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Jan 21, 2003 03:29 PM


  • m

I am heading to the southwest of France for a week's visit. We'll be staying in Beziers but driving around the region. If you could share any good restaurants, it would be much appreciated. Thanks.

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  1. I say screw the recs and take a walk on the wild side. Disovery is where it's at on the French food scene, especially in the provinces. Read this guy's short screed (link below) and get your open mind on -- prepare to have it blown.


    1 Reply
    1. re: GG Mora

      Be sure to sample the local wine, which is quickly shedding its lowly status. A few names to look out for are Domaine de l'Hortus, Daumas Gassac, Mas Jullien, Chateau de l'Engarran, Grange de Peres, Domaine d'Aupilhac, and Domaine La Marfee.

    2. It's been a while since I lived there, so I can't recommend any specific places, but try to spend at least a day in Montpellier. It is really a beautiful town. Just be sure to park on the outskirts or park in the garage under the centre ville. Much of the town is pedestrian only...

      1. Spent about ten days in the area not too long ago and loved the wine and the people and the sites. Foodwise, scattered diamonds in the rough. The market in Narbonne is quite impressive, though the City and its restaurants are not. In the middle of the salt marshes to the south is the tiny fishing village of Bages, with a lone restaurant run by a charming couple, he fishes and cooks, she staffs the front. I had the most incredible plateau de fruits de mer imaginable, including six different kind of barnacle-ish type shellfish, including the amazing violet - unlike anything I've ever tasted, except maybe those Galician barnacles (perceves?) in Santiago de Campostela. Also like three dozen mussels, four dozen clams and countless oysters - all brought in that day by the fisherman-chef. I think the bill for three of us stuffed to the gills including several delicious bottles of local wine, none exported at the time, was $70. There's a really nice rustica-type place in Maury, another one-restaurant town, where I had a delicious daube-type lunch next to a crew of local construction workers in hardhats. The local Maury wine is fortified, syrupy port-like and kind of good but odd, and not all that available here in the US. In Carcassonne, the cassoulet at the restaurant at the Hotel de la Cite was incredible, full of appropriately cooked beans, correct sausage and lots of crusty bread - glad it was only the lunchtime portion - I think they only serve it for two and it was worth it. Had a nice but not very memorable meal at a michelin one-star in Beziers itself - easy to skip I should think. Sightseeing-wise, don't miss the Cathar Castles - other worldly, and the desolation of the Corbieres was like a twisted moonscape. I also second the Mas Jullien and Mas de Daumas Gassac Wine recs. Have a great time and do report back.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Ray O

          I can't wait to try the place in Bages next time we go--it sounds amazing!

          I lived in that region and never saw barnacles served. What were they called in French? We had percebes in Asturias--they are a real delicacy.

          1. re: butterfly

            I hate to sound a discordant note, but I had a chance to visit the restaurant in Bages, Le Portanel, at the end of last August, and was roundly disappointed. I had heard a great deal about it, on this board and elsewhere, so had high expectations. I was not - though I should have been - deterred by the frown on the face of the host at my chambre d'hote, outside Carcassonne, when I disclosed my dinner plans. He told me later that the word had been out for too long, the restaurant was no longer the lovely family-run operation of a few years ago, and he had heard that standards had slipped badly.

            Sadly, that was my sense of the place. The setting, overlooking the bay, is quite lovely (though persistent electrical problems kept the lights flickering annoyingly all evening). But the platter of shellfish was forgettable, and the daurade en croute de sel (salt-crusted) for which they are known was a mushy, tasteless debacle. Only the wine pairings, as I recall, were worth the fairly high price for the meal.

            I'd side with the poster above - be adventurous. I had a number of very pleasant meals this way. Alternatively, I'd snoop around Carcassonne for recommendations - the pickings will be better than in Bages (or, I gather, Narbonne). My apologies that I don't have particular places on the tip of my tongue.

            But I would strongly advise you to skip Le Portanel.