1. Hotel Residence, Nissan-lez-Enserune: Chef/Owner Philippe SANS is just one heckuva cook. The new dining room doesn't have the country/funky ambiance of the original but that's Bernadette for you, always looking to decorate. And yes, it's a bit more pricey than when they were building an audience. But it's about the food, isn't it. The website pictures a chef other than Philippe. We'll investigate.
2. Le Patio, Nissan-lez-Enserune: Also owned by the SANS', a delightful little place, less expensive than the Hotel Residence, to take lunch or dinner with friends. Fresh ingredients, well-prepared and thoughtfully presented. In good weather, dine on the patio.
3. Le Provence , Capestang: Another of those local joints with a charming patio. The menu includes an earthy seafood soup for the brave, lots of appetizers and entrees to choose from, and personal pizzas from a wood-fired oven (try the one with foies-gras).
4. Le Terminus, between the towns of Cruzy and Quarante: This is a recent find, recommended to us by our Brit friend Miles. New young owners have turned this former train station out in the country into a perfect spot to enjoy a couple of hours in the sun sampling authentic country cooking. The 12 euro luncheon special of two years ago is now 16 euros. So it goes.
5. Le Mewen, Narbonne: A couple of blocks from Les Halles, Narbonne’s comprehensive and fascinating covered market, Le Mewen is an old-fashioned creperie without frills serving both sweet and savory concoctions. Try the apple cider instead of wine. If you'd rather eat in Les Halles, you can't beat the tapas bar.
6. L'Auberge de la Croisade, on the Canal du Midi, between Quarante and Ouveillan: This upscale restaurant is our special place along with the Hotel Residence. Your host Bruno is multi-lingual, full of energetic hospitality, and the food is to die for. There are those who say that the menu has grown a bit lazy, but we don’t visit often enough to notice.
7. Hotel Jalabert, Ouveillan: This place is definitely NOT for everyone. A funky old restaurant in a backwater hotel with exactly zero ambience, the feisty old Madame will serve what she wants, when she wants. Service is family style. Madame has a heart of gold, though, even if she’s missing most of her teeth; she’ll take the time to cut the meat into bite-sized pieces for the ancient villagers who have been her customers since the year the cow had a two-headed calf. We love it. You’re likely to think I’m crazy.
Abbaye Sylva Plana: Cute tapas place attached to a winery on the outskirts of Laurens. Modern décor. Good food. Reasonable prices for the quality except for the wine. (Restaurant wine in bottles is always too expensive when perfectly acceptable wine is sold in supermarkets for 3 Euros or so. Rant over.) Cathey had the tapas menu, choice of three – a mini Mason jar with a seafood soup that was pure New Orleans crawfishy, marinated mushrooms, and peppers stuffed with the best bacalao that Cathey has ever tasted. I had a superb duck breast and finished with a nasty chocolate lava cake with whipped cream. Worth another visit.
Auberge de St.Martin: Fine dining on a tree-shaded patio or in a formal dining room in Beaufort outside of Olonzac. We were treated for lunch by Simon and Julia along with their Australian friends from Capestang. Beautiful setting. Comprehensive menu. Most of the party chose the Menu Terroir at 23 Euros – choice of sardines or soup, trout or lamb, and a hefty variety of interesting desserts. Cathey chose the Menu du Jour, sardines to start, prepared differently than ours, followed by artichokes stuffed with foie gras. All started with a tiny sip of fish soup for an amusee. All prepared and presented impeccably. Much of the cooking done on an open fire fueled by the wood of grape vines. A destination restaurant to which we'll return.