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Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Shikoku Autumn 2014 四国秋季之旅 - Auberge Uchiko オーベルジュ内子

Stayed 21.11.2014 (Fri) 
Booked thru' hotel website.
- 1 villa = 25,920 yen/pax


Auberge? This is actually a French word for "inn". In Japan, Auberge style accommodation are actually much more luxurious than what its name implies. Normally located in an secluded area which is tucked away from the hustle and bustle of city life, the living concept of Auberge is a not an escapism but a recovery process of inner peace, stimulating all five senses through high quality food and creation of a relaxing environment. One other unique feature of Auberge is French meals are served; a cuisine which highlights food appreciation and presentation on the table. Wanted very much to try out this style of accommodation after reading numerous rave reviews. Had two choices - one in Tosayama in Kochi and another one located in Uchiko in Ehime, both managed by Kochi Orient Hotel Group. Chose the latter as it fitted well into my itinerary. Was also attracted to this particular sentence in their web page: Feeling the nature with your five senses and dedicating yourself to her, you shall restore the natural rhythm of your mind and body. This was in line with the objective to recover my mental balance through this holiday. I had to say the stay in Auberge Uchiko was extraordinary, exceeding my expectations in all aspects - ambience, onsen, meals and service.

Bottom right: Restaurant where both dinner and breakfast are served.
Bottom left: Path leading to another area where villas are located in; Top right: The villa which we stayed in - Yamazakura (やまざくら); Bottom right: Porch overlooking sakura trees.
Room. From the main annex, guests will have to walk along an unsheltered path to the another area where the villas are located. There are a total of five villas and each can occupy up to three adults - there are two single beds and a mattress laid over the sofa. Overall design outlook is modern style coupled with Japanese distinctive elements such as Japanese paper (washi) and wooden sliding doors. Lush greenery awaits behind the sliding windows of the living room and the spacious enclosure is warmly brightened up by natural lighting that seep through the huge glass panels in the day. Don't be surprised if you cannot find television and wifi anywhere in the room (alternatively, you can borrow a mobile wifi from the reception which I did). You will slowly get used to the awkwardness of not having any handy media technologies and begin to treasure the precious moments of quietness in the room - a luxury especially for city dwellers like myself.


Luxury. What makes the villa so mesmerizing as well is guests are treated to a beautiful scenery of blooming Sakura trees in Spring, directly right in front of the porch. Though I did not get to see that personally, imagining the scene in my mind while lying down on the reclining chair already brought a smile to my face. There is also a nice bath tub which you can overlook to the porch while enjoying a nice soak. Did not utilise the bath tub this way, instead my mother and I filled it up with lukewarm water to soak our legs just before we turned in for the night. Wanted to also highlight the pleasant service experienced during my stay at Auberge Uchiko. Just to quote one: just before we left the main annex to return to our villa after dinner, the staff passed us each a hot water bag as the weather has turned chilly in the night. 

Meals. Numerous locally grown ingredients were utilised to create a nouvelle cuisine - a modern style of cookery that avoids rich, heavy foods and emphasises the freshness of the ingredients and the presentation of the dishes. Dinner was served in the light of handmade candles from Uchiko in the main annex restaurant. This was my first time eating a full French course meal and I was overwhelmed by the sophisticated cutlery placed in front of me. On the other hand, many ingredients were also entirely new to my palate.

Top left: Braised top shell; Bottom left: Ham from Uchiko pork; Top right: Wild boar with miso sauce.
Top left: Bouillabaisse; Bottom left: Stick of tomato sherbet; Top right: Grilled Iyo beef with truffle sauce; Bottom right: Chocolate mousse crepe with sweet potato cream.
  • Amuse gueule (the literal translation is "mouth amuser" is a bite-sized savory food): beautifully plated braised top shell coupled two different type of sauces to go along with. 
  • Hors d'oeuvre (appetiser): tender ham made from Uchiko pork.
  • Soupe (soup): light yet flavourful matsutake consomme.  
  • Poisson (fish dish): bouillabaisse, which is a French-style fish stew, comprised of kabuto shrimp (or shield shrimp), globefish (otherwise known as the puffer fish) and scallop. 
  • Gibier (wild game dish): Roasted wild boar caught in Uchiko accompanied with miso sauce. I personally find the meat a bit tough for my liking. 
  • Arriere gout: a small refreshing stick of tomato sherbet to cleanse the palate before moving on to the main course. 
  • Viande (meat dish): a very well executed grilled iyo beef with truffle sauce.
  • Dessert: Chocolate mousse wrapped in a crepe served with noodles of sweet potato cream.
  • Coffee/tea to end the entire course. 
Breakfast.
Breakfast was amazing too. Gulped down three different type of juices (vegetable, orange and tomato), bit into freshly made bread accompanied with homemade jam and butter, slurped a bowl of creamy potato soup, tucked into standard breakfast plate of bacon, half boiled egg and fresh greens and eventually ended the meal with a satisfying cup of coffee/tea held in exquisite porcelain wares.


Onsen. The communal bathhouses, separated by gender, were located in the main annex. Interior is covered by beautiful bluestone tiles to create this calming ambience. Was surprised to see a crowd when I was at the bathhouse just before dinner though the hotel has limited number of guests. Later found out that the bathhouse is also opened to public for a large part of the day (1100 to 2100 hrs) and is very popular with the locals in Uchiko. The natural spring water source is alkaline and cold at 17 degC. Water is heated to around 40 degC before being utilised in the pools, and is known to have therapeutic effects for those suffering from rheumatism.

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Auberge Uchiko オーベルジュ内子
〒795-0301 愛媛県喜多郡内子町五十崎乙485‐2
http://www.orienthotel.jp/uchiko/english/

How to get there?
There are no buses to Auberge Uchiko; and sad to say, the hotel does not provide any complimentary pick up service from Uchiko JR Station. Have to rely on taxi which cost less than 1,000 yen as it is relatively near - about 5 minutes by car from the train station.



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