Set amid breathtaking scenery, La Bonne Étape Relais & Châteaux hotel delights visitors with its own Michelin-starred restaurant and an authentic Provençal stay
It was in 1951 that confectioner Pierre Gleize was travelling home through the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence when his motorbike broke down. He stayed overnight at a local inn in the town of Châteaux-Arnoux-Saint-Auban, where he met Arlette Rey, whose family owned the inn. Before long, the two were married with a son, Jany, and relaunched the inn as La Bonne Étape hotel and restaurant – a business that is still thriving today.
“For my father, it was a good stopover,” says Jany, a chef, who now owns the hotel and heads its Michelin-starred restaurant. Jany’s daughter Jane is also an accomplished chef and works alongside her father in the kitchen, where, inspired by Jany’s grandmother, they reinvent Provençal recipes such as stuffed courgette flowers and Sisteron lamb. Desserts, including signature lavender-honey ice cream, served in a miniature honeycomb “beehive”, pay homage to Jany’s father. Jane, who worked for two years at the three Michelin-starred Waterside Inn at Bray, in the UK, brings other influences to the mix, including smoking food techniques. The restaurant is also supplied with fresh herbs, courgette flowers and other Provençal essentials from its own organic garden.
However, La Bonne Étape is more that its stunning restaurant and simpler bistro, Gaby. A former 18th-century post house with distinctive red shutters, the four-star hotel comprises 18 rooms and suites, recently renovated while retaining their authentic charm. Situated near the famous Route Napoléon, the hotel is a natural stopover point for tourists heading north to the Alps or south to the Côte d’Azur, and the area itself is worthy of a holiday. “Guests often want to stay longer,” says Jany, outlining the local attractions of this lesser-explored part of Provence. The hills offer mountain-biking and hiking, while a wine tour is available from the hotel. The Valensole lavender fields, the Gorges du Verdon and other natural attractions are all close by.
“We are very proud to have an independent hotel,” says Jany, “Many people said it was impossible because it is not in a city.” The hotel’s independence lends it a welcoming charm. Jany and Jane meet guests every night after dinner and offer a welcome that is rare elsewhere. “We take the time to share our passion”, says Jany. “It helps make the stay unforgettable.”