My new friend, Sue Style, writes a singularly tempting food blog – www.suestyle.com and was lamenting the dearth of decent restaurants and good food in the Languedoc, when she came by on a recent visit. However there are two addresses that I would happily recommend to her.
L’Auberge du Presbytère in Vailhan
This little restaurant changed hands earlier this year and is now run by a young couple who are charming and enthusiastic. And Madame was an interior designer in a previous life and has significantly improved the décor and lighting. They keep the menu simple, a choice of three dishes per course, and the wine list is also small and pretty local. I was there last Monday with a friend; we had the most delicious mussel and leek concoction – it was a bit more solid than a soup – followed some succulent pork from a pata negra pig, while my husband enjoyed some roast monkfish. And to drink we enjoyed le Blanc 2011 from Turner Pageot, a blend of Marsanne and Roussanne, which was subtly rounded with elegant fruit, followed by a wine from an estate that is new to me, Le Mas de Mon Père at Arzens near Carcassonne. Comme Toujours, is a blend of Syrah and Grenache, made with minimal sulphur dioxide, with some lovely fresh spicy fruit. It went deliciously with both pork and monkfish.
And at lunch time yesterday we tried Côté Mas, the new restaurant attached to domaine Paul Mas, on the route de Villeveyrac outside Montagnac. The restaurant is light and airy, and there are two terraces for fine weather. But autumn is coming in the Languedoc, so we were inside. Again a short menu, on a blackboard, a choice of three or four dishes per course. Jean-Claude Mas was around to explain that he had found a talented young chef, who had already worked in various top restaurants both in France and Japan, and there was indeed an oriental touch to his dishes. I had a delicious pumpkin soup, garnished with a frothy mousse and an appetising piece of boudin noir, and for my main course a delicious salad of fresh leaves, while my friends enjoyed some cod with a tasty risotto on the side, and some cheese followed. The list is naturally based on the wines from Domaines Paul Mas, but these include estates in Limoux and the Terrasses du Larzac, as well as more popular brands such as the arrogant Frog. So we drank a Mauzac Limoux from Domaine Martinolles, which was fresh and understated and Alexaume from Domaine Crès-Ricards, a blend of merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignan and Syrah, ICP Mont Baudile, which was rounded and spicy with a touch of tapenade.
Sue, please do come back and try them