I can’t imagine having my last meal anywhere other than in the Basque country in France, ideally with views both of the mountains and of the ocean. My favourite place is the small coastal village, Bidart, above the beach d’Uhabia – you can see all the way to Spain, and the Pyrenees. I’ve rented a small house there for a long time. It’s a small fisherman’s house above Biarritz, with private access to the beach. It’s nothing fancy, not quite a traditional Basque house, but it does have a lot of character.
It would be at the end of the summer. I love the end of the season: September, early October, when the cèpes (porcini mushrooms) are out. It’s so much more interesting than the height of summer.
There would definitely be a roast chicken, just as my grandmother made for us every Sunday evening when I was a child. It would have to be a chicken from the Landes, with big fat chips made with duck fat, and a daube de cèpes (mushroom stew). We’d have gone foraging for cèpes that morning. The chicken would be prepared with its gizzards, stuffed with pieces of garlicky bread and basted with duck fat and cooked for hours. It’s so rich and succulent and juicy, you can eat it with your fingers. I can picture my little girls diving right in – they only ever eat chicken with their fingers!
With that we’d have lots of other small dishes – I’d want chipirons, small squid that are really seasonal and culturally so important to me. I’d prepare black rice with squid ink, fried chipirons and a parmesan emulsion, a dish which is truly characteristic of my cuisine. I’d also have a good burrata. I love tomatoes, so I’d have that with some excellent tomatoes, and some very good olive oil. And then foie gras, prepared as simply as possible, with just a sprinkling of salt and good pepper, and some good pain de campagne (country bread) to eat it with.
To drink, we’d have Dom Pérignon. It’s a champagne that has been with me from the beginning, produced by someone I have great affection for, my good friend Richard Geoffroy. For such an auspicious occasion, I know he would send some exceptional bottles, of which some would be 1973 vintage, which I adore. It’s actually a rosé. He knows it’s my favourite. We’d then have a good red bordeaux – I love full-bodied wines. Let’s be crazy, maybe a Latour, or a Pétrus – something truly fine.
I’d want Monsieur Aupetit, one of our fromagers, to make up a cheese board with whatever is best at that time. I would want mostly French cheeses – although, as a nod to England, which has extended such a wonderfully warm welcome to me, I’d want to have some Stichelton.
For dessert, we’d have our baba à l’armagnac. It would be fig season, so I’d like something simple – a compotée de figues with fresh fig pieces, good thick cream and Moulin de Bassilour sablés, which really are quite something (butter biscuits).
And then I’d have a box of Krispy Kreme doughnuts. The classics: chocolate, vanilla, with sprinkles, the kind that shoot everywhere as soon as you bite into them.
I wouldn’t need a coffee with that. When I really want to treat myself, I’ll have a cup of Japanese tea – genmaicha or gyokuro; something pure and clean. And then at the end of the meal, we’d have an Armagnac – one of my brother’s, Marc Darroze’s, that he’d have chosen especially.
As long as no-one knew it was to be my last meal, I would want my little daughters to be there, that’s for sure. And, if it were possible, I’d love to have my late grandmothers, Charlotte and Louise, there too. And then someone from the Basque country who has been very important to me my entire life – Mireille, or Mimi, as I call her. She’s kind of like my second mother.
The sounds of nature, the waves and the crickets, would be all I’d need. We’d eat as the sun was going down until late in the night. The house opens out on to the yard. There’s a big old rustic table, and you don’t need anything special to make it beautiful. Perfect simplicity.
- Hélène Darroze is head chef at the two-Michelin star restaurant at the Connaught in London and recently won the Veuve Clicquot World’s Best Female Chef award
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