Dordogne, Lot, Aveyron, Lozere Gard and Tarn
I am after recommendations for places to eat, and places to stay and eat in these departments. We will be flying into Bergerac, east of Bordeaux, and driving east and south for a few days. We will probably follow the rivers Dordogne and Lot, but we have no real plans and would make a detour if there was somewhere special to stay and eat. We are not driving far, as we are only aiming for the mountains near Bedarieux in Herault, so we will have the luxury of being able to take our time. We would prefer places which are not expensive, but I would still be interested in all recommendations.
Recently stayed and dined at Hostellerie le Relais du Soleil in Montignac, spitting distance from the Lascaux caves; pleasant village. Dining was old-fashioned, local, very friendly; nice place to stay and eat if you're in that region. Drink the walnut wine and eat truffles. Rocamadour is worth the visit, both for the pilgrimage to the Black Madonna and to the walnut shops, nice cafes on the (only) street.
Cahors is a lovely town and Le Marche, on the market square, is good. Not expensive but slightly smart, busy with local people (at least it was in March) and interesting. The outdoor market there is on Wednesday and Saturday mornings and is well worth visiting. If you see a variety of strawberry called Mara des Bois, buy them.
There's a village in Tarn et Garonne called Lauzerte with an excellent hotel/restaurant called Le Quercy. They do two menus, one staunchly and genuinely traditional and the other slightly modernised (but both heavily featuring duck). The cooking is probably the best introduction you will get to the local produce. The only drawback is that in the evening virtually all the diners are foreign (English, Dutch, a few Americans). Lunchtime may be better, if you can face heavy food in the middle of the day.
The painted caves at Pech Merle are superb and there is a hotel nearby, in Cabrerets, which has a very good reputation (I haven't eaten there). I think it's The Hotel des Grottes, but it'll be in the guidebooks. It has a lovely position overlooking the River Cele. The drive there from Cahors is ravishing.
At Tournon d'Agenais, le Beffroi is very good value for ambitious cooking using local ingredients. Not worth a detour but very well worth stopping if you are nearby.
La Recreation in the beautiful village of Les Arques is excellent.
None of these resaurants is expensive, at least by English standards.
Thanks for these replies - Rocamadour and the caves sound worth a visit, and thanks for the restaurant recommendations - I like the look of La Recreation.
Does anyone have any recommendations of places to stay which are more along the chambre d'hote lines in these departments? I'm after small B&Bs which do good food in the evenings.
B&B is run by M. et Mme Marescassier - Labouquerie Petit Brassac Phone 05-53-22-32-51 in Beaumont-du-Périgord. Not the fanciest place to stay, in fact it is quite plain, but if you make a reservation for room and dinner, you will be served products from their farm and their son's farm: Walnut wine, veal, prune dishes (with meat and in desserts), local wines, etc. You can find it on this site of Gites de France:
All food homemade and abundant.
Conversations at the large wooden table are very good as well. When you drive from Beaumont on D660, you go abut 5 km in the direction of Monpazier and you have to watch for their small sign on the RIGHT (everyone sees a Petit Brassac sign on the left just before their place and turns, but that's not the right place). The owners are up in years now, but very hospitable. We stayed with them 5 nights in 2002. Breakfasts are also very good.
I spent a week in Domme last fall. There is great eating to be had everywhere in this region. If you happen to be in St. Cyprien on a Sunday, the roast chickens and pommmes Sardelaise at the market are the best I have ever had.
Another fabulous meal can be had at the walnut oil mill Moulin d'Huile de Noix a few k's east of Martel. I got a recommendation for this place here on Chowhound years ago (I think from James G..I still remember that is how good it was) and paid my second visit last fall. Open only for lunch. Inexpensive set meal with choice of duck confit or lamb. Nothing fancy. Take my word for it. (They were featured in Saveur a few years ago.if you have back issues..)
MOULIN D'HUILE DE NOIX DE MARTEL ferme auberge
Route de Bretenoux (you must turn off onto a dirt road leding to the walnut orchard)
Tel: 05-65-37-40-69 (you must call ahead to reserve)
Places we ate in the Dordogne this June--we were walking so being in or right by our hotel was generally essential:
Montignac: We stayed at La Roseraie (http://www.laroseraie-hotel.com ), a pricey but charming and spacious hotel, converted from an old chateau, with a swimming pool and an excellent restaurant. We'd definitely stay and/or eat there again. Wednesday morning open market was great.
Sergeac: Auberge de Castel Merle, a hotel-restaurant converted from an old farm. The room was comfortable but small. The food was mediocre; the main attraction of the restaurant is the outdoor terrace with a great view from a cliff overlooking the Vezere river.
Boyer (Meyrals): Ferme-Auberge de la Rhonie (http://www.chambres-larhonie.com ), a ridiculously charming place with a view, pool, spacious room, and excellent restaurant with rustic dishes largely based on products from their goose farm. We'd go out of our way to stay and/or eat here again.
Sarlat: Hotel La Couleuvrine (http://www.la-couleuvrine.com ), good restaurant, bit expensive.
Le Sirey: La Ferme des Veyssieres (http://lesveyssieres.com ), charming ferme-auberge on a working goose farm, dinner at a communal table for guests only. Not all the food was great and some of the wine was bad, but the omelette with girolles the husband had picked that day was wonderful, as was an apple tart with caramel sauce. At 78€ for two for room, dinner with wine, breakfast, and some free leftover bread for the next day's lunch, this was a bargain. There's no bar so if you want an aperitif or digestif (the local Vieille Prune plum eau-de-vie by Louie Roche is lovely), bring your own.
Carlux: lunch at Hotel Restaurant GR 6, nothing special but can't beat the view.
Souillac: La Vielle Auberge (www.la-vieille-auberge.com ), really good restaurant with an interesting wine list with a large selection of old Cahors.
Cales: Le Petit Relais (www.le-petit-relais.fr ), would not stay in the hotel again but it was a warm evening and dinner on the terrace was charming, especially when a herd of sheep went by.
Rocamadour: nice lunch at Hotel Beau Site (http://www.bw-beausite.com ), interesting wine list. Stayed about two miles out of town at Les Vielles Tours (www.vieillestours-rocamadour.com ), the most charming hotel of our whole trip, dinner in the restaurant was excellent.
re: Robert Lauriston
We loved visiting Beynac and Grotto Ruffinage (please forgive my spelling!) - bought duck foie gras and other fine local products at a variety of farms on the road to the Grotto - there was a pleasant restaurant in Sarlat, I think Madeleine, outside of a small hotel near the town hall, with outdoor seating.
Just a report back on the trip through this area -
We went to La Recreation, and had a lovely meal - so thanks for the recommendation. I had the lobster ravioli, which was amazing and my husband had a red mullet dish cooked with caribbean spices, which was really good, and very unusual. For main course I had lamb and it was great - my only criticism is the overuse of garlic in some of the veg, but it was a lovely meal.
We couldn't find a French run Chambre D'hotes near enough to La Recreation, so we stayed at an English one that night. We then stayed on a farm further South for the second night and had a lovely meal with the hosts. We didn't stay at the recommended B&B in Beaumont-du-Périgord, as it wasn't in the right area for our second night and not near enough to the restaurant for our first - but thanks anyway.
re: Robert Lauriston
Cleaning up my desk, I just came across a label for something I meant to post about: the beers from Cervoise Perigourdine, sold at the Sarlat market. They're made by Stephen Dunne, who if I remember correctly is Irish. The one that really impressed me enough to keep the label was the "Brassée à l'ancienne," which is made with barley malt, nettle, dandelion, and strawberry syrup (no hops). Contact: La Croix Rat, 24220 St. Cyprien, tel. 0553298850.