Inn joy!!

It’s time I shared a few restaurant visits with you – be warned, don’t read this post if you are already feeling hungry!! ūüôā ¬†I’ll be taking you to Auberge de l’Ecole in Saint-Jean de Minervois and Auberge de la Tour in Montady.

Auberge is the French word for inn, designating a small hotel or bed and breakfast with a restaurant, often in a rural location. ¬†These days, the word auberge is often used by restaurants that do not offer lodgings (as is the case with these two restaurants). ¬†Perhaps it’s because the word might evoke certain nostalgic feelings in people?

I’ll start with Auberge de l’Ecole in Saint-Jean de Minervois, which is closest to Saint-Chinian. ¬†Formerly the village school-house, the building was transformed into a restaurant a long time ago. ¬†The Auberge de l’Ecole has been run by Brigitte and Patrick Grau since 2001.¬† Over the years I’ve been to the restaurant numerous times, and I feel that I’ve gotten to know Brigitte and Patrick quite well – they are both lovely people!

Brigitte is in charge of the kitchen, where she cooks down-to-earth country-style food.

She is famous for her cassoulet, the well-known bean stew of the region!  I decided that I would start with a light salad, knowing that the cassoulet would be substantial!

The¬†cassoulet came to the table in an oval dish, straight from the oven and still bubbling! It was heavenly, and I finished every last bit of it! ūüôā

I did manage to have a few spoonfuls of sorbet for dessert, but I did not need anything for dinner that evening!! ūüôā

My dining companions enjoyed their food too!  For their starter they had little round parcels filled with prawns and spring vegetables.

Everyone, except me, chose the grilled squid as their main course Рit was delicious and tender, and served with sautéed potatoes and a medley of peas and beans.

My dining companions managed somewhat more ice cream than I did!!  We had a very relaxed time Рgood food and a great meal with friends!!

The next auberge that I promised to tell you about is in Montady: Auberge de la Tour, so-called because of the tower at the top of the village.  This restaurant has the most wonderful views out over the Etang de Montady, a marshy lake which was drained in the Middle Ages.

There’s a very handsome terrace in front of the restaurant, and the dining room is lovely too!

The prix-fixe lunch menu is a great deal, and people come from far and wide to this restaurant.  The food is always delicious, and the restaurant is always busy.  Here is what we ate on a recent visit:

Salt cod puree, guacamole and crab layer (starter)

Crispy samosas filled with curried chicken (starter)

Tuna steak with tomato salsa (main course)

Guinea fowl breast with thyme ‘jus’ (main course)

Strawberry ice cream (dessert)

Creme brulee (dessert)

Reservations are essential for both restaurants. ¬†You can find contact details for L’Auberge de l’Ecole here, and¬†for Restaurant La Tour here.

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A delicious day trip

I took a trip with friends recently – we went to visit¬†La Pepiniere du Bosc,¬†a specialist plant nursery near Lodeve. ¬†Since it is a little way away, we decided to make a day of it. ¬†The nursery has a very interesting selection of plants – we were all keen to buy some plants before the nursery closed for the season at the end of April. ¬†We all found more or less what we wanted. ¬†I bought some raspberry and gooseberry plants for my garden, along with a kaki¬†tree (diospyros kaki or persimmon), which are all planted in my garden now. ¬†ūüôā

Here are a couple of unusual insect hotels, which were for sale at the nursery:

We had timed our visit to the nursery so that we could have lunch at La Petite Fringale in Saint-Jean-de-la-Blaquiere. ¬†The name of the restaurant translates (very loosely) to: “slightly peckish” or “snack attack”.

We found a shady spot for the car – the plants didn’t want to get too hot – and walked to the restaurant. ¬†On the way, we saw a somewhat unusual steeple – I had never seen one with a kind of ‘hat’ over the bell!

The steeple belonged to a romanesque church. ¬†The doors were unfortunately locked, perhaps because it was lunchtime? ūüôā

As the day was beautiful and sunny, the tables had been set on the terrace.  We had a lovely view from our table!  And no, before you ask РI did not use a filter, nor did I play with the colour saturation Рthe sky really was that blue!!

The restaurant is run by two energetic young men, Laurent and Antoine, who took the restaurant over in early 2017. ¬†Here’s what we had to eat – starters first:

Chickpea fritters

Chickpea fritters

Spinach cream soup with poutargue (dried mullet roe)

Spinach cream soup with poutargue (dried mullet roe)

Gratinated asparagus

Gratinated asparagus

These were our main courses:

Slow braised pork belly

Slow-braised pork belly

Hamburger

Hamburger

Oxtail ballotine on butternut squash puree

Oxtail ballotine (parcel) on butternut squash puree

Chicken breast stuffed with salt cod puree

Chicken breast stuffed with salt cod puree

And finally, desserts:

Pavlova with vanilla ice cream and raspberry coulis

Pavlova with vanilla ice cream and raspberry coulis

Pannacotta with strawberries

Pannacotta with strawberries

The food was absolutely delicious and the service was friendly and relaxed.  The restaurant does not have a fixed price menu, but our three courses came to 20 Euros per head РI felt that was very good value!  If you are planning to eat at La Petite Fringale, make sure you book Рit does get very busy and seating capacity is limited.

After that wonderful lunch, we went to visit the priory of Saint-Michel-de Grandmont – I’ll tell you about that next week! ūüôā

Sittin’ on the dock of the bay

After that wonderful visit at Noilly Prat (see last week’s post) we needed some sustenance!! ¬†There are a good number of restaurants to choose from in Marseillan – we headed to La Taverne du Port because of its quirky interior! ¬†I had eaten there a number of times before, and I knew that the food was going to be good – another major criteria when choosing a restaurant!! ūüôā

La Taverne du Port is just a short stroll away from Noilly Prat, and right across a canal which functions as a harbour for fishing and pleasure boats.

Standing with my back to the restaurant, I could see the visitor’s centre of Noilly Prat on the other side of the canal (on the right in the picture below)!

I mentioned the quirky interior of La Taverne du Port earlier – the picture below will give you some idea:

The furniture is all made from wooden barrels, and the walls are lined with rows upon rows of bottles.

La Taverne du Port has an amazing collection of whiskies, armagnacs, cognacs, spirits and wines, and they are all for sale, either by the bottle or by the glass!  All together, the restaurant stocks over 800 different types of drinks, and their list is impressive!!

But we had come for a bite to eat – we’d already had our ‘aperitif’ across the water! ¬†Here, without further ado, are the starters:

Gratinated oysters

Salad with smoked mackerel fillets

A selection of charcuterie, cured meats sliced wafer thin.

The restaurant has one of these fancy hand-cranked slicing machines, which allows the cured meats to be sliced ever so thin!

Next to the selection of charcuterie was an impressive cheese board, arranged on top of a barrel!

For my main course I had chosen the day’s special: boeuf bourguignon:

This was a most delicious and rich beef stew, wonderfully flavoured!

My dining companions had opted for the catch of the day – small red mullet and mantis shrimp, served with a very tasty garlic sauce.

All main courses were accompanied by a delicious potato and vegetable gratin.  The portions were generous, so we all skipped dessert.  Instead we decided to go for a walk around Marseillan.

Before we leave the restaurant, here is a picture of what the terrace in front of La Taverne du Port looks like – it’s just by the water, which you can’t see in the picture. ¬†For further details visit the website of La Taverne du Port.

Here are some pictures taken along the canal:

On a good day, you can see right across to Sete and the Mont Saint-Michel:

As well as the beautiful views along the canal, there are many quaint views and interesting corners in Marseillan, a few of which I’ll show you below. ¬†Do visit if you are in the area!!

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Lunch in Mirepoix

At the end of last week’s post, I promised that I would tell you about my visit to Mirepoix and my lunch there. ¬†We had chosen Monday as a day to visit because that is when there is a market in Mirepoix, and also because the restaurant at¬†Relais de Mirepoix was open.

The market was as delightful as I remembered from my last visit (see my post from a while back).  The stalls were set up in the square, some in front of ancient timber-framed houses, and others under the arcades.  There were all kinds of wonderful things for sale Рwoven baskets, vegetables, carpets, cheeses, incense, bread, shoes, and not forgetting the dried chillies!

After a bit of retail therapy, we set off to find the hotel and restaurant, Relais de Mirepoix, where we had booked a table for lunch.  My friend Lynn had heard a lot about the Relais de Mirepoix from her friends, so we were all eager to experience it for ourselves! The cold light of a grey and chilly winter day is never ideal for taking pictures, but the building shone with an elegance that had witnessed several centuries

We had a very warm welcome from Emma Lashford, who has been running the hotel with her husband Karl¬†for just over a year. ¬†Karl had worked at the hotel a few years ago for the previous owners, which was when Lynn’s friends met him. ¬†When the hotel closed down and the 400 year old building came up for sale, Lynn’s friends decided to buy it, and they put Emma and Karl in charge of running the business!

After taking our coats, Emma showed us some of the rooms on the ground floor.  They had turned one of the rooms into a very cosy bar!

The former kitchen of the mansion can be used as a private dining or sitting room for groups. The kitchen for the restaurant is at the opposite end of the building, in case you are wondering.

There’s a wine cellar behind the iron grille!

I’m very interested in old floor tiles – here are three different patterns from the hallway, the bar, and the former kitchen:

In the elegant dining room, the tables were beautifully set!

Below is my place setting, with a glass of ginger beer!! ¬†Because I was driving, I wanted a non-alcoholic drink to start with, and that ginger beer just hit the spot perfectly! ūüėÄ

The food was delicious, nicely presented and expertly served!  Have a look at our menu.

A creamy root celery soup, topped with toasted almonds, chopped egg and parsley.

Perfectly scrambled eggs with smoked salmon

Rigatoni pasta with salmon, sea bream and prawns, and a very delicious shellfish sauce

A skewer of roasted quail, presented on a bed of quinoa and wheat berries.

Crispy almond and pear frangipane tart with mini raspberry pannacotta

Pineapple carpaccio with coconut sorbet, topped with a crispy biscuit.

We finished that wonderful and memorable lunch with coffee, after which Emma offered to show us some of the suites and bedrooms upstairs from the restaurant. ¬†The rooms we saw were very spacious, and there were some beautiful orignal features such as the hand-made terracotta tiles, the doors and the marble fireplaces. ¬†I didn’t take any photographs, you’ll be able to get an idea of the accommodation on the website of¬†Relais de Mirepoix¬†under the heading hotel!

Thanks to Emma and Karl for such a warm welcome – I’ll be back!

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More eating out

Over the course of this past summer, I’ve discovered a few new restaurants, and re-visited others. ¬†Be warned, this post contains many food pictures!!

La Galiniere is in Capestang, which is not all that far from Saint-Chinian. ¬†I don’t know why I had never been to this restaurant before, but I’m very glad that I finally I went! ¬†The restaurant is located on a little square, not far from the centre of the village. ¬†To one side is a wonderful mural, a real¬†trompe l’oeil! ¬†You don’t get the full sense of it from the photographs – it is amazing if you are there in person!

Just across from the terrace of the restaurant is this fountain.

The starters were all delicious and the portions were generous!

Crispy chicken salad

Gaspacho

Marinated salmon

The main courses were as delicious as the starters, and the portions were once again generous!

Salmon with almonds and tapenade (the little jar contains a ratatouille flan)

Steak with a red wine sauce

The “Galiniere” burger made with duck breast

Cod crusted with tapenade

The cheese plate was modest in size compared to the previous two courses, which was welcome at that point!  The cheeses were very good!

When it came to dessert the lights had come on.  My poor camera had trouble coping with the light, and hence the following pictures are a little below par.

Strawberry mille feuille

An original way of serving sorbet!

The chef’s take on lemon meringue pie

I’ve not been able to find a website for La Galiniere, but from a facebook page it appears that the restaurant is closed Monday and Tuesday. ¬†Reservations can be made on +33 (0)4 67 26 14 77.


My visit to the Auberge de Madale¬†was a re-visit – I had eaten there a number of times but the last time was several years ago. ¬†It was wonderful to see the (positive) changes which had happened in the intervening years! ¬†The dining room had been given a total makeover and is now very stylish. ¬†The big and airy room has whitewashed beams, very comfortable chairs and a lovely feel. ¬†Sound deflectors are suspended from the ceiling, and that means that the restaurant isn’t very noisy, even when it is full. ¬†On the day I visited, the weather was a little ‘iffy’ so we could not sit out on the terrace, but that was fine!

The concept of the menu is very simple:  The price of 32 Euros per person includes everything Рthe aperitif, starter, main course, dessert, wine, coffee and petit fours.  There are no choices to be made Рno agonising over which wine to select, or what to choose for dessert!!  The menu is posted on the website and it changes every two weeks!

Here is what I ate on recent last visit:

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Nibbles Cherry tomatoes marinated in vinegar, wrapped in a slice of radish, air cured ham on a crouton,  wonderful crisp bread with a tomato and pepper dip.

Rape de carottes des sables sur un yaourt au citron vert. Creme glacee saumon fume / Yuzu
Grated carrots on lime flavoured yoghurt. Smoked salmon ice cream with yuzu.

Tomate ‘Noir de Crimee’ / framboise. Cremeux pomme de terre/raifort racine, assisonne d’une vinaigrette betterave xeres
Black Crimean tomatoes / raspberries. Potato puree with horseradish; seasoned with a beetroot and sherry vinaigrette.

Pannacotta vanille, rhum et jus de melon. Sorbet abricots / basilic
Vanilla panacotta, rum and melon juice. Basil and apricot sorbet

Mignardises
Home-made marshmallows and dried fruit ‘sausage’

As you can see, the food is beautifully presented!  It tastes even better than it looks!!

The Auberge de Madale is open for lunch and dinner from Wednesday to Sunday.  Reservations are by telephone only on +33 467 230 193 Рbe sure to book well ahead.  Something else to be aware of:  the restaurant does not accept credit cards, payment is by cash or cheque only.


The restaurant Parfums de Garrigues was another re-visit earlier this year.  I went to eat there not long after it had first opened many years ago, and then it somehow dropped off my radar!  When I went to eat there early this year, I enjoyed it so much that I went back two more times!!  The food was delicious each time I ate there.  Chef Jean-Luc Santure gained his experience working with such gastronomic luminaries as Jacques Maximin, the Troisgros brothers and Eckhart Witzigmann.

I’ll share with you the pictures of my latest meal in August at Parfums de Garrigues.

Nibbles!

Starter: terrine of foie gras

The fish course: razor clam, mussels, scallops, king prawn, white tuna, seabass

Fricassee of wild mushrooms

A palate cleanser – muscat sorbet with muscat eau de vie

A mixed grill with summer truffles

The cheese course – all perfectly ripe

Dessert was a mixed platter of home-made desserts and ice creams

All three meals at¬†Parfums de Garrigues were delicious, and the food changed with the seasons. ¬†I won’t wait all that long before I return there!

Do make sure that you book a table, you’ll find details on the website for the restaurant.

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Garden fresh

During my recent blogging holiday, I had many delicious meals: at home, with friends, in restaurants, and at festivals …

On a day out with friends in Perpignan, I went to Restaurant La Galinette, following the recommendation of one of my guests (thank you, Tove!!).  Christophe Comes, the chef proprietor of the restaurant, has a potager of 3 hectares which he cultivates with the help of his father.  The produce from this vegetable garden plays a starring role on the menu!

La Galinette has a star in the Guide Michelin Рmy friends and I decided to order the tasting menu!  Without further ado, here are the food pictures Р:

Salmonejo de tomates “Green Zebra”, basilic pourpre, feta.

For the Salmonejo, a cold tomato soup was poured into the plate – it was so tempting to eat that I totally forgot to take another picture!! ūüôā

Collection de nos tomates anciennes; huile de l’hort et condiments

The collection of heritage tomatoes included Black Krim and Ananas, and the plate was as pretty as a picture!  It also tasted divine.

It still looked like a (modern art) picture when there was nothing left!!

Saumon sauvage a peine cuit, oseille de Belleville, concombre epineux et pain noir.

Wild salmon served on a sorrel puree, spiny cucumber and black bread.

Vive sauvage de Mediterranee, fine brandade de morue, jus de piperade au chorizo.

Wild sting fish (greater weever), served with salt cod puree and piperade sauce (made with sweet bell peppers and chorizo).

Epaule d’agneau catalan confite, pulpe d’aubergines “di Fierenze”

Slow-cooked shoulder of Catalan lamb, surrounded by various preparations made with aubergines: roasted, deep-fried in panko crust, braised, and puréed.

Pasteque rafraichie d’agastache anisee, sorbet melon “piel de sapo”

A generous slice of watermelon topped with candied melon and melon sorbet – very refreshing!

Peches “duras” d’Ille sur Tet, idee d’une melba

A take on peach melba, made with “duras” peaches from Ile sur Tet, with raspberry sauce and peach and vanilla sorbets. ¬†The berries at the front of the picture are sugar frosted redcurrants.

This was a very memorable meal, every course as delicious as the previous/next! ¬†If you are in Perpignan you should definitely try this restaurant! ¬†If you are not already there, perhaps you want to plan a visit – it’s a wonderful town to explore! ¬†The lunch menu is priced at ‚ā¨25 for three courses, the tasting menus are ‚ā¨48 for six courses and ‚ā¨54 for eight courses, served for lunch or dinner. ¬†La Galinette is open for lunch and dinner Tuesday through Saturday. ¬†Reservations are recommended!

I leave you with a few random pictures taken in Perpignan:

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