The charm and the protected site of Saint-Jean-de-Luz

Like the Hôtel du Palais in Biarritz, an admirable base, the Grand Hôtel Thalasso & Spa in Saint-Jean-de-Luz remains the mythical address of the coastal town overlooking the ocean: an exceptional place for a stay of pleasure and of living culture in the Basque Country.

Recently renovated, the Grand Hôtel de Saint-Jean-de-Luz has kept its heritage of yesteryear, its coffered ceilings, its cabochon marbles and its grand wooden staircase in an ensemble that has been revisited and rejuvenated today. . Through its elegant decoration inspired by Art Deco, it reveals the discreet luxury of a charming five-star hotel in the heart of Saint-Jean-de-Luz facing an extraordinary view of the Atlantic Ocean.

A room at the Grand Hôtel Thalasso & Spa. | Jerome Mondière

It was during the nineteenthAnd century that the port of Saint-Jean-de-Luz, hitherto devoted to whaling and cod, gradually transformed into a seaside resort, having Napoleon III and Eugenie taken to receive the heads of the crowned and the great of this world.

However, it wasn’t until the turn of the century that Saint-Jean-de-Luz’s tourist infrastructure really developed; one of the hotels built in that period, the Hotel Terminus, stood at the far end of the city, between the dunes of the beach. It is the ancestor of the Grand Hotel.

Devastated by a fire in 1904, the Hotel Terminus had to be completely rebuilt. It has given way to a more luxurious and larger structure which has taken the name of Modern Hotel.

In 1982, the Modern Hotel was put up for sale, completely transformed and rehabilitated, thus regaining its ancient splendor and baptized the Grand Hotel. Recalling the ancient thermal baths of Saint-Jean-de-Luz, a thalassotherapy institute was added in 2007: the Loréamar Thalasso Spa.

The rooms and suites are fifty-two, the dining rooms have a breathtaking view of the ocean, and the terrace table over the water pays homage to Basque cuisine through the panoramic restaurant Aho Fina and the Bistrot Badia, whose tasty dishes are invented by chef Alexandre Villaume, from the Hôtel Scribe, in Paris, near the Opera: a culinary homage to Basque memory.

Alexandre Willaume, chef of the Aho Fina restaurant of the Grand Hôtel de Saint-Jean-de-Luz. | Alexander Willaume

The Loréamar Thalasso & Spa center offers mineral therapy treatments and numerous treatments that highlight the virtues of the nearby ocean: health, looking for clients present all year round. The Grand Hotel, star of the Basque resort, is in excellent condition: it has been awarded the award as “Best Spa Hotel in the World in 2019”.

He was not born yesterday. Already in 1900 it was a prominent address during the Belle Époque, like the Palace of Biarritz, a meeting place for crowned heads and the international jet set: many writers stayed there, including Stendhal, Flaubert, Victor Hugo …

Opened in 1982, the Grand Hotel, owned by the Royal Monceau Raffles group of Paris, will be the first five-star hotel in Saint-Jean-de-Luz and the address of the Basque resort.

Yes, the spa treatments have energized the structure, the facade of the five-star hotel is listed and the recent renovation in 2015 has revived the charm of the Art Deco style in the heart of the city dear to Edmond Rostand.

With time and the desire for holidays, Saint-Jean-de-Luz will become a trendy seaside resort, a rival to Biarritz. The Grand Hôtel is now managed by a woman, Véronique Allègre, originally from the Groupe Barrière of La Baule.

At 32 she was the first female director of a prestigious hotel. The Grand Hôtel de Saint-Jean-de-Luz is her, with her priorities such as thalassotherapy and daily inspections: all residents are offered a fifty-minute massage.

The Loréamar Thalasso & Spa Center

The covered seawater swimming pool with sea view is dedicated to the benefits of thermal treatments: thirty curists a day. Led by masseurs, they are the best in fitness. Twenty minutes in this space is equivalent to three days spent at sea, the marine cure lasts five days, it is a question of remineralizing the organism in the best possible way. Facials are offered on the last day.

At the Grand Hôtel Thalasso & Spa, the indoor swimming pool with sea view. | Jerome Mondière

Aho Fina, the gastronomic table of the Grand Hotel

Facing the bay of Saint-Jean-de-Luz, the chef Alexandre Willaume and his team offer tasty and refined cuisine with Southwestern accents.

Respectful of nature and the seasons, it enhances the flavors of exceptional products without ever distorting them for a seasonal and shared cuisine: a perfect combination of well-being and gastronomy. “The product, the origin, the respect”this is the motto of the good chef.

At the Grand Hôtel Thalasso & Spa, the dining room of the Aho Fina restaurant. | Jerome Mondière

To start

  • Saint-Jean-de-Luz cuttlefish in raw noodles marinated with Mirin, sake, horseradish, lime and ginger (18 euros)
  • Pyrenean smoked trout cannelloni with breuil and baby spinach, wild salmon roe and chive oil (20 euros)

At the Aho Fina restaurant, raw cuttlefish noodles from Saint-Jean-de-Luz marinated with Mirin, sake, horseradish, lime and ginger. | Alexander Willaume

  • Red tuna caught in sashimi seasoned with Espelette pepper and aged white balsamic vinegar (22 euros)
  • Kintoa pork ravioli, dashi broth flavored with dried bonito and yuzu ponzu
  • Boiled and breaded organic free-range egg with morels, asparagus and crosnes sautéed in a pan (22 euros)

At the Aho Fina restaurant, organic soft-boiled egg with garlic pesto bears, asparagus and truffles. | Alexander Willaume

To pursue

  • Crab in txangurro à la Donostarria style, authentic mesclun by our gardener Jean-Luc Garbage (48 euros)

At the Aho Fina restaurant, the Txangurro-style spider crab à la Donostarria. | Alexander Willaume

  • Aradoa free-range chicken pressed with seaweed, variation of zucchini flowers (40 euros)
  • Galician beef fillet, roasted salsify, gremolata with Getaria anchovies (44 euros)

At the Aho Fina restaurant, Galician beef fillet, roasted salsify, gremolata with Getaria anchovies. | Alexander Willaume

  • Scallops, vegetable aioli, olive oil with lobster coral, grated bottarga (34 euros)
  • White asparagus from Landes and green asparagus from Segos, green sauce and spelled crumble with parmesan (25 euros)

At the Aho Fina restaurant, white asparagus from the Landes and green asparagus from Segos, green sauce and spelled crumble. | Alexander Willaume

Finally, the bewitching desserts of the pastry chef Mathieu Bernard

  • Vanilla, vanilla soufflé from Madagascar, mousse and vanilla ice cream from Tahiti (16 euros)
  • Poached rhubarb with grenadine, mint granite, white cheese foam and meringue (15 euros)
  • Strawberries, vanilla crumble, rocket sorbet, rosé champagne foam (16 euros)
  • Millot 74% chocolate cream, cocoa opaline, foam and barley malt (15 euros)

At the Aho Fina restaurant, Millot 74% chocolate cream, cocoa opaline, foam and barley malt. | Alexander Willaume

Dinner menu at 65 euros. The restaurant is open from Monday to Sunday for lunch and dinner, by reservation only.

At the Aho Fina restaurant, fresh stuffed morels and free-range chicken breast, foamed with yellow wine. | Alexander Willaume

Most of the residents of the Grand Hotel have their meals in the dining room overlooking the ocean, a great moment of conviviality. We drink white or red Irouléguy.

The terrace of the Aho Fina restaurant. | Jerome Mondière

43, boulevard Thiers 64500 Saint-Jean-de-Luz. Tel .: 05 59 26 25 36. Rooms from 200 euros per person.

The Kaiku

Very old house of the Michelin starred corsair city. Dishes revisited between Basque influences and contemporary cuisine with some Asian touches by Nicolas Borombo, former chef of the Crillon and George V in Paris. Lunch menu at 48 euros and Discovery at 85 euros.

17, rue de la République 64500 Saint-Jean-de-Luz. Tel .: 05 59 26 13 20. Closed on Sunday and Monday.

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