Trying to find a hotel in the Mount Fuji lakes area proved quite challenging. Our procrastination in booking added with cherry blossom season meant most places were booked up and the only available rooms came with price tags that made our eyes water. Many hours of searching later however we came across The Auberge Mermaid – a supposed foodie hotel offering French cuisine using local fresh produce.
The rate was already very reasonable in comparison to everything else on offer, but unlike the rest it also included breakfast and dinner in the rate. This sounded a bit too good to be true and reviews provided no help as there were none. Not a single review on the world wide web. If there’s no review of an establishment does it really exist? Feeling both risky and desperate we decided to book it anyway and brace ourselves for the worst.
When our taxi pulled up outside the hotel we were surprised to find that not only did it really exist, but that the hotel was a beautiful European style Villa with breathtaking views of Mount Fuji.
As we arrived at dinner time we were able to get down to the pertinent business of food quite quickly…
And what a dinner it was…
Dinner No. 1
The rounded dining room had large windows providing views of snow capped mount Fuji herself and it felt like we had both the restaurant and the view to ourselves. Freshly baked bread was served – and as we were ravished we’ve never been more thankful for French dining habits than at that moment.
This was OK – the ingredients were certainly fresh however it lacked any real taste (how much taste can a healthy salad really have, after all?) We expected the rest of our food to be in a similar vein..luckily we were extremely wrong.
Our main course arrived, served by a lovely waitress and watched eagerly by the chef who had left the kitchen to observe as the food was delivered to our table. It was a type of French sea food hot pot – an array of different fish and sea food in a coconut flavoured sauce. I enjoy sea food however not a fan of mixing it in one dish, but this was possibly the best dish I have ever tasted. The fish was freshly caught salmon from the river we were overlooking and tasted wholly different to any salmon I’d eaten before.
The hot pot also included fresh mussels, prawns and Japanese mushrooms. The mussels were perfect and the sauce had an amazing flavour. If this is an accurate representation of French food I see now why it is seen as the kingpin of world cuisine.
Then came dessert – freshly made green tea chiffon cake. As someone who is not even a fan of green tea flavoured anything and extremely sceptical of any dessert that is not of the chocolate variety, I was surprised by how good this was. Light and airy cake with a texture like nothing I have tasted before and a subtle delicate green tea flavour – utter bliss. The cake was served with cherry blossom infused ice cream – again – all local and seasonal ingredients.
Dessert was served with tea – even that changed the tea game. Black tea made with fresh cherry blossom petals (it was cherry blossom season after all) it took the tea drinking experience to another level.
After an amazing dinner with hospitable service and stunning views we explored the villa. A whole observatory room dedicated to viewing Mount Fuji and a traditional Japanese Onsen (hot springs bath) are also available at Auberge Mermaid.
The large villa was meticulously furnished in the communal areas that the state of the room was surprising and let down the hotel. Extremely small double rooms with very basic interior and an unusually small bathroom with a toilet that would not be out of place in an airplane seemed at odds with the style of the hotel. Maybe the hotel has different types of rooms however this was not something we were aware of at the time of booking. Nonetheless, the amazing food and service was enough to forgive the style and size of the room.
Breakfast No. 1
With the chef’s flair demonstrated at dinner it was no surprise that breakfast the next day was prepared with exacting meticulousness. Breakfast included poached eggs on freshly baked bread smothered in an unknown but delicious sauce. Also on the plate was an amazing pitta pocket sandwich filled with what I think was a flavoured potato mash concoction – the kind of homely thin I can imagine my mum making. Then, as though that is not enough there was an amazing offering of cherry blossom flavoured yoghurt. This was unlike any yoghurt I’ve ever tasted. I can never look at a Muller corner the same after that. The breakfast made my heart, stomach and soul smile all at once.
Is there anything better in life than enjoying good food with good company overlooking amazing scenery? And what scenery can be better than a humbling mountain, appearing so close yet it’s peak covered with snow demonstrating how far it really is.
The view from the breakfast table
Dinner No. 2
After the previous night’s successful dinner we could not wait till our second dinner. Seated at our tables at 6pm on the dot we were intrigued to see what our genius chef had been cooking up all day. And of course it did not disappoint – more freshly caught sea food and fish and local vegetables.
However much we wanted to beseech dessert to be the exact same as the previous nights’ we knew the chef wanted to of course demonstrate a wider spectre of his skill and offer up something vastly different. On offer today was a Mango sorbet on a cake like-texture base. This was very good but no green tea chiffon cake.
Breakfast No. 2
We did not think it would be possible to exceed yesterday’s breakfast, even though nothing seemed beyond the capabilities of our chef. However morning came and up we got to see what delights awaited us. Ever notice how much easier it is to wake up and get out of bed when great food awaits you? This breakfast consisted of a sort of omelette covered with the Japanese mushrooms that I had fallen in love. Clear black tea made using Japans legendary volcanic water and a side of that glorious cherry blossom flavoured yoghurt left us feeling so happy that we had discovered this place but also sad that this was our last meal here.
What other food would have been on offer? What about all the amazing dishes we had not yet tried? Breakfast concoctions we could not even imagine? What else can be flavoured with fresh cherry blossom? These are all questions that shall remain unanswered but those two days blew us away with the quality of the food and the hospitality of the chef, the staff and the waiters (they noticed from the very first evening our love of bread and kept brining us more and more of their freshly baked bread – things like that just fill me with appreciation).
Hotels alone can only impress you so much, but food – that source of genuine joy and sincere love can make the difference between a good stay and an amazing experience. Seasonal local produce and freshly caught fish when paired with an ingenious chef makes a formidable combination.
I would venture to go back to Auberge Mermaid for the food alone, let alone the location, views and service.