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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Canalside dining

There’s something special about restaurants which overlook the water, be it the sea, a river or lake, or the Canal du Midi. ¬†Many years ago, I spent an evening at a restaurant in Grau d’Agde called Les Ondines. ¬†It’s terrace was on a pontoon in the river Herault, not far from where the river meets the sea. ¬†I don’t quite recall the meal, but the sunset was absolutely wonderful!!

Sunset at Grau d’Agde

Along the Canal du Midi there are many beautiful spots for a variety of restaurants – some are very simple, others very fancy and then there are the ones in between. ¬†Today I want to take you to three restaurants. ¬†We’ll work our way from west to east, starting with the Auberge de la Croisade, at La Croisade, a tiny hamlet built at a crossroads. ¬†I remember the building in the picture below when it was just a shell, before it was renovated and turned into a restaurant. ¬†This was in the days before digital photography, but here is a picture of the restaurant as it is now:

Auberge de la Croisade by the Canal du Midi

Over the years I have eaten at this restaurant many times, and I have seen it evolve and grow. ¬†One constant has been Bruno, the maitre d’hotel, who is unfailingly friendly and cheerful – a truly wonderful host! ¬†I went to the restaurant with a group of friends not long ago, and we had a great time! ¬†Here are some of the delicious starters we ate:

Main courses followed:

La Croisade has been serving a selection platter of desserts since the restaurant first opened:There was also delicious ice cream:Another great canal-side restaurant is located in Poilhes – La Tour Sarrasine. ¬†It has a terrace from which you can watch the boats glide by as you sip a glass of perfectly chilled rose wine! ¬†Another meal with friends, this one was to celebrate a birthday! ūüėČ The picture below was taken at the end of our meal – such a lovely spot!

The starters tasted as good as they looked!

Main courses followed – very nicely presented, expertly cooked and very tasty!

The cheese platter was very nice too:

And dessert was heavenly!

Farther east lies the village of Colombiers, where there’s an old favourite of mine: Restaurant Au Lavoir! ¬†I’ve been there countless times, and I’m sure that I have mentioned the restaurant before. ¬†There’s something old-fashioned about this restaurant, but in a very positive sense. ¬†Here you can eat the kind of food that you don’t often find in restaurants anymore: cote de boeuf, souffl√©, crepes Suzette etc. ¬†The silverware is real silverware, and the glasses and tablecloths are beautiful.

Three of us went for dinner earlier this year, and what a feast it was!!  Here are three starters:

… and three delicious main courses:

We passed up on the cheese, although the cheese trolley looked very tempting!  Instead, we headed straight for some wonderful desserts:

If you fancy eating at any of these restaurants, do make a reservation to avoid disappointment. ¬†And do tell them that you saw them on my blog! ūüôā ¬†Bon appetit!

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Time to dine

To follow¬†up last week’s post about customs in French restaurants, I thought it would be appropriate to whet your appetite with some food pictures!! ¬†WARNING – if you are feeling hungry, do not read any further – have something to eat first!! ūüôā

The first meal in this post was at Auberge de l’Ecole in Saint-Jean-de-Minervois. ¬†The kitchen at Auberge de l’Ecole is run by Brigitte – her¬†style of food¬†is down-to-earth regional cooking, and her cassoulet is very good and highly recommended! ¬†Here are three starters:

Salad with goats cheese, smoked duck breast and pears

Beef carpaccio

Marinated sardines

Main courses:

Brigitte’s famous cassoulet

Braised lamb shank – very tender!

Grilled squid with Persillade (parsley and garlic)

L’Ecailler Gourmet in Narbonne is a restaurant which serves fish – and only fish – there’s no meat on the menu! ¬†What they serve depends on the catch, and so the fish is always very fresh, and always expertly cooked! ¬†A¬†nice touch in this restaurant is the fact that they bring the fish to the table before it is cooked, so you can drool over what you’ll get while you wait ūüôā

Fresh fish for three!

Gratinated oysters

Salmon mousse duo – smoked and fresh salmon

The main courses were beautifully presented and the fish oh-so-good!!

Swordfish steaks

Mixed grill – salmon, cod and prawn

Grilled sea bream fillets

Desserts are always important to me РI adore them!  The desserts in the pictures below tasted every bit as good as they looked!!

Variation on banoffee pie

Peach and strawberry soup

Fresh strawberries with strawberry sauce

The Guinguette du Chichoulet restaurant is right by the water, on the marina at Port Chichoulet, near Vendres Plage.

The food was simple, and service was very friendly!

Marinated sardines

A selection of deep fried food – squid rings, prawns and potoatoes

The mussels were plump and juicy, and the prawns cooked just so.

Moules mariniere

Grilled prawns

The bar/restaurant Le Vernazobre in Saint-Chinian was taken over by Murielle and Jeremy in autumn last year. ¬†For the moment, food is served only at lunchtime, but during the summer months they will be serving food in the evenings too. ¬†I’ve been a number of times recently, and have enjoyed my meal each time. ¬†The choice of dishes on the menu is¬†small, and the food is simple¬†and¬†well prepared.

Pate

Salad with tuna fish and hard boiled eggs

Goat’s cheese parcel

I was assured that the steak was tender – and it was very good indeed!

Grilled steak

Pork chop with creamy sauce

Seafood pie

Have you tried any of these restaurants yourself or any others in this area that you especially liked??  Do you have any tips to share??

Fou de Sud

A little while ago, my “garden neighbours” told me about a new restaurant¬†Fou de Sud¬†on the outskirts of¬†Montpellier. ¬†Their son is a consultant for catering businesses, and he had recommended this place to his parents, who had promptly tried it and were smitten. ¬†Word of mouth is always the best advertising, and the least costly!! ¬†ūüôā

I made a note of the name of the restaurant and looked up where it was, and the next time I was in Montpellier I went to eat there. ¬†Fou de Sud loosely translates as “Crazy for the South”, and the place is more of a concept than a restaurant. The name may be a¬†bilingual double-entendre = ‚ÄúFood de Sud‚ÄĚ ‚ÄĒ because that‚Äôs what it‚Äôs all about, much more so than the straight French meaning (thank you Annie!). ¬†The restaurant is part of a “market hall”, which was started by seven associates, each an expert in his field, with the aim of showcasing the best food products the South of France has to offer. ¬†Appropriately, the establishment is in the building of the¬†Sud de France marketing consortium, which promotes products from the South of France all over France and worldwide.

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The building appears to be brand-spanking-new, and it is very striking! ¬†Unfortunately, the access to the car park is a little tricky; blink and you miss it, or in this case, I missed it! ūüôā ¬†But I got there in the end!!

The market hall is large and very well stocked, both with groceries and fresh produce.  The meat and fish counters were very inviting and tempting!  One of the ideas behind the concept is to sell from producer direct to consumer, bypassing the traditional distribution methods and reducing the carbon impact of food and shopping.  80% of the items for sale are produced in the South of France, and there are around 2000 different types of product from over 50 producers.

After I’d had a good look at what was on offer, and made a mental note of all the wonderful foods I wanted to buy later, I went into the restaurant. ¬†There’s a long counter, behind which you can see the chefs prepare the food! ¬†And you can also have a look at some of the wonderful desserts!! ūüôā

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Since the weather was beautiful, I decided to have lunch outside.  The restaurant has a terrace which is surrounded by glass, and which can be covered with sails for shade.  As you can see, it was pretty busy!

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The food was delicious too!!

octopus salad

Octopus salad

Steak Tartare with wonderful home-made fries

Steak Tartare with wonderful home-made fries and salad

Strawberry mousse

Strawberry mousse

chocolate mousse

Chocolate mousse

Before you ask – ¬†no, I did not eat all this by myself – there were two of us!! ūüôā ¬†I’m not normally a fan of raw meat, but, having seen the meat counter, I knew that it would be perfectly fresh, and it was incredibly good!! ¬†The fries were very good too! ¬†And can you tell which dessert I had?? ¬†Of course the chocolate one – and it¬†was pretty spectacular!

All in all a very good meal and a great place to stop at, if you are in the vicinity!

Fou de Sud is located at 3840 Avenue Georges Freche, 34470 Perols (a suburb of Montpellier).