Peacefully ensconced a few miles north of Toulouse is the Château de Drudas, an historic monument offering an oasis of peace and quiet.
The Château de Drudas harbors an air of benevolent timelessness, as though the seed planted there in the 18th century has grown in harmony with nature, blossoming into its fullness over time as it gently hugs the curve of the hillside it calls home, in an Haute-Garonne of soothing pinks and warm ochers. You arrive here gradually, traversing countryside in which there are already hints of these hues; then the property appears slowly, regally. First, its grounds, luxuriant with botanical species that leisurely release their varied fragrances, over toward the heated swimming pool adjacent to ancient arches forming the semblance of a small theater, which opens onto the petite village square. If you turn around, your eyes caress the façade overlooking this part of the grounds and you come to understand why the house is listed as an historic monument. It was renovated while preserving the style of the era in which it was built, along with a few modern touches that, rather than detracting from it, enhance the building even more. The marble, the tommette-tiled and parquet floors, the majestic main staircase – all beckon you to travel through time into the spacious bedroom cocoons where, yet again, contemporary touches bring out the timeless comfort and original character.
Cuisine honoring land and sea
For at Drudas, respecting tradition, history, and architecture does not mean inertia: Everything is advancing slowly, the world only appears to have stopped turning. The most recent of these developments can be found in the kitchens of the property’s restaurant, Le Verdurier. Chef Gabriele Ferri arrived here in June 2020, having honed his formidable talents in places like La Tour d’Argent in Paris and Pierre Gagnaire’s Le Gaya in La Rochelle. This young gentleman from Piedmont, born near Lake Maggiore, brings a bit of his native Italy to his craft – like his polenta, or the risotto he prepares with seaweed, a nostalgic nod to another Basque Country collaboration. More than anything, though, he enjoys working with local ingredients: From the Mediterranean, just 100 miles away, there is octopus, mixed here with snails that have been sourced nearby, for an astonishing, flavorful concoction. Filet of trout from the Tarn or the Pyrenees, poached in olive oil with fennel and flax seed, illustrates the harmonious surf-and-turf menu Chef Ferri seeks to serve. Snails and trout are juxtaposed with, say, a confit shoulder of lamb, while pigeon or crab share a plate with vegetables from a nearby supplier, one who is reviving heirloom tomatoes. The cherries and strawberries, when their season comes around, are just as local and inspire Auriane Toquet, the pastry chef who also joined the staff in June 2020. Having worked alongside major names like Michel Guérard, the young woman’s culinary compositions are often minimally sweet, showcasing daring blends, including vegetables and herbs – like sweet peppers, cucumbers, tarragon, or dill –, as she enthusiastically crafts desserts that are “fresh, light, and surprising.” Her philosophy impeccably describes a dining experience at Le Verdurier, while dovetailing the essence of the Château de Drudas, a serene monument offering a moment of stillness for the soul.