his most arresting inventions is a cassoulet made with lobster and lentils, not a combination one would readily come up with, but truly great tasting. Needless to say, the prices are well up in the stratosphere, three Michelin stars in France constitute a license to charge as if there were no tomorrow. The cheapest prix fixe is $160 and one ccan easily run up a tab twice that amount. (When I stayed here it was at the invitation of the BBC, for whom I was the featured lecturer in a series about the history of mountain vacationing, so I ate on their nickel). If you're determined to have the gastronomic experience at all costs but don't care to have your pocket picked for an overnight stay, you can also stay at the nearby Le Fort du Pre, a comfortable country hotel with an indoor pool and fitness center for $100 for a double. But, either way, you'll have to reserve a table at Regis et Jacques months ahead of time, the French will line up to pay this kind of money for a meal.

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