Stay The Night: La Reserve, St-Jean-de-Luz

Swim, golf, surf – or just Basque in the sunshine. The revamped, cliff-top La Réserve is full of patriotic local colour – and don't miss the chef's l'oeuf piperade

La Réserve stands high above the Atlantic on the cliffs to the north of St-Jean-de-Luz. The rollers hurl on to the rocks, lashing them with sustained fury. It's hard to imagine a more dramatic location for a hotel. Built in the 1950s, La Réserve is part of the Floirat group, which includes the legendary Byblos in St Tropez. La Réserve is less fancy, but it's more than fit for chic four-star purpose after a comprehensive updating of the bedrooms last year. Opening this weekend after its winter break, it is ready to receive guests for the new season.

This being the Pays Basque, the seven stripes of the Basque provinces – three in France, four in Spain – feature prominently in the bar, restaurant and interlinked salons. The regional souvenir of choice is a cotton, striped tea towel in primary colours, but the hotel's approach to the motif is more restrained. Terracotta walls and red-tiled floors contrast with deep brown sofas and striped chairs in muted shades of beige and cream. Antique wooden furnishings, some of unknown purpose but all marked with the Basque cross, potted orchids and vases of cut hydrangeas create a relaxed and homely ambience.

As is often the case in France, the British have brought home pleasures to the area. Circa 1900, they established Golf des Anglais, St-Jean's first course, on the land now owned by La Réserve. No trace remains, but lawns dotted with palm trees rolling towards the ocean evoke ghosts of fairways past.

St-Jean, a 10-minute drive down the hill, had its golden age in the 17th century, when wealth accumulated by pirates supported a city of 12,000. L'Eglise Saint-Jean-Baptiste, wedding venue for Louis XIV, France's celebrated Sun King, and the Infanta Maria Theresa of Spain in 1660, heads the must-see list. Their elaborate his-and-hers palaces are flanked by handsome townhouses built for courtiers and corsairs in the surrounding streets.

 

The rooms

There are 41 rooms and five suites in the main Basque villa, plus 44 apartments for two to seven people in the Residence, overlooking the Atlantic. The hotel introduced a radical new concept during the refurbishment, replacing the original traditional style with lighter colours and clean, contemporary lines. The rooms come in assorted colours – the yellow of ripe corn, the blue of the sea and a grape red, reflecting seasonal aspects of the Basque environment. Mine was the red version, but mixed with softer shades of beige to lessen the aggression. Opening the French doors to the panoramic balcony allowed the sound of the sea to roar in through the night.

 

The food and drink

Basque chef Fabrice Idiart, in his twenties, has been exploring his native cuisine for the benefit of customers in the Ilura restaurant, with its spectacular seascape terrace, since 2008. Txangurro crab with ginger and eggs, baby rabbit or scallops tickle many palates, but his pièce de résistance is l'oeuf piperade, his interpretation of the region's signature dish. The ingredients – locally grown peppers, eggs and Bayonne ham – are simple, the results outstanding.

The Northern Basque Country, as the French provinces are known, have extensive vineyards, but the most typical ones take their name from the mountain village of Irouléguy. The vines are planted on terraces between 100m and 400m above sea level, often on slopes as steep as 60 degrees. Producing robust reds on such harsh terrain requires considerable ingenuity, but the results – on offer at La Réserve – are both affordable and delectable.

 

The extras

The infinity pool, set among bright flower beds, looks as if it falls off the cliff into the Atlantic. Surprisingly for a hotel of this calibre, there is no spa, and the sauna is more gesture than facility. However, treatments can be arranged by request.

There's free Wi-Fi throughout, tennis on site, and the surfing off the long, sandy bay and all along the coast is sensational. Need lessons? There are plenty of schools. And even though the Golf des Anglais is no longer, the Chantaco and La Nivelle clubs are mere minutes away.

 

The access

Two rooms are adapted for wheelchair use.

 

The bill

Double rooms start at €95, room only.

 

The address

La Réserve, Pointe Sainte Barbe, 1 Avenue Gaëtan Bernoville, St-Jean- de-Luz, Aquitaine, France (00 33 5 59 51 32 00; hotel-lareserve.com).

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

Sport
world cup 2014A history of the third-place play-offs
News
Tommy Ramone performing at The Old Waldorf Nightclub in 1978 in San Francisco, California.
peopleDrummer Tommy was last surviving member of seminal band
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

Sport
The Mexico chief finally lets rip as his emotions get the better of him
world cup 2014
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Voices
Spectators photograph the Tour de France riders as they make their way through the Yorkshire countryside
voicesHoward Jacobson: Line the streets for a cycling race? You might just as well watch a swarm of wasps
Life and Style
lifeHere's one answer to an inquisitive Reddit user's question
Life and Style
Several male celebrities have confessed to being on a diet, including, from left to right, Hugh Grant, Benedict Cumberbatch and Ryan Reynolds
...and the weight loss industry is rubbing its hands in glee
News
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Sport
Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
Sport
Yaya Touré has defended his posturing over his future at Manchester City
News
Detail of the dress made entirely of loom bands
news
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Life and Style
beauty
Sport
There were mass celebrations across Argentina as the country's national team reached their first World Cup final for 24 years
transfersOne of the men to suffer cardiac arrest was 16 years old
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
News
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Sport
Basketball superstar LeBron James gets into his stride for the Cleveland Cavaliers
sportNBA superstar announces decision to return to Cleveland Cavaliers
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Sales Manager (Fashion and Jewellery), Paddington, London

    £45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

    Volunteer Digital Marketing Trustee needed

    Voluntary, reasonable expenses reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: Are you keen on...

    Java Swing Developer - Hounslow - £33K to £45K

    £33000 - £45000 per annum + 8% Bonus, pension: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: ...

    Corporate Events Sales Manager, Marlow,Buckinghamshire

    £30K- £40K pa + Commision £10K + Benefits: Charter Selection: Rapidly expandin...

    Day In a Page

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
    Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

    A writer spends a night on the streets

    Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
    Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
    Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

    Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

    Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
    Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

    Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

    This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
    Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

    Why did we stop eating whelks?

    Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
    10 best women's sunglasses

    In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

    From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    The German people demand an end to the fighting
    New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

    New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

    For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
    Can scientists save the world's sea life from

    Can scientists save our sea life?

    By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

    Richard III review

    Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice