UK / Europe

Michelin stars over the mountains

Amy Hughes

There may be Michelin-starred restaurants with breathtaking views, but I’m guessing there aren’t any with an infinity pool inhabited by three giant-sized rubber ducks.

This playful sight is part of the experience on the French island of Corsica. Perched in the hills above the harbour of Calvi, the luxurious Hotel La Villa is the setting for Table de Bastien, namesake of Chef Sebastien Sevellec. The view alone is worth a star, with indoor and outdoor seating.  The latter is a must unless there is a chill.

A two-tiered terrace allows everyone to enjoy the spectacular sight of sunset bathing the harbour in pastels, from the citadel, to the sea, to the olive trees set against the mountains.  And after dark, the harbour gives off a gentle glow below the night sky.

It’s essential to be a foodie if you’re Corsican.  The island’s residents are renowned for their passion for food.  Amen.  And unlike other distant spots, Corsica has fertile land, which creates a bounty of fresh produce.  Add to that several working ports where fishermen come back with the day’s haul.  What a treat to have all this at your fingertips, and none of it really expensive.

Still, this is a French-governed outpost and haute cuisine has god-like status. The menu blends the Corsican and Mediterranean kitchen with ingredients like fresh fig prepared tartare-style with almonds, and honey vinegar as a dizzying accompaniment to foie gras. We began with a luscious lobster tail in a chickpea puree, flavoured with sesame oil, adrift in a veloute of rocket, miso and verbena. The lobster was tender and sweet and the fusion of flavours awakened our taste buds.  A refreshing sorbet was served to cleanse our palates before moving on to a main dish of monkfish steak sitting on a bed of cepes in a jus reduction, accompanied by a handful of dainty gnocchi. The monkfish was glorious, meaty and succulent, and the cepes in their gentle, rustic gravy made for a perfect pairing of light and hearty.

If you’ve read any of my previous restaurant reviews, you’ll know I generally have a strong will when it comes to the final course.  But a Michelin starred-dessert is where I LOSE ALL CONTROL , especially when I see the words “100% chocolate.”    It had to be tasted.  The pre-dessert was a mango, passionfruit and yogurt pannacotta with a delicious pistachio topping, which was light and lovely and paved the way for the small chocolate tower.  A smooth, silky mousse was wrapped in a piece of rolled-out chocolate, with a thin sliver on top, just like a chapeau, holding a dollop of cocoa ice cream.  The surprising hit of the dish was the crunchy biscuit and nougat foundation.

As if the pre-dessert and 100% chocolate weren’t enough, handmade treasures were served afterwards.  Chef Sevellec saved the best for last;  the piece de resistance for me, were the light-as-a-feather coconut marshmallow squares, and even more so, the salted caramels so fresh they almost melted before they crossed my lips.    I’ll admit it; the caramels brought me to my knees and stripped me of any shred of dignity I might have had about keeping my sweet tooth under control.

If you’re lucky enough to stay at the Hotel La Villa, there IS nowhere better to indulge.  If you’re staying elsewhere, or even just passing through Calvi, a stop here is well worth it.  The view alone is priceless, the food worth every euro.

Getting there:

Fly directly to Calvi from mainland France, or take a ferry from France or Italy.  Better yet, take a chopper, and use the hotel’s helipad.

Table de Bastien

Hotel La Villa
www.hotel-lavilla.com
Phone: +33.495 65 10 10
Chemin de Notre Dame de la Serra
Calvi, Corsica

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