Restaurant Le C. By the Sea in Basque Guéthary

Faded wooden benches and tables, simply set and decorated with inventive French fare, artfully plated. Boasting a privileged location on a grassy bluff that overlooks the untouched Plage de Cenitz in Guéthary, Restaurant Le C. is a great choice for a long lunch or sunset dinner, ocean-side. Order a frosty bottle of rose to share and relax with the view before the menu arrives.

Despite the no-fuss atmosphere, this is no ordinary crab shack by the sea. The menu is short and sweet with five entrées, five main options and five desserts that change almost weekly. Ingredients tend to be locally sourced and combined in artful ways with no lack of foams or purees, thrilling sauce drizzles, surprising garnishes.

As an entrée I tried the beetroot gazpacho flavored with a touch of citrus and garnished with an array of pretty edible flowers. A vibrant purple puree of red beetroot, full of that earthy natural sweetness and thick enough to be quite filling, with a little mound of shaved yellow and striped Chioggia beet in the center. Drops of lemon for acidity and very thin strings of citrus peel provide a slight bitterness for contrast.

As a main I chose the Saint-Jacques scallops. The five of them came paired with quenelles of creamy celery root puree and chopped bits of pickled celery, garnished with two thin spears of green apple and edible flowers. A very nice combination. The sweet, clean and very slightly charred flavor of the tanned, plump and very tender scallops went very nicely with the earthy, prudent flavors of the celeriac.

I also had some of Restaurant Le C.’s take on the poke bowl. Let’s not forget, we are in the gnarly-chic French Basque surfing paradise so a reference to Hawaiian water-sport culture is very fitting to the mood. This poke had a base of white and black rice, topped with a colorful hill of really fresh fatty tuna chopped into luscious cubes and flavored with soy, mustard and seaweed. And then the garnishes, some red cabbage, seaweed, perfectly ripe avocado, crisp beansprouts and black sesame seeds. A gorgeous dish, light and healthy but also perfectly portioned and generous with the protein.

And finally a dessert packed with clean citrus. A divine lemon cream piped onto a base of nutty sablé breton cookie crumbs, a thin wall of meringue – part crunchy, part gooey – on either side. The beautifully balanced sweetness and acidity of this dessert was further complemented by the bitterness of the garnish, shaved lime peel and delicate strings of candied lemon peel.

Even the coffee-side sweet bite was wonderful, a cork-shaped little cookie with melting bits of chocolate running through it, a crunchy exterior and immensely satisfying cookie-dough texture inside. Dipped into coffee, this sweet little detail was a perfect finish.

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