In a region like Napa Valley, where gourmands and oenophiles flock in their masses for some of the nation’s – if not the world’s – best food and drink, restaurants must put on a serious show to gain favor. Among Napa’s best is The Restaurant – the signature eating destination at the showstopping-ly luxurious Auberge du Soleil.
Founded over 40 years ago by French restaurateur and pioneer of Californian fine dining, Claude Rouas, The Restaurant has amassed a legacy status among travelers and locals alike, with its inclusion in the Michelin Guide for 15 consecutive years paying testament to its offering.
Ever ready to cater to the modern traveler, this summer The Restaurant re-emerged following an extensive renovation orchestrated by the resort’s resident designer Suzanne Tucker. Encompassing both the main dining room and the restaurant’s sister outlet, The Bar, the redesign was intended to accentuate and celebrate the property’s hillside setting.
“The redesign of The Restaurant and The Bar is a project that has been in the works for a number of years, involving countless hours of heartfelt care and attention to detail to preserve the welcoming essence of the space while making the stylish enhancements it so richly deserves,” said Bradley Reynolds, managing director of Auberge du Soleil.
“We are thrilled to reopen both dining outlets to provide a feast for the eyes, as well as the palates, of our hotel guests, dining patrons, locals and visitors of the Napa Valley.”
When a restaurant has reached such iconic status at The Restaurant has, any redesign must be carefully planned and carried out so as to not lose any of what made it so beloved in the first place. Tucker sought not to steer too far from what the restaurant’s original designer, Michael Taylor, created while adding some modern energy.
Extending to quite major structural re-engineering, the re-design saw away with a central floor-to-ceiling tree trunk, opening up the dining room to be significantly brighter, and leaving space for a custom hand-forged iron chandelier. The restaurant’s bar was also fully relocated, and now faces outward to the valley views beyond.
Other updated features include oversized steel-framed windows and French doors that flood the space with light, wide-plank French white oak flooring, Cerused oak dining chairs, and custom-made table linens.
“Our goal with Auberge du Soleil is always to keep the design au courant while maintaining its evocative mood of the South of France – chic, stylish and sophisticated with a fresh, modern touch,” said Tucker.
“Staying true to the original vision of the founder, along with the timeless design Michael Taylor instilled from the beginning, is always at the forefront. This redesign was all about bringing the interiors forward to a more contemporary, fresh, lighter look without losing sight of the place and location.”
The Restaurant is an out-and-out celebration of the northern Californian purveyors, farmers and landscape, with chef Curry and his team proudly sourcing locally grown and produced ingredients wherever possible.
On the menu – of which guests can choose between prix fixe or a six-course tasting menu – these ingredients are translated through a Europe-inspired lens, resulting in dishes that cross culinary oceans. Expect the likes of lobster and pumpkin bisque; burrata with local figs, grilled fennel and prosciutto; and ratatouille-stuffed squash blossoms.
Desserts promise to be show-stoppers too. Think: Local cheese selections, a chocolate mousse tart with Michter’s Rye bourbon ice cream, and pumpkin custard with brandy cream and espresso ice cream.
As you would expect, the wine list is Napa-heavy, but that isn’t to say there aren’t some great labels from further afield – the team can create a custom pairing showcasing both international and regional producers.
The Restaurant is helmed by executive chef Robert Curry, who has been with the resort since 2005. The Los Angeles native began his career working at Ma Cuisine and Wolfgang Puck, before heading east for a role in New York.
From here, it was to Europe for what would turn out to be key culinary inspirations throughout the rest of his career: Working with Alain Ducasse at his three-Michelin-star Louis XV in the Hotel de Paris, Joseph Thuet at the Moët & Chandon Résidence de Trianon, and then back in Paris at the two-Michelin-star Michel Rostang.
Back in the US, Curry deftly fuses the traditions of Californian and French cooking to craft the menus at Auberge du Soleil, and looks to the bounty of local ingredients for inspiration.
The Restaurant, Auberge du Soleil,180 Rutherford Hill Road Rutherford, CA 94573, aubergeresorts.com