A charming estate on the outskirts of the modish southern French city of Montpellier, the five-star Domaine de Verchant successfully blends Old World charm with contemporary characteristics.
Though the estate, which encompasses a vineyard, chateau, spa, landscaped gardens and a selection of enticing restaurants, holds an array of said luxurious amenities, this is more like a family home with old friends welcoming you in than a glossy five-star establishment where you remain anonymous. The high level of service that you receive from all who work here is evident from the second you step into reception to the moment you reluctantly make your retreat from this wonderful haven.
Made up of a selection of old stone buildings with contemporary interior design, the estate, which dates to the late 16th century, holds a truly picturesque setting, made all the more appealing by its peaceful location. The pale buttery stone buildings against a clear, bright blue sky make for excellent photo opportunities as do the outdoor swimming pools, beautifully tended to grounds and the delectable food that is served up across the two eateries throughout the days.
For the more active types there’s a gym and tennis court on site, which can easily be followed with a relaxing trip to one of the two outdoor pools with cabanas and loungers or Verchant Le Spa. Domaine de Verchant also provides a selection of private spaces for use in large events such as a wedding, conference or gala evening, all catered for with delightful food from the kitchen.
Domaine de Verchant prides itself on only offering a limited number of rooms across the estate so that optimal service and comfort can be offered to all guests during their stay. With that in mind, there are 26 apartments, suites and rooms ranging from 30 to 90 square metres with nine in the chateau, 14 in outbuildings and two apartments with a detached villa occupying a former forge.
When speaking with other guests I quickly realised that each room held its own characterful interiors, blending hints of the old-style architecture with lashings of modern design alongside facilities that will up the luxury factor during any stay.
Upon arrival at my room I was pleased before I had even set foot inside. Accessed by a private patio area, which held two loungers and a table, chairs and parasol with a citrus plant framing the door, this outdoor space was enclosed with hedges and gave the feeling of my own apartment. Inside, the large space boasted a huge bed with a decorative headboard, which lit up to provide silhouettes of trees, a rather pretty design feature. I was impressed with the work area, which held an Apple iMac, espresso machine and a tea tray and I had a chuckle at the sight of a framed picture of myself next to a full fruit bowl, but I appreciated the effort and personal touch this showed.
Wood floors and mostly pale walls were brought to life with bright colours in a red rug, sixties style wavy-patterned curtains and lampshades above the workstation. I loved the old stone wall surrounding the arched door against this funky style and particularly liked the upscale bathroom with a big bath and disguised TV, twin sink unit and open walk in shower with fluffy robes and slippers for added comfort.
Food and drink
From little treats at breakfast and a lavish Sunday brunch to a sumptuous lunch by the pool and delectable dishes at dinnertime, I certainly made the most of the delightful food being served across the two restaurants. The two very different settings shared the same excellent quality when it came to the food and service, whether it was an elegant evening meal or casual lunch.
Verchant Restaurant is the hotel’s signature eatery, set in the main building, and serves up glorious fresh delights with many local ingredients finding their way into the plate, including luscious wines to complement. Executive chef Mathieu Gourreau, chef Alexandre Caillaud and team provided a sumptuous special menu for my evening meal there and I adored the amuse bouche of butternut squash velouté topped with a chestnut puree – two wonderfully tasty flavours, which married so well together to create heaven in a little bowl.
The starter was a slowly cooked egg from Pic Saint Loup with Pecorino Romano foam and smoked Black Forest bacon. It was a little wet overall, but I do love eggs and the hammy flavour was a great addition. Next up was roasted red mullet with purple artichoke and padrons, black garlic and fish sauce, and I wouldn’t usually choose this fish (especially with artichokes on the plate too) but I was so glad I had this dish, the fish wasn’t what I expected it to be like – plumper than I expected, yet very delicate – and even the artichoke was devoured.
The glorious cheese trolley made its way over and our expert server made some fab choices for me based on my ever-so-helpful clue of ‘I like anything but blue, and the wetter and smellier the better.’ She, however, chose some wonderful cheeses for me, all of which I very much enjoyed. This was followed with a Jivara milk chocolate mousse and cream with Caribbean crisp and homemade peanut praline. Delightfully presented and so very tasty, this sweet and salty dessert was well balanced and a decadent end to the meal. A chamomile tea with some homemade passion fruit and pineapple marshmallow, and I was ready to recline in my room.
The exquisite food doesn’t stop there; La Plage, accessible by the spa entrance, is a glossy, contemporary offering with chic floor to ceiling glass offering views over the outdoor pool and towards the vines. When the sun shines, there’s no better place to be than the outdoor terrace, a place where I devoured a delightful spaghetti and scallop lunch, followed by a chocolate and praline éclair, all washed down with a white wine from the cellar.
The pièce de résistance has to be the Sunday brunch here. I walked in before the rush of diners and was impressed at how many staff members there were ready to serve and help. It wasn’t long before my glass was being filled with Champagne and I was eyeing up the bountiful foods ready to be selected. The very Instagrammable spread consisted of delectable portions of many treats including subs, salads and seafood including oysters and crevettes, as well as deviled eggs (I had to go back for more of those delights), a rainbow of tomatoes and mozzarella. There was a bread and pastry table, cheese trolley, parmesan risotto, aligot, charcuterie, freshly cooked fish and meats from the open kitchen to order, juices, coffees, and a dessert table and trolley with crepes, choux praline buns, chocolate tarts and more. It was divine.
It didn’t take me long to realise that, not only, does this place serve up some rather gorgeous food, but the spa is certainly a spot where you’ll want to spend some quality time. A bit of time spent lounging on a day bed in the March sun was good for my soul, though I’m sure some locals having a coffee at La Plage thought I was a little mad (it was warm for me!). The outdoor area is just so inviting with the selection of loungers and day beds surrounding the pool, you can’t resist whiling away an hour or two there. Inside you’ll spy the shop alcove, which holds an impressive selection of top-quality beauty products including the luxurious Valmont and the rather elusive but glorious Biologique Recherche offerings. As well as a very well-equipped gym you’ll find a pool, sauna, Turkish bath, hot tub, and rather impressive changing rooms with branded hairbrushes and all the little items you’ll need to freshen up.
During my stay I was treated to a facial using the Parisian-based Biologique Recherche products, who use a clinical approach to beauty care using intentionally pure, concentrated products. After a brief chat with my spa therapist I was treated to a 50-minute relaxing facial. Using six different products chosen for my sensitive and often dry skin, my skin was cleansed, massaged and lathered with luscious creams, serums and oils leaving me with a glowing and smiling face. The relaxing set up in the room was inviting, especially the heated bed, it made me want to stay a little longer and snooze! While some of the creams were working their magic, I was treated to a neck, shoulder, hand and arm massage, which was a delight. I reluctantly left the warmth of the bed and headed to the relaxation room overlooking a garden area, and I was set for the day.
Often overlooked for the more well-known southern France locations such as Cannes and Nice, Montpellier has a rather young and fun feel to it. Head here to discover a fascinating mix of medieval sights combined with modern elements. I would highly recommend taking an official walking city tour with Bruno as you’ll have the opportunity to visit a Jewish ritual bath (mikveh) dating to the 13th century, see the city views from the top of Montpellier’s own Arc de Triomphe and learn of the history, while spotting more modern updates along the way, through cobbled streets.
Marche du Lez is a rather trendy area with loads of stylish restaurants, bars, shops and food vans with cool décor. I visited this village in the city one evening and tried my hand at pétanque (I need some practice!) before indulging in a dinner at the American style café, Bivouak. Sipping on a glass of wine with a starter of Camembert, honey, walnuts and thyme, followed by a burger cooked medium with herby chips, was certainly time well spent.
Back at the hotel and it is certainly advisable to partake in a wine tasting with sommelier Cyrille in the wine tasting room. He’s ever knowledgeable and showcases the rose, white and red offerings that have been produced from the 32 acres of vineyard here in the estate. I particularly enjoyed the reds and could have chatted wines and nibbled cheeses all night, if it weren’t for a gorgeous meal being prepared. A sneak peek of the cellars afterwards was a nice little treat too, especially as there were some rather exclusive wines tucked away.
Domaine de Verchant also offer pool parties at La Plage from April onwards and you can partake in a spa day with friends, but I would highly recommend indulging in at least a few days here so that you can truly take in all there is on offer.
Hop on the Gatwick express from London Victoria and in half an hour you’ll be browsing the duty-free delights. EasyJet offers direct flights from Gatwick and you’ll arrive in under two hours with the chateaux a mere ten-minute drive from Montpellier airport.
In a nutshell
Magically combining the comfort of a friend’s estate with exquisite foods, luxurious facilities, and a splendid location on the outskirts of such an interesting city, Domaine de Verchant is a place that you’ll reluctantly leave but already be planning your next trip back.
Rooms can be booked from €195.
Address: 1 Boulevard Philippe Lamour 34170 Castelnau le Lez
Phone: +33(0)4 67 07 26 00