Bras, Laguiole

 

Bras [se prononce Braz] – in Laguiole [se prononce læ-jol].

Michel Bras always found it too difficult to leave his native land of Aubrac. Born in Gabriac, he attended grammar school in Espalion before moving to Laguiole, where his parents ran a little restaurant – Lou Mazuc. He has remained there or thereabouts ever since.

That might be an understatement. Working away in this ‘isolated desert’ (his words) somewhere in France’s central massif, Michel Bras changed gastronomy. ‘His influence is massive. What he planted seeds for was a culinary revolution,’ asserts David Chang whilst Wiley Dufresne admits, ‘he has been copied by every chef in the world. We’ve all taken a page out of the Bras book – the smear, the spoon drag, putting food on a plate like it fell off a tree.’ Luc Dubanchet, Omnivore’s founder, goes even further: ‘he’s like the godfather of cuisine…the pope. He built his own cuisine…’ To the avante-garde chefs of Spain, he is certainly the most, perhaps the only, revered Frenchman. At just twenty-five, he created a dish – le gargouillou – whose repercussions have been as profound as they have profuse. He, with few others, was the vanguard that paved the way for the New Naturals whose influence grows today.

So indeed he did stay in Aubrac, but he also gave the world a reason to come to him.

The Bras family came from humble beginnings. His father, Marcel, had found himself unable to support his family as a blacksmith so, together with Michel’s mother, Angèle, he opened a small café; ‘we served workers, that’s all.’ Although it was here he had been taught by his mother how to cook at an early age – he merits her for his sense of taste whilst ‘from my father, I get precision’ – he himself had other aspirations: ‘I dreamed of doing something with chemistry or physics. There lies my true passion.’ Nevertheless, while still studying, both his parents fell ill and, as the eldest of three children, he had to take charge and take over the kitchen. His talent soon became obvious to others as did, to himself, the pleasure he derived from cooking.

As already mentioned, Bras was always more compelled to remain at home than to leave it – he never joined the Tour de France or went to work in one of the great kitchens of Paris or elsewhere. Instead of such classique training, he taught himself. He followed his initiative, voraciously reading gastronomic literature (as well as more philosophical stuff by the likes of Saint Augustine, Lamartine and Saint-Exupéry) all the while continuing to learn the local culinary traditions from his mother. Even in those days, rambling woodland paths and strolling through the countryside, he was always gathering, collecting, nibbling and tasting. It was at this same time too that he met Ginette, his future wife and another lover of things natural.

By 1979, the couple had taken full control of Lou Mazuc with Michel as the chef and his wife, the sommelier. Their cosy restaurant with barely forty seats was immediately recognised by Michelin and awarded its first star. Eventually, in 1987, they had a second. Here, Bras’ distinctive use of herbs and flowers was already taking shape and his cooking was attracting diners and critics from all over France and even further afield. Still, the two realised that if they were to continue their ascent, they would need a larger, improved space. The place the pair decided on was le Puech de Suquet.

  

In 1992, Architects Eric Raffy and Philippe Villeroux were charged with the ‘realisation of [the Bras’] perfectly mad project’. ‘Wishing to get as close as possible to nature,’ the family chose a spot sitting on the crest of le Suquet’s summit, some four-thousand feet above the plateau beneath and four kilometres from the town. Slowly revealing itself as one approaches, amidst the rolling hills, the reine des prés, gentiane jaune, potentille dorée, violette des Sudètes and sixty or so other flowers and surrounded by the grazing Aubrac cattle noted for their obsidian eyes, their creation is at once a seamless extension of its surroundings whilst simultaneously in violent divergence to them. Concordant with and expressive of his culinary style, the chef wanted the structure to spring forth from the land. Thus it appears half in and half out of the hillside, seemingly embedded within it on one side whilst exploding into the ‘unexplored space, unseen and unlimited frontiers ahead’ on the other. Sculpted in slate, schist, granite and glass, the edifice is ‘in tone with [the land’s own] tones and materials’ and even resembles a traditional buron – the little cheese-making stone huts that litter the locale.

The new restaurant had been a costly endeavour however and initially it struggled, its troubles culminating in an eventual bail-out, part sponsored by the tourist board. Things turned around towards the end of the decade and, in 1999, Michelin finally bestowed Bras a third star. Subsequently, the same chef who once refused to set up in Paris, launched Michel Bras Toya Japon in Hokkaido in 2002, citing the area’s similarity to Aubrac as his motivation.

Sébastien, Michel’s son, having grown up in his father’s kitchen and after graduating from the Paul Bocuse Institute, apprenticed at Guérard, Gagnaire and the chocolatier Bernachon in Lyon before returning to his father’s side in 1995. It has been a successful, smooth partnership: ‘my values are those of my family. I am not interested about magazine covers and I am all too aware that Sébastien will never be Michel. Customer satisfaction is all that counts for me. Between my father and me there has never been conflict, break ups or a generation gap.’ Séba may indeed never be Michel, but in an interesting twist, it was him in charge of the kitchen in 1998 when, with his parents away on business, the manager of the Guide Michelin arrived ready to dine…the very next March, his father had his three stars.

In 2003, Sébastien’s increasing involvement convinced his father to rename the restaurant simply Bras (dropping his own name). The junior chef’s wife, Véronique, also joined that of the senior’s in the dining room. More recently, although he still likes to help with the gardening, Michel – now sixty-plus – has stepped into a semi-retired role.

 

Reached via the meandering roads that run throughout Aubrac – local farmers are said to have bribed road workers with bottles of wine not to build across their properties – a simple sign by the roadside suggests the entrance to the Bras compound.

  

Following on from a short ascent, a blossom-bordered footpath points to the revolving doorway and reception. To the left is the lounge. Wrapped with windows from floor-to-ceiling, the entire area is a levitating ledge over the valley beneath, balanced between earth and sky. The effect is nothing short of spectacular: a still-life of lush landscapes and verdant scenes stretching for twenty kilometres across the horizon. A ring of cream coloured chairs from Vincent Sheppard circle a long granite slab under which fresh-cut wooden logs lie and over which a small fireplace is suspended. A flight of steps between here and the entry lead down and out to the other two buildings housing the bedrooms that reside either side of an old cattle drive – draille – that used to run from the hotel’s entrance to Laguiole’s parish church.

  

Opposite the salon, almost anchored into the rocks is the actual restaurant. The room is long and narrow and accessed by crossing one of the bridges resting over the small stream running between the kitchen and the dining area.

 

State-of-the-art, the kitchen is partially visible from the salle and stands besides a humidity-controlled wine cellar.

  

There are two rows of large, circular tables with those abutting the panorama windows sectioned off in pairs by semi-transparent mesh screens. Every seat has an excellent view. It is ‘a place bathed in light with an uninterrupted view of infinity’. The interior is minimalist, meditative and unemotional – the intention is to not distract the diner from experiencing the food. For the same reason, resting upon mineral-slate-blue tablecloths, Bernaudaud crockery is immaculate white. Adjacent these, legendary Laguiole cutlery, custom made to Bras’ specific instructions, sits poised upon specially designed metallic stands. A small message from the family accompanies the blade.

  

In 1829, combining the regional, fixed-blade capuchadou with the Catalan navaja pocket-knife brought back from Spain, the son of a Laguiole innkeeper, Pierre Calmels, created this iconic instrument. It quickly became an essential tool for shepherd and peasant alike and, at the end of the century, when many migrated to Paris, those who left, left everything behind bar their blade. Thus it became a symbol of identity amongst the Aveyronnais away from home. Nowadays it is the knife of choice amongst connoisseurs and at Bras this heritage is celebrated with diners, adhering to local custom, retaining the same Laguiole throughout their meal, just as an Auvergnat peasant would.

One final mention concerns the sistre – the herb picked by Bras as his emblem. Also known as baldmoney or fenouil des Alpes, this is a local wild fennel breed that cannot survive exposure to synthetic fertilisers – the choice is a poignant and emphatically figurative example of the chef’s own principles and commitment to nature.

On this warm, late June day, we took the evasion & terre; découverte & nature menu with a supplement.

  

Amuse Bouche 1: coques-mouillettes. Atop a dark wooden tray lay Michel Bras’ recette du bien-être, upon which two bantam eggs, set in shining silver cups and stocked with bright yellow, bubbled yolk, stood; the corners of the inscribed card were crowned with stacked, thick-cut, three-cheese mouillettes. The little eggs’ contents had been removed, warmed, whisked and then returned to their shells with a little grassy parsley oil. Accompanying wholegrain soldiers of Laguiole, Roquefort and chèvre, were strong, seedy and crisp. The simple recipe underneath called for a slowing down, for a return to the dining table, for families to cook and to eat together again…

 

Amuse Bouche 2: Trio de cuillères – betterave, chou romanesco, agrumes; consommé langoustine, matignon de légumes; canard, feuille de moutarde, cornichon. A threesome of short-stemmed sterling spoons were served carrying three different, very colourful concoctions – one of vegetable, one of fish and one more of meat. Earthy-sweet beet gelée came with firm romanesco cauliflower and citrus rind; a flavourful jellied langoustine consommé was embedded with cooked-down mirepoix; and some shredded duck confit was partnered with gherkin, subtle mustard and its leaf.

  

Les Pains: Pain de campagne; croustillants aux épices et lavash; pain au levain et pain aux céréales. Already at the table, a loaf of braided rustic, home-baked bread rolls was bundled up in a napkin blanket; as amuses were eaten, the serveur proceeded to separate the buns into a wooden basket.

  

Alongside these, implanted within a black basalt pebble, were savoury pain aux épices and lavash croustillants. Soon a second bin was brought about bearing slices of pain au levain and pain aux céréales. These last two offerings – fluffy sourdough and crusty, dense-crumbed seed – were significantly better than the average country-bread, cumin-spiced crisps and plain, coarse crackers. Bordier’s beurre de baratte demi-sel was delivered on ebony slabs bearing Bras’ baldmoney.

Entrée 1: aujourd’hui « classique »; le gargouillou de jeunes légumes; graines & herbes, lait de poule à la noisette. Before service began, some couple dozen different vegetables were peeled, shucked, sliced, mandolined and/or chopped. Leaves were plucked from another possible dozen plants or stems and an anonymous number of flowers, just picked that morning by the chefs themselves, were prepared and readied for plating. As required, the jeunes légumes were quickly blanched with a little salt in separate pots of water then shocked in ice water; seasoned individually, they were subsequently held apart in foil containers.

 

All these greens, blossoms and blades, plus some fruits, grains and seeds too, were then carefully assembled upon the plate to create Michel Bras’ masterpiece – le gargouillou. The precise produce depends not just on the season, but on the very day and today, faintly framed on all four sides by vibrant wisps, dabs and spoon drags of red and yellow pepper, pistou, sorrel and of olive, courgette, cucumber, celery, kohlrabi and runner beans mingled with Granny Smith apple, yellow peas and patty pan….edible ferns, fennel fronds, beet leaves and rocket mixed with rose petals, phlox Carolina, tajete and borage. At the table, hazelnut-infused eggnog was sparingly sprinkled over the colourful cluster.

 

The stunning standard of the ingredients stuck at once. Arriving mildly warm, as if just gathered and still warm from lying in the sun, the peculiar savour of each product was amplified and yet absolutely pure. The minimal saucing added a little moisture to the already succulent greens whilst niacs – according to Bras, a ‘combination of visual, smelly, tasty touches that awake our sensations for new discoveries…’ – of lait de poule à la noisette as well as sweetened dried black olive crumble added animation and unanticipated hints. As one eats, unearthing unseen elements, discovering new flavours with each forkful and new textures with every taste, what emerges is a mesmerising sense of fascination and gripping engrossment. One finds themselves eating ever slower, the whole course taking unexpectedly long to finish – the dish arrest one’s attention and literally moves you to silence.

 

Entrée 2: avec de la peau de lait comme nous l’aimons; le turbot poêlé au beurre demi-sel & roulé dans du vinaigre; cornichons frais et ciboule. A golden gamboge crusted fillet of pan-fried turbot from Saint Jean-de-Luz, dusted with vinegar powder, came laid in a salty butter sauce, mizzled with a little more vinegar, and surrounded with fresh gherkins, sautéed spring onions and some spinach; garlic flower buds were strewn overtop whilst a trail of immature marguerite daisy petals climbed one corner of the plate. Brought from the Bay of Biscay, this thick tranche of fish was very agreeable and nicely cooked even if it was not an especially gelatinous cut. The sauce, not as heavy as anticipated, was warm, light and gently spiked with vinegar and a little garlic. The hot vegetables were a pleasing and interesting combination.

  

Entrée 3: parfum et fruits d’amande; la tranche de foie gras de canard grillée; des amandes, figues noires & fenouil; citron & reine-des-prés; sansho, carvi, para. Foie gras, slowly grilled until umber and crisp, sat in a shallow bath of meadowsweet, sansho and cresson de para the cusp of which was partly smudged with black fig compote; the broad brim of the dish was further furnished with a thicket of shaved fennel, smear of lemon, blanched almonds and caraway grains. The good portion of foie from Poitou-Charentes had pleasantly livery savour yet remained clean and not overpowering; it was well matched by the airy emulsion that was itself very herby, minty and aromatic. The meadowsweet wherein this frothy mixture – and specifically its almond-like perfume – proved a natural link to the encircling, crunchy nuts. Lemon purée provided acidity and the fig, some grainy spicy-sweetness. Caraway and fennel shared subtle hints of anise whilst the later also added another texture.

 

Entrée 4: sur une base de cereals; la galette; cèbe, courgette, poivron…sur un jus aux truffes de Comprégnac. A long wedge of buckwheat waffle, sandwiching oignons de Lézignan la Cèbe, courgettes and mixed peppers and barely obscured by a big blade of pak choi, balanced across the brim of a bowl bearing a dark pool of summer truffle jus from closeby Comprégnac that also circumscribed a cluster of grated chou petsai. Rich, deep and musky, at once the truffle’s scent surprised with its strength. Its earthiness married ably with the mild flavour of the galette, which was deliciously crunchy without and sweet and moist within. The faintly sweet and crispy Chinese cabbage underneath was a welcome foil.

Michel Bras is famous for finding inspiration within his native environs and the presentation of this course was unavoidably evocative of the colossal Viaduc de Millau a little south of Aubrac…

 

Plat Principal 1: d’origine Aveyronnaise; le carré d’agneau Allaiton rôti sur os; artichauts et boulgour à la coriandre; fleurs & huile de serpolet. Double cut rib of slow-roasted Allaiton lamb rested in its own reduced cooking juice seasoned with a touch of soy and wild thyme oil that almost concealed a very thin base of pommes mousseline; against the chop sat three segments of artichoke heart and some spinach whilst alongside came coriander-bulgur and assorted flowers. Supplied by Bernard Greffeuille, this breed of lamb is widely considered one of France’s finest. The cherry pink meat, tender and silky, was indeed tasty and had a pleasingly succulent, alabaster strip of fat attached – although this could have been a little crisper. The intense jus beneath was rich, slightly spicy and tinted with lemon, whose savour was echoed by the purple blossoms dotting the plate’s border and by the coriander in the fluffy, light cracked wheat. Very flavoursome sections of artichoke also mimicked the shape of the rib. The baby lamb’s pairing with the serpolet was an intuitive one as the former habitually roam around the same fields that these wild herbs grow – it is in fact oft said that the sheep that graze on wild thyme are the best.

   

As this main course was almost complete, the serveur arrived with a large bowl of aligot. This regional speciality is said to have been first a peasants’ delicacy – hungry pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostela would request ‘something’ to eat from local monks who would in turn offer them this. Something being aliquid in Latin, the dish actually takes its name from this word, evolving over time into aliquot before settling as aligot.

It is prepared with mashed (white pulp) potatoes (ideally Instuit de Beauvais), cream and the area’s emblematic cheese, fresh tomme de Laguiole. This last ingredient imparts a subtle nuttiness to the taste as well as an incredible texture – the serveur was able to stretch each spoonful into long, elastic threads which he then spun into a bobbin, depositing the serving as a bright, putty-like bundle upon the plate that quickly melted away once on the tongue. Michel’s elderly mother, Angèle, still comes into the kitchen some mornings to prepare the day’s aligot...

  

Plat Principal 2: dans l’esprit d’une salade tiède; la poitrine de pigeon poêlée au beurre de paprika; datte au cumin & pois jaune de la Planèze, la déglaçage. Three maroon smears of cumin and date purée, disconnected by fervent, freckled tenné patches of paprika-spiced, deglazed jus formed the canvas upon which burgundy-skinned magenta morsels of pigeon breast were placed amidst more slivers of mercure artichoke heart, dull amber yellow peas from Planèze and a single medjool date; tajete, rampion and agapanthus flowers plus torn date leaves were strewn across the plate. The succulent bird had beefy flavour and delicate smokiness; it was equally complemented by the sweet heat of the paprika and cumin as well as richness of the date. Artisan pois jaune, milder, a little earthier and nuttier than green peas, worked well texturally and visually whilst tying-in agreeably with the artichoke. Additionally, the blossoms brought interesting citrus and anise notes whilst the warm sauce was especially tempting and the fleshy medjool, a treat.

  

Fromage: les fromages de l’Aveyron & d’à côté. A considerable cheese chariot carrying many varieties from the vicinity, plus a host of Laguiole serving implements, was wheeled about. Six samples were selected and these were presented with apple, walnut and onion chutney as well as walnut and raisin breads.

 

Tomme de Laguiole, made from the unpasteurised milk of native Aubrac or Simmental cows according to a nineteenth century recipe created at the local monastery, reappeared aged six-months and was creamy, lightly perfumed and almost spicy. From Provence, sheep and goat’s milk Tomme de l’Ariège had crumbly rind, runny pâte and strong aftertaste. Ecir de l’Aubrac, named after the cold wind that graces the plains of this plateau and whose manufacturing methods remain a firm family secret, is a soft cow’s milk that was mild, grassy and faintly flowery. Auvergnat Chabrol, from pasteurised cow’s milk, was mildly fruity and smooth. Yielding ewe’s Lacandou, also from the same area, had yeasty sweet smell and was gentle. The potted fromage blanc en faiselle was a bland fresh cheese.

Dessert 1: sur une interprétation du coulant, originel de 81; le biscuit tiède de chocolat/rhum coolant; sorbet banane-caramélisée au beurre demi-sel. Set in the centre of the plate, a circular column of chocolate sponge supported a large scoop of banana sorbet, which was swathed in a salty caramel sauce that slowly trickled over it and down onto the dish.

 

The warm, peanut-encrusted biscuit crust cracked open easily, issuing forth hot rum-imbued, raisin-scattered chocolate sauce. In 1981, Michel Bras made the world’s first fondant. Since then, ingredients and temperatures have constantly changed; today its composition took an exotic twist. The Weiss 68% coco sponge and its crispy coolant filling were perfectly executed even if the Martinique rhum was a little strong for my liking. Meanwhile, the molten caramel covering the icy sorbet on top was delectable.

Dessert 2: c’est le temps; des cerises confites au thym d’ici qui se mêlent de fruits sec, de canelle, d’anis, de semoule, de miel… A frilly-edged bowl bore what resembled deconstructed cherry cheese cake. Along its entire length a line of mint crème had been piped then partly enveloped by a mound of cherries – found natural, fried and confit in Aubrac thyme – upon one end and on the other by toasted chestnut crumble blended with cinnamon, honey, anis, and semolina (amongst other such stuff). The sweetness of the fruit was nicely cut by the lemony herbs and freshness of the mint; the chestnut added crunch and toasted savour.

Dessert 3: à Murat le cornet est fourré de crème; ici la corolla d’hémérocalle du jour est garnie; d’une saveur fraîche & épicée, jus de fraises, feuilles & fleurs. In nearby Murat, the cornet is an important symbol that commemorates the salt-horns its farmers once carried as they tended their cattle. The shape is now remembered in the form of the town’s famous pastry and still celebrated with the annual Fête du Cornet de Murat. Here, Bras has played with this idea, serving a sweet, crisp daylily as an edible cone crammed with gingered, citric crème fraîche and fringed with delicate strawberry coulis.

Mignardises: canailleries; billes chocolatées (chocolat noir réglisse; chocolat blanc brioche), billes glacées (fruits prunes rose; fruit abricots gingembre); canard… crunch. Two frosted vases, one filled with blue-hued, iced stone pebbles and another with grey, also held chilled spheres of fruit sorbet and cold chocolate respectively. The former, flavoured with rosy-prune and apricot-ginger were strong and distinct whilst the latter, of liquorice and brioche, had crisp skins and velvety interiors. After these, a black slate was brought with sticky cubes of overly intense grape brandy. Attended by a pot of crystallised mint, a couple of sizeable shot glasses contained creamy liqueur de lait over toothsome syrups of raspberry and of coffee. Finally, small squares of chocolate au lait and chocolat noir cashew en soufflé were both agreeable.

Alongside these dishes, we drank a 1989 Vosne-Romanée ‘Cros-Parantoux’, Henri Jayer.

   

Sergio Calderon, an Argentinean who has been at the restaurant for over fifteen years, simultaneously manages the dining room and acts as sommelier whilst Ginette and Véronique Bras hostess. Today, only the latter of the two ladies was on duty, but she and Sergio proved a charming, welcoming pair. Both were attentive, engaging and extremely friendly. The numerous general staff, dressed in loose-fitting shepherd’s smocks, were efficient, helpful and very obliging, even if a little reticent. In the dining area there was manifest a real tranquillity yet celebratory tone with a few tables marking special moments. In fact, the two qualities that stood out and heartened the most were the sense of being at a family-run establishment and the innate comfort that came through because of that and also the awareness of occasion that suffused the meal. Furthermore, the effect that the magical Aubrac backdrop has on one’s experience is undeniable: one is subconsciously immersed in these surroundings.

Lunch began brightly if not spectacularly with quaint coques-mouillettes and the trio of attractive spoons that were more a visual delight than anything else. The first of these two was an initial illustration of how intimately intertwined Michel Bras the man and his cuisine are. These little dainties are his nostalgic reminiscences of a childhood spent sneakily stealing neighbours’ eggs of and eating them raw.

One need not wait long at all to taste what is the restaurant’s most famous dish and one whose name has become synonymous with that of the chef – le gargouillou. This deserves more than a cursory scribble, so more will follow on this course shortly. Next came le turbot, which was tasty, but not nearly as memorable as the parfum et fruits d’amande. The thoughtful and complex connections between the collected components here was most interesting; for instance, the almond’s aroma that was reiterated by the reine des prés emulsion or the caraway seeds whose anise nuances were reinforced by the fennel alongside. The foie gras (apparently an always present part of the menu dégustation) is also a second childish remembrance, this time of the very special days during the year when the delicacy was available – such as at Christmas after midnight mass. This ingredient is important to Bras as it ‘represents what I call “the flavour of Aubrac,” this intimate space in which I include all these foods of emotion: based more on love than on science, these flavours of our youth.’

Then came the galette, which was, a little surprisingly, one of the most appetising items of the carte. Its resemblance to the Millau Viaduct was also an amusing and clever nod to the chef’s region. Le carré d’agneau Allaiton was very satisfying whilst the aligot was simply gratifying. Additionally, the latter was another example of how entwined Bras and Aubrac are: it is something native to the area, that must be made with its cheese and whose identity is interknit with it. Everyone gets a taste of this. The final savoury of pigeon was a highlight too and the quality and quantity of cheeses was excellent. The already legendary coolant was not as pleasing though; its execution was faultless, but the rum was a little overpowering for my preference. The cerises confites were better, but le cornet was the best of the sweets. The meal ended with a generous array of mignardises.

The obvious dish that demonstrates best Michel Bras’ cuisine is his gargouillou. ‘This has had enormous influence on a whole generation of chefs around the world, many who took the idea and built their own theme into it,’ tells David Kinch, an influential chef and one who has (like another talent, Andoni Aduriz) his own interpretation of it.

Bras found its inspiration in June of 1978, when everything was in full bloom, and on one of his long runs (‘inner trips’) through the country: ‘it was beautiful, it was rich, it was marvellous. I decided to try to translate the fields.’ However, the ‘gargouillou’ actually already existed. An old, polysemous onomatope from gagasse (a Francoprovençal dialect) derived from the gerund, gurgling, it referred to the flowing sound of the area’s small streams, a method for cooking broth as well as the rumbling noise that the body makes when hungry. Furthermore, it was also traditionally applied to a concoction of ‘potatoes, moistened with water and flavoured with a slice of mountain ham’ that formed a staple part of the Aubrac diet. The chef took this recipe and made it his own – essentially a composition of the entire contents of the immediate countryside served up in a single course.

Le gargouillou is an excellent expression of some of the elemental themes material throughout the menu. Paramount is the chef’s commitment to home; showing off the bounty of his native land, he garnishes his achievement with an indigenous title. Just as patent is his individual touch. The idea was conceived by Bras himself and remains immensely personal to him: ‘[it] has been a milestone in my life as a chef; it reflects my symbiosis with nature. Its elegance, its movement, its colours, its odour, its explosive flavours and its sensuality; all these elements express my way of being, represent my vision of today, my own vision of the terroir.’

One other factor typified by this course is the arresting aesthetic of Bras’ creations. Natural, fresh and unfussy, plate after plate comprising outstanding produce, preserved for the most part intact and consisting of vibrant, vivid shades that mimicked the colours of the pastures outside the picture windows, was presented. Each was attractive and appetising. Moreover, their simple-seeming appearances belied the immense effort and time spent assembling them.

Dining at Bras is an experience. One’s enjoyment encompasses not only the edible, but extends beyond this to the entire event.

On this occasion, we wanted to extend our own enjoyment even further. Thus, during lunch, we decided to ask whether there was an available table at dinner that we could take. Sergio told us he was uncertain, but would return with an answer before we were ready to leave.

We waited.


Route de l’Aubrac, 12 210 Laguiole, France
tel: +33 (0)5 65 51 18 20
www.michel-bras.com

11 Responses to “Bras, Laguiole”


  1. 1 Michael December 3, 2009 at 3:13 am

    FS,
    A great report as usual. We have been twice to Bras, unfortunately before blogging. On the first visit we picked up a brochure for a three day forfait: Tue, Wed & Thur in May or June. So we went back the following June for three nights with whatever he wanted to serve us for dinner. It was definitely Michel cooking, not Sébastien. There was an austerity about it that didn’t make us feel deprived at all, quite the opposite. That was the magic of Michel Bras. (I am shocked that you inappropriately quoted David Chang whose philosophy is: “more is not enough.”) Your menu looks terrific, but different, more open to mingling Asian and Aubrac ingredients. I wish I could have been blogging then so we could see now just how it was done.
    Another feature of our stay was the room, which, like the cuisine, was very austere, but not at all cold or uncomfortable. The breakfast basket brought to us each morning was superb.

  2. 2 Patrick December 3, 2009 at 8:59 am

    Did you ever try the Salmagundy at The Sportsman? I’m sure I’ve read before it’s a dish loosely based on Bras’s ‘le gargouillou’

    http://genuiness.files.wordpress.com/2009/07/sportsman_14.jpg Pic from Gen.u.ine.ness blog.

    It was something that could be completely average but it was superb at The Sportsman, as I’m sure the original dish at Bras is.

    Nice review btw.

  3. 3 ChuckEats December 5, 2009 at 1:09 am

    i’m still trying to figure out how Wylie was influenced by Bras 🙂 the pigeon dish looks wonderful – very vibrant colors!

  4. 4 pleasefeedme December 14, 2009 at 4:53 am

    Wow! Everything here looks so beautiful. I’m in NYC, but can’t wait till I have the money to eat my way through Europe. Definitely adding you to my blog roll. pleasefeedme.wordpress.com

  5. 5 Food Snob December 14, 2009 at 9:11 am

    @Michael🙂 The inclusion of the Chang (and Dufesne) quotoations was more to show the extent of Bras’ impact rather than an attempt to draw similiarities.
    I wish you had been blogging too! Would be great to have those older photos.

    @Patrick Haven’t tried Stephen’s Salmagundy (yet!). I have read the same about its inspiration – and he is a big fan of Bras himself.
    And thanks.

    @Chuck I guess the important thing is that HE thinks he has been influenced by Bras…
    Indeed. The pigeon was such a gorgeous plate.

    @pleasefeedme Cheers. Thanks for reading!

  6. 6 S Lloyd January 2, 2010 at 8:08 pm

    After reading what both Andy Hayler and you wrote about Bras, I have now got to add this table to those I like visiting when I am in France (Helene Darroze, Pic, Gagnaire). Many thanks for this highly informative post!

  7. 7 Carla February 4, 2010 at 6:51 pm

    Beautiful! I’ve a lot to read here, great!


  1. 1 uberVU - social comments Trackback on December 3, 2009 at 1:43 am
  2. 2 Bras II, Laguiole « Food Snob Trackback on December 8, 2009 at 11:59 pm
  3. 3 MR, Copenhagen « Food Snob Trackback on April 19, 2010 at 11:56 pm
  4. 4 vegetation: planting thoughts « Food Snob Trackback on July 14, 2011 at 12:53 am

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