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“We saw a few prop­er­ties but this one was per­fect be­cause it’s what the French call caché – it’s kind of hid­den”

Living France - - À La Maison -

Hitch-hik­ing through Ire­land in the 70s, Amer­i­can cou­ple Den­nis Sher­man and Eleanor Garvin stood on a Gal­way road­side with a sign that sim­ply read ‘ Tu­nisia’. They didn’t quite make it all the way to Africa but they did get a free ride to Bur­gundy, and as wine and food en­thu­si­asts, it in­stantly struck a chord. “As soon as we ar­rived, Den­nis and I loved it and al­ways said that we’d come back,” El­lie, as she is known, ex­plains.

True to their word, the pair re­turned to Bur­gundy, where they ran a lux­ury hotel­barge called Le Papil­lon. Once that ven­ture had ended, the cou­ple set their sights on run­ning food and wine tours in the area and looked for suit­able prop­er­ties that would ac­com­mo­date such groups.

“We found the prop­erty on­line and bought it three years ago,” El­lie ex­plains. “We saw a few prop­er­ties but this one was per­fect be­cause it’s what the French call caché – it’s kind of hid­den.”

Sit­ting among sun-dap­pled vine­yards in a tran­quil vale south of Beaune, Domaine de Cromey dates from the 1600s. Lo­cals have al­ways re­ferred to Domaine de Cromey as ‘the château’, bestow­ing it with an il­lus­tri­ous rep­u­ta­tion that Den­nis and El­lie are clearly keep­ing alive and well, hav­ing trans­formed it into a lux­ury manor house. It’s here that the cou­ple wel­come peo­ple from all over the world to taste the best of Bur­gundy’s food, cooked by El­lie and taste the best Bur­gundy wine ex­pertly se­lected by Den­nis. It may be tucked away in one of France’s most idyl­lic cor­ners, but those who find it will be made to feel right at home...

Don’t hide fruit and veg away in the fridge. Sun-ripened toma­toes, bulbs of gar­lic and sprout­ing basil plants add a burst of colour

At Domaine de Cromey, din­ner is en­joyed in true French fash­ion; re­garded as a chance to take your time en­joy­ing food, drink and con­ver­sa­tion with those around the ta­ble. Den­nis and El­lie set the ta­ble for the oc­ca­sion with can­dles, tra­di­tional sil­ver­ware, flow­ers from the gar­den and a few bot­tles of wine that have been al­ready opened. El­lie is most at home in her kitchen where she gives cook­ery demon­stra­tions and pre­pares home-cooked meals for her guests. Creamy risotto topped with es­car­gots, tomato and basil tar­tine or a heart-warm­ing coq au vin are among her favourites. The open-plan de­sign means that El­lie is never short of peo­ple to talk to while cook­ing over a hot stove. “The thing about my kitchen is peo­ple walk by all the time and say, ‘What’re you do­ing there?’ I love it.” Though din­ner is a more for­mal af­fair, lunch is kept sweet and sim­ple. Fresh bread, cheese and Bur­gundy wine make for an idyl­lic pic­nic to be en­joyed out­side in the grounds of the prop­erty.

The walled-in park­land that sur­rounds Domaine de Cromey is per­fect for go­ing on long walks with the fam­ily dog, Hag­gis. El­lie par­tic­u­larly loves the wild flower meadow where she gath­ers up bun­dles of what­ever is in sea­son to dis­play around the house. True to foodie form, the cou­ple also like to for­age in the grounds. “There’s an el­der­berry tree down there and Den­nis’s grand­mother al­ways made him an el­der­berry pie ev­ery sum­mer, and so now I do the same. It’s ab­so­lutely de­li­cious – it’s proper pie.” An outdoor stone-built bread oven is a fun fea­ture of Domaine de Cromey; ideal for sum­mer­time din­ing. Hav­ing mas­tered the art of mak­ing pizza, per­fect­ing home­made bread is next on Den­nis’s list.

“Part of the cook­ery and wine busi­ness is based on gen­eros­ity,” says Den­nis. “We like to give peo­ple more than they’re ex­pect­ing.” The large salon area al­lows for ‘the more the mer­rier’ ap­proach.

High ceil­ings and ex­posed stone walls im­bue the salon with a light, airy feel, mak­ing it cool in sum­mer and warm in win­ter. But it is the 18th-cen­tury wine pres­soir that steals the show. “I love my kitchen,” El­lie says be­fore adding, “But just walk­ing in and see­ing that pres­soir… it’s pretty stun­ning. Keep­ing it was a chal­lenge. The first thing we thought when we walked in was ‘we’re go­ing to make sure we keep that and make it a fo­cal point’.” The view from the heated swim­ming pool cap­tures the essence of the Bur­gundy coun­try­side. Views of rolling green val­leys dot­ted with Charo­lais cat­tle and coun­try trac­tors stretch for miles. “All you need is a lit­tle monk com­ing down the hill,” re­marks one guest.

“The gar­den’s kick­ing right now!” says Den­nis of his veg­etable plot where every­thing from pump­kins and pota­toes to beet­root and cour­gettes grow. For El­lie, hav­ing her own or­ganic potager is one of the best things about life in the French coun­try­side. “I think the thing that thrills me the most about cook­ing here is hav­ing qual­ity in­gre­di­ents,” she smiles. Den­nis and El­lie have let the build­ing’s plants do their own thing to give the old out­build­ings coun­try charm. “The whole front of the house is left like that and I love it,” says El­lie. “Be­cause the Vir­ginia creeper is de­cid­u­ous and drops, in the win­ter it makes it very charm­ing.” do­mainede­

Plump so­fas and Per­sian-style rugs add an el­e­ment of lux­u­ri­ous warmth to the liv­ing room, while low-beamed ceil­ings and par­quet floors of­fer cosy com­fort. The open fire dates back to 1716 while a re­stored baby grand pi­ano calls out to be played from the cor­ner.

Glass jars filled with dried beans, lentils and spices add in­ter­est to a set of plain kitchen shelves.

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