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Ideas for Languedoc-Roussillon and around?

Hi all,
What do you think of the eating while traveling in Languedoc-Roussillon and around? We have two weeks in late May/early June to do it and have a few Languedoc leads gleaned from the board and Ptipois' blog: l'Entonnoir in Sète, Le Tilleul in Générargues, Restaurant le Mimosa (and its hotel) in Saint Saturnin de Lucian, possibly the Auberge du Cèdre. Any other ideas would be fantastic!

We thought we'd get our fix of seafood and beaches in and nearer to coastal Languedoc; and then drive out of the region, via the Camargue, up to the Hotel Faurie in Saint-Agrève (and possibly to Valence). We might also drive along the coast in the other direction and over the Spanish border to eat at Saint Pau in San Pol de Mar. If anyone thinks we're missing somewhere unmissable en route, in either direction, please say!

(Incidentally, I remember a France board thread where souphie recommended a few regions/areas in France worth traveling to that are less well-known but I can't find it. If anyone knows where it is I'd be really grateful!)

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  1. I only know L'Entonnoir in Sète and Hotel Faurie in St Agrève. Love both, esp the latter.

    In Sète, a food ditem not to miss is the tielle. The best can be found on 11 quai de la Résistance. Look for a nondescript storefront with a long queue outside. Tielle has a crunchy pizza-like outer crust, and runny seafood inside. Sometimes it turns up in supermarkets in other parts of France, but you can't eat them once you have had good ones in Sète.

    The seafood market in Sète is also a great visit, where ou can get a plate of the freshest L'Etang de Thau oysters and a glass of white all costing nothing. It is a much nicer lunch spot than any of the beachfront restos with barkers outside.

    Between the coastal Languedoc area and Ardèche (St Agrève), you will pass by Arles, a town with a rich concentratin of good eats, from gastronomic temples like Atelier Rabanel to street food from the wonderful Saturday morning market.

    As for the question whether you are missing somewhere unmissable, yeaaah. You have only 2 weeks. Of course you will miss a whole lot, but for your maximum enjoyment, your current concept is just fine - focusing on two areas: Languedoc and Ardèche (the area around St Agrève). Even then you will be missing a lot. Just around St Agrève there are enough listed plus beaux villages for you to visit 2 per day for a week.

    The other direction - the Basque country - also has great eats and great landscape, but you can't - don't want to - cover all three regions in which case you will end up having a lasting impression of French freeways which look a lot like other countries' freeways, instead of experiencing anything. So stick to your instinct which has been good so far, and have a great trip.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Parigi

      Thank you - this is great! We went to the Basque country last summer for our honeymoon and had an amazing time. Actually, we got some great recommendations from you for that region, too! (Loved Olhabidea.) Excited to check out the sort of mirror coast.

    2. We love this area! Possible inclusions are a night or two at La Bruguiere (chambre d'hote with table d'hote) a few km south of Anduze, a perfect place to stay when you dine at Le Tilleul which is a scant 20 minutes away. Phillippe Nusswitz makes some lovely wines and his wife, Pascale, is a fine cook, offering an evening meal several times a week by reservation. These are wine-centric meals where wine and conversation flow. They have lived in the US, speak perfect English and are quite interesting people. http://www.chambre-hotes-gite-labrugu...

      Just north of Nimes in Sanhilac is Le Tractor, a modern bistro in a tiny village. Passionate young chef and staff.

      The area around Le Mimosa is a rich wine area. Don't miss the Pugh's wine bar, Le Terrass de Mimosa, in Montpeyroux. Great collection of local wines, excellent and reasonable food, a lunch hang-out for local winemakers. Recommend that you read Virgile's Vineyard http://www.amazon.com/Virgiles-Vineya... by Patrick Moon who reports on his year spent in this area.

      Parigi, would you recommend including a night or two at Le Mas de la Madeleine as a sigue from Languedoc to the Ardeche?

      (FWIW, We will return to Hotel Faurie in March. Totally agree with Parigi. It is a singular place.)

      6 Replies
      1. re: mangeur

        Any excuse to stop at Mas de la Madeleine is good. :-)
        It is about a 2 hour drive south of St Agrève.
        MdM, with the farm-fresh food, the lovely garden, the Medieval town of Largentière down the hill (walkable), is great for a one-night stand.
        Arles as a base does offer more to do, as well as a bigger choice of eateries.
        But personally I would not go for a large number of bases within a short distance. I despise but despise packing unpacking.

        1. re: Parigi

          "Arles as a base does offer more to do, as well as a bigger choice of eateries.
          But personally I would not go for a large number of bases within a short distance. I despise but despise packing unpacking."

          Dissenting slightly from Parigi's recommendation, we find that two night stands offer us the stability of a home base and also the opportunity to meet more local people. We stay in chambre d'hotes or "restaurants with rooms" rather than hotels, finding these small, often private lodgings more personal although never smothering. Also, by staying out in the country or in villages, we avoid the sense of urban traffic and potential problems with parking.

          Once at a stop, we don't bother to unpack other than daily needs and toiletries. . We leave one piece of luggage at our hotel in Paris, edit our wardrobes to a minimum and schlep only one shared 24" roller-bag to the country. Each of us takes a carry on. And that's the extent of our luggage for out-of-town jaunts. Most of ours range from one to slightly over two weeks.

          1. re: mangeur

            I agree with your concept of 2 night stands. This is what we did last summer in the Basque and it was a good strategy. Like how you can meet more local people, as you say, and also prefer to stay more in the countryside than in a city. I think we're going to rent a car - which tends to mitigate the packing-unpacking slog since you can just leave a bunch of stuff in the trunk. Also, is always relaxing to sleep where you eat!

        2. re: mangeur

          I am adding a dinner spot to the St. Guiraud/Gignac area, one that could be easily accessed from the Mimosa hotel in St. Saturnin.

          The Mas Cambounet is the collaboration of Fabienne Perret (chef) and Jean-Charles Thibault (winemaker). Their country dining room is located a couple of km east of Gignac, just south of the freeway. Jean-Charles acts as the most gracious host and serves the dining room with warmth and soul. The cooking is astonishingly sophisticated for this hidden-in-the-woods auberge. Very unfortunately, they no longer offer rooms, but their food and wine stand on their own merit. http://www.mas-cambounet.com/

          The following meal was in April 2011 when they were still offering chambre d'hote. The room, 2 breakfasts, 2 dinners paired with wine cost 169€.

          Today, all of their focus is on food and wine.

          1. re: mangeur

            Thank you for this! My husband went to Le Tractor a couple of years ago with his parents and is eager to return so we'll definitely be going there.
            Love the Hotel Faurie's website - so clever to hold something back, create a little mystery.

            1. re: mangeur

              OK, we gladly give up. Inspired by this thread and especially mangeur's recs (including Patrick Moon's beautifully written book that she mentions -- as well as his follow-up book, "Arrazat's Aubergines, Inside a Languedoc Kitchen" -- we will fill about two weeks in Sept in this general area, two and three night stands. Now the fun part, to plan the route. In addition to the excellent sounding places to stay and dine, we'd be particularly interested in recs concerning local prehistory caves for visiting. -- Jake

            2. A very interesting threat which I shall piggy back on as I'd be very interested to hear of some places in the region, and of anywhere in Montpellier itself.

              1. A bit north of the coast is a great little town called Uzes. Great saturday market, wonderful town.

                1. You must have found this favorite thread of mine already. If not, hope it's useful.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Parigi

                    Yes, that's a favorite of ours too!

                  2. Without taking you (or this thread) too far afield, I should mention an extraordinary sidetrip. Starting at Gignan, and driving up across the Millau viaduct, maybe an hour northwest is St. Urcize and adorable Hotel Remise. The hotel itself is the village social center: restaurant, bar, tabac. Simple rooms, warm hospitality. But...just down the street the same owners have an upscale chambre d'hote with vast and sumptuous rooms. We stayed two nights, taking a ride over to Conques one day, marveling at the fields of wild daffodils and later dandylions that make up the Aubrac countryside in the spring.

                    If you feel like a little splurge, you can book and drive 20km to Laguiole for lunch at Michel Bras. While the rooms at Bras are noteworthy, I personally think they lack the charm and soul that you'll find at the Remise chambre d'hote.

                    From St. Urcize you can return to the Languedoc/Gard driving east to Florac and down the Corniche or to Mende and smaller roads down to St. Ambroix and Barjac.

                    If Barjac, there is a superb chambre d'hote, La Serenite. Ultra chic and generous hostess, sumptuous rooms and breakfast. So-so dinner opportunities in the picturesque upscale village.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: mangeur

                      Mangeur -- Michel Bras is a definite temptation, and as long as we can get a reservation we'll try to go! Is lunch or dinner better?

                      I've started a new thread about that leg of the journey and onto the Ardèche here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/830666

                      1. re: johannabanana

                        I don't believe that there is a lunch and dinner menu, only one, although I may stand corrected. An advantage of lunch is the daytime view from the dining room.

                    2. We go to this area often, and my recommendations are:

                      Sel et Poivre in Sete - lovely tiny restaurant a bit off the beaten track. Really good food.

                      If you would rather go to somewhere less busy than Sete, you could try the villages on the lagoon, like Bouzigues and Meze - lots of seafood places, and, if you're not going for one of the recommendations, it's probably better taking a chance with one of the restaurants in these villages, than walking into one of the ones on the main canal in Sete - there are quite a few duds along there.

                      Another vote for Le Mimosa - really good, pretty much perfect food.

                      Le Petit Somelier in Lodeve, just up the road from Le Mimosa on the other side of the motorway - very French local bistro-type place, but quite refined too.

                      L'Ochre Rouge in Herepian, near Bedarieux - very good - supposed to be one of the best in the region.

                      Les Marroniers in Lamalou-les-Bains - just changed hands, but still seems to be maintaining the high standards and the same formula as the previous owner. Insanely good value prix fixe menu of 14 Euro, and amazing daube of beef. Love going here for lunch after having oysters and a glass of Picpoul de Pinet for a late breakfast at the Tuesday market down the road.

                      L'Auberge de Combes - in the mountains above Lamalou - amazing views and good food - a mixture of traditional and more "fine dining" type stuff.

                      Relais Chantovent, Minerve - lovely food and terrace in a tiny village in the Minervois wine country.

                      Compagnie des Comptoirs in Beziers - has changed hands from the previous owners, the Pourcel brothers, but still serves good food. Worth going to if you are in the city and not wanting to go to either of the Michelin-starred places.

                      Cosy Wine in Nimes - never had a bad meal here, and it is usually excellent and great value. They serve dishes a bit different to the norm, with influences from other countries and continents.

                      If I can think of anymore, I'll get back to you. Have fun and do let us know how the trip goes.

                      11 Replies
                      1. re: Theresa

                        Excellent additions to this thread, Theresa.

                        I'm adding another charming spot northwest of Montpellier: La Auberge de Saugres
                        http://aubergedesaugras.fr/ Hidden on a winding road between Viols-le-Fort and Vialhauques (only a few km south of Viols), this ancient stone inn serves excellent food in a charming dining room or outdoors in season and offers simple but comfortable rooms. Lovely service. When we were there, we were the only tourists, the others all locals enjoying an upscale meal out.

                        1. re: Theresa

                          Theresa, your reply goes into my archive in its entirety. Merci.
                          And I have always loved Bouzigues.

                          1. re: Theresa

                            Theresa, Thanks. Re your comment, "somewhere less busy than Sete, you could try the villages on the lagoon, like Bouzigues and Meze" -- both places look like good alternatives to me, and are in line with what we are looking for for this area. (Sete looks great to visit for lunch, and I see that L'Entonnoir is recommended not only by parigi but also by ptipois -- see http://www.ptipois.com/archives/2009/...) My question: Does anyone have a nice small family-run hotel/restaurant combo recommendation for either place (Bouzigues or Meze) or similar places nearby on the "Bassin de Thau"? We have not yet found a nice place to stay in this area. -- Jake

                            1. re: Jake Dear

                              I don't know about hotels, and I have not eaten in either of these places, but the following in Bouzigues get good reviews: Les Jardins de la Mer (a familly run shack-type place) and Le Grand Bleu. I keep meaning to get there and try them.

                              In Meze, we have eaten at Le Coquillou several times, and enjoyed it, but I'm not sure that it's much more than just "reliable", and we haven't been for a while. As with most places round there, it's good for seafood and shell fish.

                              Marseillan is another place on the Lagoon you may want to consider and is also lovely, especially on the harbour. Marseillan Plage is not very nice - the beach is fine, but it is just a beach-goers offshoot of the old village. We haven't eaten there for years, but we remember Le Jardin du Naris being good - a slightly quirky place, serving tagines and other dishes different to the norm, with a lovely garden/yard at the back.

                              Agde is worth a visit. I'm not sure about the quality of the restaurants along the river, but it is lovely sitting on their terraces with a drink in the evening sun - the River Herault is very pretty. There is a restaurant we went to after a recommendation which we really enjoyed - maybe more for the overall experience than the food - although that was mostly good. It's called Lou Pescadou, and they serve(d) a five course menu for 15 euros. First a whole pate is brought to your table and you help yourself to as much as you want - it is the kind I really like - coarse and rustic. Then they bring round a tureen of fish soup - this is tasty enough, and I liked it, but aficionados of fish soup may find it disappointing. Then the Mussels came - they were very fresh, but were served in a disappointing bland ratatouille-type soupy stew. The main meal is a choice of either fish of the day or a meat dish, and was very good - lovely fish, simply prepared. Then there's a pudding. I really loved it. There are probably better places, but it was a great atmosphere, very crowded and full of locals. Amazing value, even if one or two of the courses weren't up to much.

                              1. re: Theresa

                                Theresa, thanks for this, we will put it to good use. I especially like the look of Bouzigues, and hope to check out Les Jardins de la Mer and /or Le Grand Bleu. --Jake

                            2. re: Theresa

                              Another thanks from me, Theresa. We'll be going to that area in mid-June and it's always wonderful to have some first-hand opinions to draw on.

                              1. re: zuriga1

                                You'll love it there - where will you be staying? The area gets so little attention on these boards that it's good to know other regular Chowhounders will be spending some time there, hopefully making new discoveries... :o)

                              2. re: Theresa

                                I've just remembered that there is a really nice wine bar in Bedarieux which serves French style tapas, platters of local charcuterie, black pudding, pate etc. and I think they now do the odd hot dish, but I'm not sure. She takes a lot of pride in her wine selection. It's called Chai Christine Cannac and is in a tiny square in front of the town hall at the end of the main shopping street. It's perfect for a light lunch or for an evening meal/snack if you've had a heavy lunch.

                                1. re: Theresa

                                  Theresa -- Have you been to La Coquerie in Sète? The Le Fooding write-up and the restaurant's website make it look most enticing!

                                  1. re: johannabanana

                                    No I haven't. The first couple of times we went, we ate in one or two of the restaurants on the main canal, which weren't very good. We've eaten a few times at La Palangrotte, which was lovely, but we haven't been for some years now. And the meal we had in the restaurant in the Grand Hotel was very good too. As I said, Sel et Poivre is our current favourite.

                                    1. re: Theresa

                                      Thank you again everyone! We had a great time Here's the report:

                                2. A new recommendation from me - La Cave St Martin in Roquebrun.

                                  It's a wine bar/restaurant serving a mixture of platters and main courses. They specialise in Spanish charcuterie (and really high quality stuff too) and the meals on the specials board are different to the norm and excellent too.

                                  Their wines are also great and they have some very nice cider and beers - really special. Four of us paid 106 Euro for a meat platter to share, four main courses, three puddings, a bottle of wine, a large bottle of beer (enough for three people) and a cider. Very good value, excellent oooking, quality ingredients and lovely people.

                                  They also serve food all day (during high season anyway - not sure if they do outside peak times) which is rare in rural France - so you can have lunch at 3pm if you don't fancy the rush to get to a restaurant by 12.30!