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.
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