In 2004, Arnaud Daguin—the chef at Biarritz’s famed (and now closed) Les Platanes, and progeny of a venerated Gascon food family—pulled up stakes and, with his wife, Véronique, moved into the mountains to open a five-room bed-and-breakfast. In 2006, Hegia opened for business; in 2007, it earned a Michelin star. The meat is from a neighbor’s farm; the seafood and produce come from the nearby Bayonne market; the cheese is made just down the road. Daguin cooks everything at low temperatures for a long time, he explains, and uses only the barest of embellishments to express the ingredients’ full flavor—a scattering of sugar or salt, a dash of olive oil. Why, he asks, rely on artifice? Tender duck breast arrives over finely julienned carrots, pan-cooked to a sweetened softness; delicate fillets of steamed hake are served atop a sort of candied vegetable hash made of diced slow-roasted beets and turnips. If Hegia’s 18th-century timbered exterior is a monument to the traditional Pays Basque, the interior is a testament to its bold new wave. A double-height reception hall is riven by an asymmetrical oak staircase that leads up to the five guest rooms, each unique and firmly contemporary.
Congratulations to Mei Lin, winner of Top Chef Season 12.