Domaine de Verchant

Montpellier, Languedoc, France Book from

An exuberantly designed, unashamedly hi-tech hotel with a top spa and super-cool service, set amid vineyards on the edge of avant-garde Montpellier
It comes as a surprise, after a string of roundabouts and suburban superstores, to find yourself driving up a chestnut-shaded drive to a handsome, butter-coloured 18th-century mansion, where gravelled paths lead past manicured lawns to a glass-fronted spa. But if that's an eye-opener, the interiors will whip your breath away: designer chairs in black leather and white egg shapes, Poliform pouffes and chunky Nani Marquina rugs in orange and shocking purple, and lamps which arch overhead like a perspex willow; and outside, beyond the sleek chrome dining room, a shimmering, free-form pool backed by palms and giant urns. It's one of those wow moments.

Expect another when you open the door to your bedroom. Vast, snowy beds with corrugated black headboards, walls of bamboo encased in glass, bathtubs standing like an altar beneath exposed beams. But it's not remotely pretentious. Owners Pierre and Chantal Mestre, made sure it was child friendly. Young staff are welcoming without being fawning while, in the kitchen (or more accurately the dining room, since cooking is done in front of your eyes) playful haute cuisine and micro-buffet breakfasts are turned out with flair.

Highs

  • The spoiling spa, which comes with its own hydrotherapy pool, sauna and Anne Sémonin treatments
  • Vineyards still surround the chateau, and you can taste their wines at the bar
  • If you're looking for a stylish wedding or conference venue, this ticks all the boxes: top catering, cool accommodation and a lovely dining terrace for 50-150
  • You're within 15 minutes' drive of Montpellier airport, and a similar distance from the centre of this arty university city
  • It’s the perfect spot to finish a Languedoc holiday with a couple of indulgent nights of spa, shopping and city strolls

Lows

  • You might coincide with a large day-conference group, though that part is set slightly away from the hotel
  • The location feels a bit random: you'll need to drive to get anywhere (including restaurants and the city centre)
  • The beaches round here are disappointing: straight, gritty and backed by marshland
  • Technophobes might struggle with the panoply of switches for lighting, blinds and 'shower experiences'

Best time to go

The centre of Montpellier is busy throughout the year, with no shortage of festivals (dance in June, guitar in September, music and theatre in October, wine in November and December). It can be pretty quiet in January-March, and very hot in July-August - though at Verchant you're cooled by country breezes. Our favourite months are June and September.

Our top tips

Bring a pocket dictionary/menu translator to help with the quirkier dinner dishes; something a bit slinky for dinner; and space in your case for a few bottles of Verchant wine.

Great for...

City Style
Family
Foodie
Honeymoon
Spa
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 26
  • Restaurant + bar (open daily)
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Pools
  • Spa
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Tennis Court
Room: Premium Junior Suite

Rooms

Most of the rooms are upstairs in the main house; a few are in the outhouses. Expect a mix of contemporary materials and glimpses of the century-old fabric behind. Littered throughout are icons of high design - Poltrona armchairs, Flos Spun lamps, chunky Nani Marquina rugs - and splashes of bold colour. The overall feel is unashamedly contemporary, and backed up by gadgets galore: electric blinds, giant LCD TVs, self-heating mirrors and a baffling array of dimmer switches by the bed.

The Junior Suites are exceptional. We loved Neige d'Avril, which has a vast circular bed beneath an equally lunar light installation, with a double-width sunken Jacuzzi; honeymooners, this one's for you! Black and white Danae is very Zen, with a beautiful tub reminiscent of a porcelain egg and a "walk-through shower" chucking out 55 litres per minute.

Even the Deluxe rooms are more than spacious enough. We liked Matteo, an attic room with exposed beams and a tub standing proudly centre stage; and Aloha, our room for the night, with its 3 park-facing windows and brash, bubblegum-blue chaise longue. A few Deluxe rooms have a terrace, though we weren't convinced it was worth the sizeable premium.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Bathrobes
  • Central heating
  • Computer
  • Cots Available
  • Dvd player
  • Extra beds
  • Fax
  • Hairdryer
  • Phone
  • Printer
  • Safe box
  • Terrace
  • Toiletries
  • Tv
  • WiFi

Eating

Since our visit, things have changed in the open-plan, Johansen-designed dining room: chef Damien Cousseau has taken the reins and has been creating a range of sophisticated French plates. There's also a second space, La Plage dans les Vignes, for poolside dining. Signature dishes include red mullet with girolle-filled cannelloni and fennel puree, grilled prawns on a peach and tomato salad, and a hot chocolate "composition" which we gather is worth waiting for.

A set menu offers a limited choice (you might run out of options after 2-3 days), but you can go a la carte. There's no doubt that the terrace setting is glorious in summer, and the estate's own wines - Viognier and Vermentino on the white side, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Cab Franc on the red - are extremely quaffable.

If you decide to head into town, there's no shortage of fine dining and bistro style options - though you'll need to drive or take a cab, of course.

Breakfast, when we stayed, was an impeccably presented micro-buffet, where everything looked smaller and tasted bigger. Platters of petits fours, diminutive pots of unusual jams (fig, blueberry), and trios of local cheeses and hams were followed by an offer of an omelette - which was promptly rustled up in front of our eyes by a dapper young man in a black suit.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Children meals
  • Restaurant
  • Room service
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • The vast and superb spa (open daily, access free, treatments extra) has every treatment under the Provencal sun: massages (including Balinese and Ayurvedic), reiki, shiatsu, acupuncture, facials, gommage (exfoliation), manicure, pedicure, rhassoul... as well as one of the best saunas and steam rooms we've seen. They use products from Valmont and Anne Seronin - which get the thumbs up from Brad Pitt - including some essential oil mixes specifically for men. Couples can book a steam room and balneotherapy bath just for themselves
  • Wine-tasting can be organised in the caveau - the estate's own wines are steadily improving - or enjoyed informally at the bar
  • There's a tennis court, a gym and extensive grounds to jog around (with a personal trainer, should the mood take you) - or lounge around with a book if you prefer
  • Dip into the outdoor pool, not huge but nicely sculpted and part shaded by tall pines; or use the spa's heated indoor pool with counter current (under 14s not allowed)
  • Drive into Montpellier's historic centre (5km) for everything from chic boutiques and designer wine bars to pop concerts and art house films; the Corum centre has world class classical concerts, the Fabre Museum has 6 floors of changing and permanent exhibitions, including some very challenging modern art; and everywhere you go there are trendy twenty-somethings and plane-shaded boulevards
  • There’s lots to do in this corner of France, for a more comprehensive list, see our destination guide

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Golf
  • Jogging
  • Museums / galleries
  • Shopping / markets
  • Tennis
  • Well being
  • Wine tasting

Kids

Children of all ages are welcome, though it's definitely aimed more at couples. Having said that, most rooms have space for extra beds or baby cots.

Best for:

Babies (0-1 years), Children (4-12 years)

Family friendly accommodation:

Two pairs of rooms interconnect (Danae + Ballerina and Blossomtime + Buff Beauty) - in each case, a Deluxe (double) and a Junior Suite (double/twin).

Babysitting:

Babysitting can be arranged.

Baby equipment:

  • Baby cots

Remember  baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking

Children's meals:

Breakfast is free for the under 12's, and the restaurant has a children's menu.

Kids Activities on site:

  • Outdoor (unheated) pool
  • Tennis court

Kids Activities nearby:

  • Zoo Du Lunaret set in a huge park has more than 150 species
  • Dine at Pirates Paradise where you'll be waited on by pirates to the roar of cannons firing
  • Explore the Camargue with its flamingos and white horses
  • Aquarium Mare Nostrum has a hurricane simulator as well as plenty of marine life

Families Should Know:

Most rooms have plenty of hard edges, dangling cables and expensive furnishings to keep parents of toddlers on their toes. Under 14s are not permitted in the spa.

Distances:

  • Airport: 10 minutes
  • Shops: 2 minutes
Kid Friendly:

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