Domaine de Cazeneuve, 34270 Lauret 04 67 59 02 02
Cost for two: 100 €. Many visits
First the logistics. Unless you stay here you can only eat in the restaurant at weekends and bank holidays when the simple set menu is supplemented by an enticing carte. As a setting it's a fairytale - patio, views, gardens, a hidden pool. The food, served in a glorious orangerie or on the terrace, is up to date and tasty using local ingredient such as beef from the hidden valley near Saint Jean de Bueges. Local wine is a passion with matured bottles from the cream of the region at reasonable prices. By the glass aperitifs cover all styles and are not to be missed at either end of your meal. There's something to enchant everyone from gourmet to family - this is somewhere you can hide away from the outside world and dream.
Check all the details on their informative web site Auberge du Cedre.
Hotel Le Guilhaume d'Orange, 34150 Saint Guilhem le Désert, 04 67 57 24 53
Cost for two: 65 € (lunch). May 2013 and previous visits
This famous village wedged in a limestone valley is one of the big Languedoc attractions and an unlikely hunting ground for a good meal. A tip off from our wine merchant friends the Berry's (see Vins Fins de la Crau) brought us here. Overlooking the gorges of the Hérault, there are tables outside and the service delivers an unpretentious family run atmosphere. The simple food is generally done well. Entrecote came with aubergine and, unusually for France, parsnip. The short wine list is superb value for nearby big names such as Moncalmes and Les Terrasses d’Elise.
♥♥ de Lauzun
3 bd de l’Esplanade, 34150 Gignac 04 67 57 50 83
Cost for two: 130 €. June 2015 and many visits
Young local chef Matthieu de Lauzun is now well established in his first restaurant following some serious cooking experience across France. The dishes are refined and befit the more urban than country feel of the tastefully refurbished dining room. Perfectly executed chicken croquettes come with carrots presented three ways. 24-hour cooked belly of pork is melt in the mouth and desserts get equal care in preparation. Tuna and razor fish that included fresh pea puree was a triumph. The cooking manages sophistication without competing flavours. The wine list offers plenty of good value if you avoid the big names - Mas Gabriel, Mas d'Agalis and La Reserve d'O are all excellent local stars of the future.
23 Place de l'Horloge, 34150 Montpeyroux 04 67 44 49 80
Cost for two: 60 € lunch, 75 € dinner. Apr 2015 + Many visits
Web La Terrasse du Mimosa
Now a Montpeyroux institution this excellent wine bar and caviste has been in the hands of Clotaire Gaillard for several seasons. Exciting new chef in 2015 has brought new levels of refinement. The lunch menu is one of the the best deals on this site, and for dinner the formula is flexible. The finest local wines at all price points are listed (and available to purchase) plus there's always a good selection by the glass. With a fixed "doite de bouchon" charge this is somewhere to indulge in more expensive bottles
D6 (Le Village), 34800 Mourèze 04 67 88 77 26
Cost for two: 40 € lunch. September 2015
Web L'Ami Paradis (Facebook page)
New owners took over this delightful rock garden of a site in 2014. For lunch expect light fresh cooking with two courses and coffee, a bargain €14 or so. Dinner is less ambitious and often features entertainment. Open all day as a café selling artisan ice creams and an épicerie.
Short wine list offers near caviste prices - my recommendation is a Domaine Ribiera. Note seasonal opening times so check before making a journey. Finally leave time for a wander behind the village to marvel at the dolomitic rock formations.
1 chemin du Cimetière Marin, 34200 Sète 06 47 06 71 38
Cost for two: 180 €. May 2012 and October 2011
Anne Majourel was at the stoves for 20 years at the Ranquet in the Gard (near Anduze) - we were a fan. In Sete she has created a layout to interact with her diners – half the already small dining area is the kitchen. Anne cooks and often serves the dishes to personally explain them.
The menu offers no choice and changes daily according to the ingredients, especially fish, she buys at Les Halles. Plats might include filleted red mullet layered around a slice of hot foie gras or loin of sea bass from a large wild fish with sun tomatoes and basil. For dessert, baked local pear with a verbena sablé and a glace of quince and rosemary. The dishes aren’t over elaborate and rely on herbs for seasoning and to accentuate freshness.
Husband Jean-Luc acts as sommelier and the wine list appears to be a short selection of organic regional wines and sadly the prices mount quickly.
Route de Villeveyrac, 34530 Montagnac 04 67 24 36 10
Cost for two: 65 € (lunch). September 2013
New openings in the past 6+ years have been rare. Côté Mas is brand new in every sense with a restaurant atop a wine showroom for Paul Mas's extensive range. It all feels spacious with nice high ceilings and some views to match. Midweek lunch was busy with the 19/26 € menu for 2/3 courses including a glass of wine the pull.
Dishes were simple and well done - tartare of tuna with a wasabi cream, fricassée of rabbit in a sweet fresh tomato sauce and chocolate mousse flan with pear sorbet. Wine is a showcase for Paul Mas with a highly commendable shelf price plus 5 € corkage.
The service can be inconsistent and for some reason we've never seen the extensive outside terrace in use.
Vinipolis, 5 av. des Vendanges, 34510 Florensac 04 67 77 03 05
Cost for two: 50 €. May 2014 + previous visits
Local chef legend Jean-Claude Fabre has helped establish this new venture in the modern building behind the local wine cooperative. Sunday lunch was packed with locals but service purred along impressively. For 20€ you get three courses that included succulent spit roast shoulder of lamb with delicious penne pasta and a sensational rice pudding with raspberries and orange. While the dishes do rely heavily on advanced preparation and it seems the catering is on a canteen scale, this was a masterclass on what can be achieved. With the acceptable co-op wine available at near cellar door prices the package is near unbeatable.
Barrage des olivettes, 34320 Vailhan 04 67 24 76 49
Cost for two: 80 €. May 2013 and previous visits
Small (booking essential) family run establishment in the hilly oak forested hinterland north of Pézenas. The dining room and attractive terrace offers a spectacular view. New owners in 2012 have sharpended up the cooking but still offer good value; this is a perennial favorite with many of our friends. Watch out for Mas Gabriel wines.
12 rue Boieldieu, 34500 Beziers 04 67 49 90 00
Cost for two: 130 € (weekday lunch 70 €). October 2015 + many visits
Sited just off the main promenade Allee Paul Riquet, Octopus has been delivering benchmark contemporary cooking to the region since spring 2005. Clean tasting and carefully prepared dishes from good ingredients are the hallmark - creative but sound. Red mullet with its liver on toast and soupions bolognaise was a sensation, as was Riz de Veau on multi-textured artichoke.
A set lunch that includes a glass of wine and coffee is one of the best RQP bargains we know but the four, six or eight course menu is well worth the extra. The dining room was redocorated in 2013, and there's a delightful fine weather courtyard.
12 place de la Croix, 34600 Hérépian 04 67 95 06 93
Cost for two: 80 €. April 2013 + previous visits
Set in the heart of the village L'Ocre Rouge offers a cool vaulted dining room that's the setting for the hands on cooking of Thierry Deloulay. Locally sourced ingredients, such as duck from Carlencas, are prepared with care and skill. Keep it simple may be an overworked term, but here you'll find the perfect execution. Short list of well chosen and keenly priced local wines. Much more than just a fine address in a dining out desert. New for 2012 are terrific reasonably priced rooms with breakfast to the standard of the restaurant i.e. stunning.
6 Quai des Negociants, 11200 Homps 04 68 91 23 16
Cost for two: 90 € (dinner). May 2013 + many visits
Right on the quay of the canal de Midi at Homps, En Bonne Companie already has a strong international following - they were virtually full one Monday night dinner. Craig Charlesworth has cooked in the best kitchens London has to offer and it shows. Classics such as hot fois gras with lentils, roast Guinea Fowl and sea bass with lobster sauce are done to perfection. Lovely to witness freshly cooked vegetables. Spectacular new dining space opened in 2011 has increased indoor dining capacity - go come rain or shine. Opening is seasonal so check www.in-good-company.com first.
♥♥ Vieux Pont
By the bridge, 12390 Belcastel, near Rodez 05 65 64 52 29
Cost for two: 160 €. October 2015 + many visits
Belcastel is an idyllic village in a steep valley. Vieux Pont has very much a family run atmosphere and offers some inspired cooking using imaginative local and international ingredients. When you get fed up with the myriad of establishment that just don't try hard enough in France these days then come here. Their rooms in a converted mill 30 yards across the pack horse bridge have all mod cons and breakfast is a delight. Worth the journey from the Languedoc.