Gem off of the Green - Evian-les-Bains, France
I don't know a lot about golf (although I am good at the hole where you need to get the ball across the drawbridge and into the volcano) but I can understand why the Evian Masters is one of the most glamorous competitions on the Women's tour. The course has a million Euro view across Lake Geneva, to Switzerland and the foothills of the Alps. The purse is the biggest in Europe, on par with the US Open, and it attracts the best women in the game (next month Ai Miyazato, last year's winner, will defend her title against US uber-fox Natalie Gulbis, British "Iron Lady"Laura Davies and 108 others).
On the edge of the course the, newly renovated, Hotel Ermitage is striving to provide a more rustic sort of elegance. It's difficult for a 5 star hotel to balance service and facilities, that secure it's membership to the Leading Hotels of the World, with an earthiness that pays homage to the soil and rain responsible for the famous mineral water.
L'Ermitage succeeds, and here's why: The press release is sprinkled with phrases like "childhood memories" which initially made me inclined to flip the pretentiousness red card. Then I remembered the best books from when I was little, like The Secret Garden, where the grown ups to be really respected had expertise and skill rather than expense accounts and contracts with OK Magazine. They were Gardeners, Chefs and Builders with wisdom and understanding of nature.
L'Ermitage has the Expert Factor. The interior has been crafted using raw materials and natural colours and the secrets of the gardens bubble together with mineral treatments from around the world in the Spa. Michel Mottet is the Head Chef for the two restaurants. La Table has French cooking led by local, seasonal produce and in La Bibliotheque the menu is Mediterranean.
Different but you know it is the same man by the careful simplicity in putting the ingredients at centre stage, innovative approaches to traditional recipes and vegetables that skip with freshness. Whether you are eating a cold pea and avocado soup, Bouchee a la reine with chanterelles, local cheese or homemade Madelines, Mottet's cooking captures the spirit of this very special hotel.
Francesca with picture courtesy of Evian Royal Resort
- The Evian Masters takes place, this year, from the 22nd to 25th July 2010. www.evianmastersexperience.com
- British Airways fly from London Heathrow to Geneva. From Geneva take the train to Lausanne and the boat across Lake Geneva to Evian. There is no need to pre-book, the Rail Office at Geneva Airport gives lots of help.