Restaurant Gaua (Urrugne)

© Gérard Roubeix

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Benoît Sarthou is not the kind of guy to blow smoke: after working in the Korean restaurant industry, the former chef at Le Moulin d’Alotz took the wheel at a former mechanic’s garage in Urrugne, redone by interior decorator Laetitia Bouchet (chandeliers, industrial fans, a central bar covered in graffiti by the Toulouse-based artist Julien Boone). The night we went to Gaua (“night” in Basque), sticking our nose up at the seven-course tasting menu was out of the question, so we indulged in all of the following: subtle sea urchin sabayon paired with a toast and coffee cream; perfectly braised line-caught hake from the Saint-Jean-de-Luz fish market, topped with Aquitaine caviar, and served with charred lemon paste, porter reduction, New Zealand spinach and txakoli sauce, all drizzled in tarragon oil; braised Duplantier fattened hen, bathed in a foie gras Albuféra sauce and served with truffle shavings, plus grilled kale and oyster mushrooms; or even a bright citrus and chestnut risotto, refreshed by a scoop of mandarin sorbet. // Gérard Roubeix 

FEELING THIRSTY? Conventional and living wines peacefully coexist on the eclectic menu: Katixa, a Navarre white from Bardea Etxaldea (€7 a glass) or a Basque Ardan Harri from the Domane Xubialdea (€56 a bottle), Les Escures, a Lot Malbec produced by Fabien Jouves (€37)… 
PRICE: Small plates €6-16, plates €14-27, desserts €9-10, tasting menu €96 (7 courses). 

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