With the Villa Loiseau des Sens spa opening, in mid-2017, the five-star Le Relais Bernard Loiseau, in Burgundy, France, added a second restaurant, entirely dedicated to Santé-plaisir cuisine, (Healthy-pleasure cooking). It also extravagantly enhanced what was, in 2000, the first wellbeing spa—complete with an indoor pool—in a hotel with a Michelin three-star restaurant.
Years earlier, at his gastronomic restaurant, La Côte d’Or, Chef Bernard Loiseau adapted classic menu items and developed new, lighter dishes. Hallmarks of “le style Loiseau” were à la minute preparations and vegetarian dishes incorporating the best Burgundian products. He used little butter (he often thickened sauces with vegetable purées) and baked pastries made with 40 percent less sugar.
From Market-Driven Menu to Striking Design: A Standout Spa Restaurant
At the year-old spa restaurant, Loiseau des Sens, Chef Shoro ITO, artfully integrates French techniques with his Japanese heritage. Chef’s market-driven menu achieves satisfying, healthy dishes using the best organic ingredients selected from the top regional producers. The menu includes organic wines, freshly squeezed juices, offers gluten-free and vegetarian options, and serves honey harvested from hives on the villa rooftop.
The restaurant is in the striking new, wood-clad, 16,000-square-foot, four-story, spa villa and faces the inn’s interior 3000-square-foot English garden centerpiece (as do the 32-bedrooms and the gastronomic restaurant in the U-shaped boutique hotel, a Relais & Chateaux member). The dominant décor is on the walls, where six tapestries within geometrically framed, wood-panels reinterpret the original medieval Lady and the Unicorn tapestries (on display at the Musée Cluny, in Paris). Five illustrate the senses (sens)— taste, hearing, sight, smell, and touch—the sixth is dedicated “to my only desire.”
My three-course dinner took place after two exceptional meals at the gastronomic restaurant, where Executive Chef Patrick Bertron—who worked alongside his mentor—has earned two Michelin stars. The prix-fixe meal started with a vegetable stir-fry starring jumbo shrimp, cannelloni with avocado, plus granny smith apples, diced tomatoes and green beans. The main course featured filet of Charolais beef (the famed all-white, Burgundian cattle), served with herbed gnocchi and candied tomatoes.
Because Ile Flottante aux Pêches was on the menu, I was curious to see how the spa version of the sugary dessert we know as Floating Island was prepared. I asked and got to watch Pastry Chef Cannelle Lefèbvre (her first name means cinnamon!) artfully place a circle of peach purée on my plate. She cut three baked egg-white rectangles and put them atop the purée, surrounded them with yellow and white peach segments, sprinkled some diced peaches, and added two dollops of sorbet-peach and cassis (blackcurrant), which she garnished with shards of peach-flavored tuile. It was a very special spa meal with a spectacular patisserie-worthy dessert!
Spa Culture, Cassis, and a Very Special Cabine
Cassis, the Burgundian black currant, has exceptional aromatic and nutritional qualities and also appears on the spa menu. Signature treatments incorporate antioxidant- and vitamin-rich skincare products: “The Secrets de Cassis® by Dominique Loiseau.” Décleor facial products and the Charme d’Orient bodycare line also appear on the spa menu.
Among the ten treatment rooms, one, the duo-treatment cabine, is on the villa’s top floor, an integral part of the 700-square-foot VIP Spa-Suite, which encompasses a hammam, sauna, balneotherapy pool, fireplace, and an enormous bed. The extraordinary suite—which overlooks the garden and views the Auxois Mountains—can be reserved for half-day, a full-day, or overnight and can accommodate up to eight guests. Champagne, dessert, room service, and full spa access are some of the amenities available.
Spa access includes use of the Multi-Sensory Universe, a new pool area with a huge hydrotherapy playground—with two aqua-bikes, a bubbling beach, a jetted massage alcove, a waterfall shower, strategically placed jets, a draining bench, a geyser, a phlebology circuit, and a marine air hut—and The Pleasure Universe, where experiences take place within a Moroccan hammam, an ice fountain, a multi-jetted shower, and a windowed sauna with a garden view.
Dominique Loiseau, widow of Bernard Loiseau—whose wellness-oriented career as an educator, spa and nutrition reporter, predated their relationship—created and lovingly tends the garden. Madame Loiseau was an integral part of Relais Bernard Loiseau, by 1991, when the chef won his coveted third Michelin star, which he kept until his death in 2003. As President of Group Bernard Loiseau, she became the first female Vice President of the Relais & Châteaux Association (2005) and a recipient of the French Legion of Honor. The group’s three satellite Loiseau restaurants in Beaune, Dijon, and Paris each hold a Michelin star and Les Grandes Tables Du Monde awarded her Best Restaurateur 2015.
La Cote d’Or, in Saulieu, France, has long been a destination gourmandise, for culinarians driving between Paris and Nice. Today, it’s a gastronomic resort spa destination, located less than three hours—though a world away—from Paris.
Irvina Lew is an award-winning freelance contributor to a variety of travel books, lifestyle magazines, and websites. As a dedicated spa aficionado, the Long Island, New York native has been introducing readers to the world’s best spa venues and experiences for decades. A Travel Classic alumnus, Lew is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors and the Society of American Travel Writers. Readers can find many of her published pieces posted on her website: irvinalew.com and by following @sipsupstayspa.