Inaugurated just over two years ago, after a respectful renovation of the castle that once belonged to Catherine Deneuve, Domaine de Primard, a bucolic retreat 70 km from Paris, is one of 11 addresses from Frédéric Biousse and Guillaume Foucher, the magicians behind a hotel collection made to their taste: Les Domaines de Fontenille.
With its park featuring century-old trees, a rose garden and multiple gardens surrounded by a moat, as well as its majestic entrance of hornbeam hedges, the residence offers visitors the pleasures of château life. For the more romantic, there’s the option of a river trip in one of the hotel’s boats, and for the sportier, there’s an outdoor swimming pool and spa.
Inside, everything has been designed to resemble a true country house, in the spirit of French elegance. Several lounges, a bar and the former kitchen make up the first floor, where, as a special treat, guests can enjoy a tea time with hot drinks and tasty homemade sweets.
© Romain Meder
To reach the Les Chemins restaurant, the gourmet vegetal address of Michelin-starred chef Romain Meder, we cross part of the gardens, designed over 35 years ago by renowned landscape architect Jacques Wirtz. Here again, we discover a skilful blend of formal gardens and wilderness, magnificently maintained to this day by the actress’s former gardener, Gérard Germaine.
Immersed in a chic, sober decor, the dining room offers a panoramic view of one of the gardens and the chefs returning from the kitchen garden, crates of vegetables and aromatic herbs in their hands, hinting at things to come…
And so begins a festival of plant creativity, orchestrated by the man who trained with chef Hélène Darroze before travelling the world with Alain Ducasse. His passion for oriental cuisine soon led him to discover new flavours that aroused his curiosity and sharpened his creativity.
In 2014, Alain Ducasse entrusted him with the kitchens of the Plaza Athénée, where two years later he was awarded three Michelin stars, focusing his cuisine on sustainable fishing and vegetables.
This risk-taking, avant-garde approach to societal issues and consumption patterns has made this Michelin-starred chef one of the pioneers of eco-responsible cuisine in the kitchens of a luxury hotel.
© Romain Meder
At Les Chemins, Romain Meder’s cuisine follows his every whim, inspired by the seasons, the many offerings of the kitchen garden and the suggestions of the local producers with whom he has collaborated from the outset. This inventive chef loves rough edges: he combines flavours with lots of textures, brings roundness, roughness and softness to each of his dishes, and plays the perfect balance between bitterness and acidity. This is the reign of vegetable.
I’m only going to reveal part of my culinary journey, to leave you with all the mystery and magic that surrounds a tasting menu…
We start with an appetiser on a leaf made from beet peels, a delicate combination of fennel, radish and berry shoots. It’s a little plant candy with punchy, comforting flavours. Then comes a second, a fresh, acidic pear granita that sharpens the palate. Then a third, a delicious waffle made with chickpea flour, seaweed powder and edible flowers, perfectly combined Proust’s madeleine and inventiveness.
© Romain Meder
These appetisers arrive one after the other, impeccably served and enunciated with great rigour, passion and a touch of humour and casualness, bringing a great deal of humanity and flexibility to this gustatory experience.
We continue with a deep spider crab broth, rice paste gnocchi and burnt lemon paste. A true culinary art form, each bite is mysterious, poetic and powerful at the same time, each dish summoning all our senses.
For starters, among others, corn, chickpeas and shellfish, a complex dish that looks so simple, confuses our senses but takes us on a journey between Mexico and Brittany. Highly prized.
Also, haricot coco, cuttlefish and seaweed: a haricot coco sausage, dipped in a ragout of the same vegetable, with burnt lemon paste; here again, the dish disrupts us with the discovery of new flavours. A round dish, striking.
Among the dishes tasted, Saint-Jacques, butternut and cornouille, perfectly cooked Saint-Jacques, a dish comforted by butternut and made unique by cornouille. The chef has fun blurring our senses and changing our tasting habits. A very interesting new approach to taste…
Next, radicchio, oyster mushrooms and monkfish liver. Monkfish liver, with its pronounced taste, jostles my palate, pampered by the thousand and one ways of cooking and using the vegetable in its entirety.
© Romain Meder
Before the cheeses and desserts arrive, we bring to our table a country-style bread made with rye and spelt flour, prepared by a cereal producer and baker close to the estate, accompanied by homemade churned butter. Simply stunning.
Among the desserts, one was a real favourite: chocolate, coffee and lentils, a total regression between creaminess and delicacy.
As for wines and other beverages, the young sommelier, Alexis, was passionate and enthusiastic, taking us on a journey through regions and flavours, notably with a delicate white wine from Anjou (Thibaud Boudignon), a sublime glass of red wine (Vosne-Romanée from Manuel Olivier), and a glass of “frosted” ice cider to finish.
More than a gastronomic experience, this gustatory journey seems to bring us closer to the earth and its origins, offering such a strong respect for all that surrounds us, between goldsmith’s work and spirituality; much more than a culinary journey, a memory engraved forever.
Domaine de Primard
Route départementale 16, Guainville