Occasionally I am invited to a specialty restaurant when I visit a winery - and on this occasion I again had that pleasure. But unlike most situations, when I am in the dark to its location, not so this time, as I had driven past the ‘Hostellerie La Briqueterie’ on my way into Epernay from where I was staying in Provin (a picturesque medieval town 85km to the south-west). Set in the heart of the Champagne region, surrounded by vineyards, the Hotel was founded in 1973 and built on the site of a former bricks factory, and is an exclusive gastronomic residence where one comes to discover the Champagne region.
In 1990 the Hotel was enlarged and totally renovated, and in June 2004, Mrs Alix Philipon took over the property. The following two years, she stamped her style on the hotel - with nearly all areas having seen her touch. The brand new Spa and the most important part to me, the gastronomic restaurant and cosy bar were recently opened in 2006.
With its 110 km of cellars, Epernay, the capital of the Champagne region - is located just 4km from the hotel, and one Champagne that has a proud place on the wine-list and hosts many a guest, myself included is Pol Roger.
All the staff are extremely knowledgeable on wine - but particularly so with regards Champagne and all the subtle nuances of the region, each house and what goes well with the menu and the seasons. They will kindly share their passion of Champagne and keep you enthralled with great stories, history and events held at the hotel.
As you walk through the reception and into the restaurant - you are greeted by an army of staff, and the decor has a homely and warm atmosphere, in a traditional style, a grand chimney in the first room, vibrant fabrics in red and yellow tones, and finally a large bay window overlooking a fantastic landscaped garden and its fountains. Our table was in the bay window bathed in sunlight, with a view of the herb garden to the right and in the distance vineyards.
From those in the know - they will say and I was to find out first hand - that the cuisine has never been better than now under the current Head Chef, Gilles Goess, who trained at the Royal Monceau and the Ritz in Paris, so it is no surprise that La Briqueterie regained its one Michelin Star in February 2007. With almost two million euros invested in this establishment, including a new kitchen and restaurant, Goess is well equipped to aim for a second star. Investment has also gone into the hotel side of this country house, bringing it up to 'Relais & Châteaux' standard.
Selecting a dish from the La Briqueterie menu is like accepting an invitation to enjoy the best of nature, and allow yourself to be carried away by the flavours of each dish, as each has aromas and scents that take you on a wonderful sensory journey.
Goess combines traditional cuisine, herbs from the garden and regional Champagne products, to produce cuisine that is a celebration for the senses.