La Réserve, St Jean de Luz, France – Hotel Reviews | London Evening Standard


THE

a Réserve is a relaxed four-star hotel with old-world charm and charming French style built on top of a cliff over the Atlantic between Biarritz and the Spanish border.

Guests can spend days relaxing in the idyllic gardens or on the wide sandy beach below, but La Réserve is also an ideal base for exploring the sports and culture of the Basque region. There is hiking, biking and golfing nearby and easy access to France’s best surfing beaches while Spain’s northern coast, with its famous art and gastronomy, is 15 minutes away.

La Réserve belongs to the Floirat Group, whose three French hotels include the world-famous Byblos Saint-Tropez.

La Réserve is directly on the coastal path leading to the bustling and well-kept seaside town of St Jean de Luz: a slow and scenic ten minute walk.

Fifteen minutes from Biarritz and Hendaye airports on the Spanish border, St Jean de Luz is predominantly French, a little Spanish and entirely Basque. His greatest claim to fame came in 1660 when Louis XIV of France – the Sun King – married the Infanta Maria Theresa of Spain in a lavish ceremony at St Jean’s Church St-Jean Baptiste, ending 24 years of war between the two countries.

Bordeaux is two hours north of where high speed trains reach Paris in 2.5 hours and London in less than five. The city has a permanent population of 13,000 inhabitants which increases to 60,000 in summer.

(Reserve) / The residence

Traditional and comfortable, La Réserve is above all a home away from home, says its charming and always vigilant General Manager Marie-Eugénie Hernandez. The design is neither edgy nor too dusty, but comes with some pleasant French flourishes: crisp white tablecloths, attractive sofas surrounded by oversized art and travel books, generous bowls of candy, and a magnificent collection of black and white photographs of St Jean de Luz through the ages.

Inside there are generous seating areas, a large restaurant and bar, and Le Patio, a small spa, but the real action is outside. A large terrace overlooking the sea towards Biarritz extends the restaurant in good weather and welcomes good local singers and musicians on summer evenings.

There’s an impressive, newly renovated infinity pool and tennis court, but it’s the gardens – every three acres – that are most notable. The remarkable work of a single full-time gardener, they are exquisite with low hedges, expansive lawns, huge palm trees and flower beds in Basque colors – deep red and white. Perfection.

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The Basque region is renowned for its fabulous cuisine and La Réserve presents the best of the offer. The hotel’s main restaurant, Ilura, offers a menu featuring the freshest fish and local meat: line hake, Galician beef and Basque duck foie gras. The portions are generous and artfully presented and the service is attentive.

New this year is Elaïa Lounge, a less formal option that on summer evenings transforms into comfortable armchairs and sofas in the gardens. The menu offers pintxos (the Basque version of tapas) and lighter snacks, perfect for relaxed evenings watching the sun go down over Biarritz. Local hams and salami are served in paper cones with tortillas and deliciously fatty beans and olives wrapped in anchovies. A long list of cocktails includes gin and tonics served Spanish-style, in expansive “goldfish bowl” glasses filled with ice and juniper berries. Service at Elaïa can be a bit more hit and miss but is uniformly warm and well-intentioned.

It is an area that attracts active outdoor people and the options on offer include coastal walks, surfing, hiking, biking, fishing and golf. The daily food market is a real treat, and the bustling city center is full of mostly small independent shops and great, well-priced restaurants. Stop at the excellent tourism center for leaflets and tips on places to visit, or request a guided tour of the historic town and harbor.

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There are 35 rooms and six suites including two family rooms in the hotel. The Residences, closer to the swimming pool, have 44 additional apartments with small kitchens and one or two bedrooms, perfect for families or groups of friends. Fresh and airy colors along with large windows and doors and generous space help the rooms to be bursting with light.

Sea view rooms are always in demand, says Marie-Eugénie Hernandez and her favorite is Suite 58.

The hotel is a hit with multigenerational families and stylish couples, with many returning guests. Perfect for a long weekend of eating well and lying by the pool but also a top notch base if you want to explore beautiful St Jean de Luz and the Basque region.

Three quarters of the guests are from France and combined with the warm atmosphere and attentive service of La Réserve, all this makes for a fabulously intimate French hotel.

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Prices start from € 185 for a Prestige Room in low season and € 289 in high season per night. A T2 at La Résidence for 4 people starts from € 275 in low season and € 433 in high season. The Prestige Apartment for 6 people starts from € 370 in low season and € 536 in high season per night.

La Réserve, Pointe Sainte Barbe, 1 Avenue Gaëtan Bernoville, 64500 Saint-Jean-de-Luz, France.

+33 5 59 51 3200; [email protected]


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