There, in a space that is easily as big as many a London flat, I climb – and it is a climb – onto the high, high king-size bed. From this bed, as from all others in the hotel, the views are vast and spectacular, stretching across the hotel’s vineyards and the outdoor pool to the River Garonne and the city of Bordeaux beyond. Surely waking up to this would add years to your life.
The hotel has 15 rooms and three suites: all, even those in the standard category, are beautifully decorated with original contemporary art, Bang & Olufsen technology, big bathrooms with Hermès toiletries and wizzy bed-side gadgetry that controls the lighting and the blinds for the huge windows. However, it is the suites – one of which has a Harley Davidson and another a private roof terrace with outdoor jacuzzi – which take indulgence to another level.
Whichever category you opt for, you can expect a seriously sensuous stay that thrills the mind and body. For a start, aside from the natural beauty that surrounds it, Le Saint-James is architecturally significant, and has a Ministry of Culture listing to prove it.
Once a traditional elongated 18th-century farmhouse – considered to have been the most beautiful longère in the region – it was transformed into this striking design hotel in 1989 by internationally acclaimed architect Jean Nouvel. He framed the building in weathered iron grilles that recall the traditional tobacco-drying barns of Bordeaux and stripped down the interiors, allowing the furniture – by, among others, Jasper Morrison and Arne Jacobsen – to take centre stage.
The hotel, actually four connected pavilions, is also packed with art – and it’s worth giving yourself extra time here to enjoy the fine photographs, sculptures and paintings. I was captivated by Marc Petit’s nonchalant shoulder-shrugging bronze figures standing among the persimmon trees in the courtyard, which greet you even before the welcoming staff do.
Brilliant though the art is, it takes second place to Le Saint-James's star attraction – which is its cuisine. Head chef Nicolas Magie, sitting pretty on two Michelin stars, is determined to hit three within 24 months or so and those who eat and review food for a living are willing to bet their reputations that he’ll make it. A signature dish of scallops and caviar with a lime and gin and tonic sorbet is exquisitely nuanced, the delicate flavours so balanced that together they create something even greater than the sum of the already outstanding parts, while the subtlety of a line-caught bass in a shrimp broth with Jerusalem artichokes stops me in mid conversation – my chat too much of a distraction for a meal that I want to savour fully.
Such food calls for something special in the wine department and here Richard Bernard, twice awarded a best sommelier in France award, delivers with a wine list comprising more than 2,000 wines. You can spend your life trying to choose, or you can take my advice and do as I did and ask your wine-waiter to choose for you. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.
Magie says the main purpose of his cooking is “to please, to give satisfaction and to transmit some emotions”, which is a sentiment that can actually be applied to every other aspect of Le Saint-James. Staff, food, wine, location – all transmit one emotion, and that’s joy. Wooohooohooo, whoop, whoop, woo!
3 Place Camille Hostein, 33270 Bouliac, France, +33 5 57 97 06 00