Rita, la Vierge à la mer
When you were a little kid and your parents promised you Christmas vacation in Laponie if you got good grades in school, you could already smell the scam they were cooking up. So when Greg Back, the owner of La Vierge in Paris, told his chef Matthew Robertson: “You’ll see, one day I’ll take you to Basque Country,” the American chef probably had a sheepish smile on his face…. But exactly one lockdown later, the two accomplices have headed south to Saint-Jean-de-Luz, to be roommates for the summer at the Maria-Christina, a hotel that feels like a Californian taqueria. The results? Incredible! The night we went, seated under the lemon tree on the patio, in a relaxed ambiance that reached a magnitude of 8.3 on the Kool & the Gang scale: tender caponata with basil; molto buono fritto misto with aioli that’ll have you licking the bowl clean; a generous portion of hummus, tabbouleh and homemade flatbread; juicy chicken wings and thighs served with roasted garlic; before a crème caramel that went down easy…. // Hugo Zaorski
FEELING THIRSTY? Natural, regional wines: Aristu, a red from Navarre (€4 a glass), a Tarn pet’ nat’ from Laurent Cazottes (€32 a bottle), an Irouléguy white from the Domaine Ilarria (€40)….
PRICE: Plates €8-15.