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Jun 24, 2012 10:15 PM

Two Gems in the Languedoc

Our standout meals last week in this region were Tantine & Ton Ton in Limoux and L'Hostellerie de Pomerade near Castlenaudary. Both dinners were wonderful, and the former was a real surprise as the dining room is far from impressive. The chef is inventive and they are very generous with extra, free desserts and starters.

L'Entre Pot in Pezenas was also extremely fine cooking and a bit more down to earth and delicious was Les Palmiers - a place not to miss in this town if staying more than one night.

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  1. My standout meal was Le 5ème Péché in Collioure, a very fine and light Japanese Catalan take.
    The second standout, LOL, was the traiteur inside the indoors fish market on the northern tip of the port area of Port-Vendres, Côte Catalane. It whips up a helle of a seafood Fideua several times a day. I love fideua and have noticed it is actually not easy to find a good one even up and down the Catalan coast. Here is one that can match the best that one can find in a Barcelona market.
    The poissonnerie also has an oyster bar that serves a wonderful Bouzigues oyster plate for 6.40 euro for half a dozen.

    Had a curious experience at L'entonnoir in Sète.
    First of all, the 06 number given by lefooding is no longer valid. In fact it is the cel number of a "former associate", who really does not like being called at that number day and night. Who can blame her? Do not call that number unless you want to learn the kind of French vocab that you normally are not exposed to in a French language class.
    We finally verified witht he office du tourisme of Sète to get the correct number, which I have not written down, sorriest.
    Food. Still very good, just as other hounds have recommended. But the service was spitefully bad. We did not even get the opportunity to complain to the waitress because she was too busy fielding complaints from several other tables.
    Conclusion: very good food. Sloooooow; nearly 2 hours for a one main-dish meal, even when the place was - should I be surprised? - half empty. An check your fish when it arrives at the table. The waitress, after taking so long that both the diners and the kitchen keep calling after her, seems to mix up dishes on a regular basis.
    With the telephone number mixup and this service problem, L'Entoinnoir seems to be going through a none-too-smooth staff transition. Hope it gets back on track soon.

    In Bouzigues, Rive de Thau (old name "Chez Pierrot") is a oyster-grower and restaurant that serves very good seafood platters and decent simple grilled fish dishes. Must reserve. Even as many of the other étang-front restaurants stood half-empty, this one was turning people away.

    And thank hounds for the many recommendations that we have put to good use.

    12 Replies
    1. re: Parigi

      You're making me feel a bit glad we skipped L'Entoinnoir. Our B&B owner recommended a place in Marseillon, but it was closed for lunch when we arrived. It was the only bit of rain we encountered, so I wasn't too unhappy about what occured.

      We didn't go to Collioure, but maybe next time. I will bookmark your tips!

      1. re: zuriga1

        Marseillan is a lovely port. Which resto did your b&b owner recommend? Ours (we spent a night in Pèzenas) recommended Chez Philippe.

        A non-food aside: chanced upon the wonderful Molière festival in Pèzenas. Half the town was in costumes, and every village square, and even a few medieval and Renaissance courtyards, had performance of play excerpts. And musketeers and marauding solders filled the narrow streets chatting up wenches. Overheard, in the old town, one lost musketeer telling the other two who were not only lost but even managed to have their weapons entangled with overhead electricity wires: merde, we ain't going to win any war if we can't find our way around here.

        I do hope l'Entonnoir was just off that day or was going through a phase. The food was quite good. The kitchen seemed as frustrated as - if not more so than - we were.

        Nearly forgot. (But how o how can one forget…) the Rabanel temple in Arles. Excellent execution of a somewhat seafood-focused (but not exclusive) menu. I could do with less of all that theatrical preamble protocol. Luckily this was amply counterbalanced by the very warm and informative staff, including the sommelier who turned us on to a great complex white I, admittedly wine-igorant, had never heard of: Costières de Nîmes. Loved loved loved this chameleon wine that went well with ten dishes of such different tastes and great inventiveness, including a couple of dishes with that aigre-doux note that I had always found so difficult to wine-pair.

        1. re: Parigi

          Wow - we probably walked by you in Pezenas. We were there for three nights starting on the 18th. I can't remember the name of the Marseillon restaurant. It was the only one that was closed! I had some nice grilled gambas at another place so it wasn't a lost cause.

          I've been to Arles back in my old life but we didn't get there on our last Provence trip, which was quite awhile ago now. We couldn't get over the amount of vines stretching from Toulouse to Pezenas and beyond. One great lunch we had was in Minerve.. overlooking the huge gorge and on a terrace with a view. We also had a lunch in Homps while watching boats on the Canal. It was only fair.

          1. re: zuriga1

            We must stop this mutual stalking. :-)

            1. re: Parigi

              The moderators will see to that. :-)

          2. re: Parigi

            One last incontournable address in Collioure, ice cream from Olivier Bajard, one of the best I have tasted, ever. He also makes an award-winning macaron, which I kept saying I would try, then I szw the ice cream and invariably became weak at the knees and did foolish things.

            1. re: Parigi

              I've always wanted to visit Collioure and now living in the UK makes it much more possible. We had some wonderful ice cream on our trip, too. It seems to be part of so many desserts now.

        2. re: Parigi

          Parigi, We are glad to hear that Le 5ème Péché is as good as it was for us in the fall of 2010. Also in Collioure, we liked the fish specialist, Casa Leon, 2 rue Riere (I still recall the excellent turbot). And thanks for the recommendation in Bouzigues, Rive de Thau (old name "Chez Pierrot") -- it goes on our list for this Sept. -- Jake

          1. re: Jake Dear

            Rive de Thau is not sophisticated like Le 5ème Péché. It is an oyster grower who runs a rseto serving fresh fish, grilled. There are two dozen such clones on the waterfront. This is a good one.

            1. re: Parigi

              Got it, and this is just what we will want as we drive around the lagoon; we will be in Bouzigue for lunch, then back to Sete for dinner that night.

              1. re: Jake Dear

                Don't o don't miss the tielle from Paradiso at 11, quai de la Résistance in Sète. With a name like that - it's a takeout - you know they put their money anywhere but in the marketing. Paradiso was closed for holiday when we were in Sète. How dare they?
                Supermarkets all over France now sell some kind of tielle. But if those are tielles, we need a new name for what Paradiso makes.

        3. Thanks for the report - we've often struggled to find somewhere decent in Pezenas (since our favourite Apres le Deluge closed down), and I have been meaning to try L'Entre Pot for ages. Les Palmiers sounds good too.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Theresa

            Theresa, we were really lucky to have a very knowledgeable B&B owner to give us (and the other guests) terrific advice. The hot spot these days seems to me Le Pre Jean, which is around the corner from L'Entre Pot. We didn't have enough days to get there. Les Palmiers was enjoyed by everyone who tried it. The atmosphere is bustling (get there early for a table) and very understated, but the food was wonderful. If you need a place to stay in Pezenas, email me and I'll be happy to give you the name of our B&B. It was fantastic and a good location.

            Avoid a tapas place in town.. begins with an 'M.' The food there was very so-so.

          2. Since this thread seems to range all along the Catalan coast I'll tell you about where we ate on our trip there is week.
            La Littorine in Banyuls sur Mer is a delight. The dining room overlooks a beach so the views are great. I had a starter of marinated baby mackerel & my wife one of fresh sardines both excellent. The main (& the restaurant's signature dish) Seared tuna topped by seared foie gras. Absolutely delicious. Beautifully done & artistically arranged vegetables accompanied the dish. Dessert was a cold custard like concoction with fresh lightly poached apricots.
            A bottle of a delightful local white wine from Chateau Les Pins in Baixas went down very well with the meal.

            We also ate in a nice little place near the center of Banyuls, but I can't remember the name. Very unpretentious, but nice. I had a very well made bowl of gazpacho followed by calamari. She had Serrano jambon a la plancha which was both good & copious followed by grilled cod. Creame Catalan for madam & manchego with fig paste for me. Again, a nice light white wine went with the meal. 51€ for the works. Pas Mal!

            4 Replies
            1. re: Yank

              I realize this is a somewhat general question, but how far in advance should reservations be made for mid-September? Thanks. I am particularly interested in le 5eme peche (collioure) and tantine et ton ton (limoux).

              1. re: degustazione

                5ème Péché. We reserved a few days in advance, early in the week for later in the week. That was mid June, which, in terms of crowd situation, should be comparable to mid September.

                1. re: degustazione

                  Our B&B owner got a reservation at Tantine & Ton Ton the day before we ate there. I don't think you'd have any problem at all in mid-September. I think, despite the fantastic food, that the restaurant lacks for visitors - quite sad. Perhaps the economy is hitting that area with a lack of the usual tourists. People eat quite late - perhaps 8 or even 9.

                  1. re: zuriga1

                    "People eat quite late - perhaps 8 or even 9."
                    That's not late for France.
                    And it's downright geezer early-bird dinner time for Spain.

              2. I have to concur re: La Pomarede. We happened upon La Pomarede enroute "home" from the Revel mkt last week made a reservation for lunch after the Revel mkt. this week. Three hours later we waddled back home to the Avignonet area...excellent service, wonderful flavors using local resources, a wine list that would do Paris proud, and a bill that was a fraction of what we expected. #2 Oysters, fleurs de Courgettes stuffed with Pieds de Porc, rare pigonneaux on rounds of canteloupe and boudin noire, extensive local cheeses, and decadent desserts (my abricot on caramel was fabulous, husband had chocolate every which way), amuse bouches too numerous to mention, and a 2005 Bordeaux...we skipped dinner! Hostellerie and rest. are in a refurbished Cathar ruin. Terrace setting overlooks the Lauragais countryside if the weather permits. Chef holds one M. star (we didn't realize this on booking, but agree he deserves it!)

                1. I thought I'd add a new gem in the region to this thread - L'Ortensia is a restaurant and "boutique" hotel which has just opened in St Gervais sur Mare, a village near Bedarieux in Herault, which we visit several times a year.

                  It is a "fine dining" place, serving menus ranging in price from €29 to €60 for three or four course meals. They sometimes have a cheaper no-choice menu at €22/23 at lunch times. I'm not sure if the €29 menu is available in the evenings or lunch time only, as their website isn't fully up and running yet.

                  The business has been set up by five local communes and they seem to be taking it very seriously. Eric Balan is the chef, and he apparently trained with/worked for Alain Ducasse.

                  The area is heart-breakingly beautiful, and views from the restaurant and terrace are stunning - looking across the village and mountains.

                  We had the €22 menu which was on offer that day, and it was pretty near perfect.

                  They brought us some delicious pastry straws and salmon mousse on tiny toasts to go with the aperitifs. A fairly substantial amuse bouche of wild boar and chestnut terrine followed - this was excellent.

                  There was a choice of three types of their own bread - I had the one made with potato flour, which had great flavour and texture.

                  The starter was artichoke soup with radish, spring onions and croutons. Really smooth, with great tastes and textures. The main was veal parmentier (posh cottage pie...). This is something I would not have ordered if there had been a choice, but it was absolutely gorgeous the chopped veal had real depth of flavour and the potato topping was rich and satisfying. This came with a green salad of mizuna, which complimented the dish perfectly.

                  Pudding was a chocolate mousse and a pistacchio creme brulee - both very good indeed.

                  The menu price included coffee and a glass of wine each (and their interpretation of a glass of wine was pretty generous). We left having paid €27/28 a head, including wine, coffee, water, one kir royale and a tip - an absolute bargain if you ask me. Portions were not large, but we had all eaten enough when we left (and the group included two men who can shift their food). This rave review is only based on one meal, but our friends have been several times, with only one slight miss on all of those occasions (and that was on their second day of business).

                  It's a difficult time to be opening restaurants with this much ambition in a little-known village - so I wish them all the best. If you're in the area, do give it a try - but I have to declare a vested interest in it staying open - it is literally yards from where our house is, and if they continue to deliver food of this standard, I wouldn't mind it being our local for many years to come.


                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Theresa

                    Thanks for this, Theresa. We love being able to stay where we dine. Next year...