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Tuesday 23 July 2013

Best Languedoc Restaurant in the Summer - L’Auberge du Presbytère

L’Auberge du Presbytère is a gourmet French restaurant not far from the village of Vailhan, at the centre of the Herault department. The restaurant overlooks the lower lake of the Barrage (dam) des Olivettes and from the terrace you have a spectacular panoramic view of the Massif Viel Castel.

The produce is always fresh and mostly local, and the chef Baptiste uses seasonal produce in imaginative and delicate ways. Saffron, basil, red quinoa, green beans, celeriac and courgette feature alongside delicious meats and fish.

They offer a selection of fine goats cheese from the Mas Rolland farm very close by in Montesquieu as well as a seasonal cheese selection; both accompanied by sucrine lettuce and hazelnut oil. Wild peach, blueberries, redcurrants and prunes are used in a range of inventive desserts and they serve an extensive list of regional wines.

Baptiste and Marine manage to maintain simplicity whilst introducing many different flavours to their dishes. It works; the salmon Carpaccio was perfectly cut and served fresh without seasoning, allowing the anchovy and parmesan sauce (served artistically beside the fish) to complement but not overpower it. The saffron sauce was full of flavour and the light, succulent courgette added refreshment to the dish. The end result was a truly flavoursome and fresh.

Their presentation is smart and simple, yet not too refined (portion sizes are spot on). Spiralled metal chairs and a simple green and white colour scheme fit effortlessly with the historical beauty of the church and the abundance of greenery surrounding it.

We arrived as the sun was beginning to set behind the mountain, casting a low, warm light on the whole restaurant. It was so tranquil to sit facing the stunning valley from the terrace. What’s more, the service was quick and friendly and Baptiste served the amuse bouche to each table, beautifully describing what we were about to savour.


Our conclusion: for locally-sourced, imaginative cuisine in a beautiful, serene setting with service the way it should be, the price is good.

Don’t forget to walk around Vailhan before or after your meal; see the Dam and lake des Olivettes and take the winding road between the mountains- past vegetable gardens, churches and flower-lined pathways from the village to the restaurant.

Stay in the nearby Chateau St Marthe - it is only 15 minutes drive from the Auberge de Presbytere and has it's own private tennis court, large pool and a beautiful nature park as well as fantastic views over the surrounding vineyards - pictures below:

Friday 19 July 2013

What to do in the South of France? - Wine tasting!

There is a reason the South of France is renowned for its wine…

Vineyards cover a vast area of land in the South of France. The Languedoc Roussillon region makes up 40% of France’s total vineyard area, which is evident when walking, cycling or driving around the region. Long hours of summer sun create a hot, dry climate which is perfect for grapes to ripen well and quickly.

Almost anything can be grown in the Languedoc region, and is. Provence is well known for its very pale, light and refreshing rosés. The Southwest is extremely diverse and venerable in wine-making and there are many grape varieties which can only grow here.

Certified organic “bio” wines (meaning organically produced from A to Z, from the vineyards to the processing) are now produced in the South. The Domains listed below all worked hard to offer lines of fully organic wine.

 Know the lingo:

  • Domaine- an estate which produces wine
  • Vigne- vine or vineyard
  • Cave/caveau- storage cellar for wine

Sylva Plana- 04 67 93 43 55

Sylva Plana is a welcoming and modern Domaine in Laurens. There work a small team of ambitious individuals who, despite their success are very happy to talk to you and show you around. Régisse orchestrates the wine production in all its stages and can tell you about the different processes and grapes.

Wine-inspired modern artwork is displayed and sold around the Caveau and in the shop (look out for Jane Appleton’s work).  The shop also stocks a wide range of other produce, including foie gras at only €5, confit de volaille, terrine au piment d’espelette and confit d’ognions.

Sylva Plana also have a café and restaurant on site with a large outside seating area. You might find yourself eating vegetables and fruits from the chef’s very own potage (vegetable allotment)!

Our pick: under the recommendation of Régisse, the ‘Songe de l’Abbeye’ (made up primarily of Syrah, Grenache, Carignan and Mouvèdre grapes) is a dark, fruity and full-bodied red wine that he buys. Perfect with red meat, chocolate and mature cheeses.

Château de La Liquière -  04 67 90 29 20

Château de La Liquière also has a modern feel when you step into the caveau, with bottles beautifully displayed on curved racks complementing the spiralling stairs. However, if you turn your attention to the detail of the foundations of the building, you will notice authentic stone floors beneath you, and around a corner the original caves with old, damp walls which smell of nothing but a wine cellar! Large shelves also display a variety of local products for sale including honey, tapenade, fleur de sel, fine olive oils and vinegars and even aubergine caviar!
The Vidals are a family of winemakers, the business started in 1960 and still run by them today. They strive to “remain faithful to our terroir and our country origins” whilst making better and better wines each year. They use organic manure and aim for perfectionism, handpicking harvest with great care.

Our pick: try their light, white flower and citrus white wine, Les Amandiers, or even Les Amandiers rosé with raspberry, redcurrant and crème caramel aromas.

Don’t miss: 

Cave de Roquebrun - 04 67 89 64 35

This is a great cave for wine tasting and gourmet local products! It sells some of the best wines known to the region.

Check out our article on Le Chameau Ivre - Where to Drink for a taste of what this is all about!

Our video featuring all of these wine Domains and more!

Did you know?

In the late 19th century, the French government commissioned Louis Pasteur to study the French wine industry in order to decipher what was plaguing the wine. Understanding the role oxygen played, as well as the processes of yeast and fermentation was indispensable, and those same techniques are still used today, although aided by modern machinery. 

Leftover impure sediment can be used as a raw material in products such as lipstick.

Tuesday 16 July 2013

How Languedoc celebrates 'Le 14 Juillet' Bastille day with fireworks!

14th of July celebration - the perfect opportunity to see the true South of France and its wonderful welcoming people.

The 14th of July is the annual celebration of Bastille Day. Each town and village in the country celebrates this day although festivities vary according to location. In Paris for instance, there are large military parades every year accompanied by the impressive “Patrouille de France” aircraft aerobatics.

In the South of France it is a more humble, social and community-orientated event. Central squares and village plazas are filled with tables and chairs in preparation for the feast.

The festive menu is distributed a couple of days before the event and usually consists of a large paella or hog roast. Traditionally villagers also bring taboulets, salads, patés and homemade dips. Neighbours and friends eat and drink together, as volunteers help to serve the food. Traditionally you’ll find locals behind a make-shift bar selling beers, sangria and regional wines.

The older generation of women (a.k.a “les mammies du village”) take the lead in bringing everyone to the dance floor. French disco tunes and old classics always manage to dominate the playlist, however it is not complete without the national anthem and a couple of “chansons paillardes”*.

The climax of the evening is of course the midnight fireworks. The French (well known for being proud!), strive to have the most fantastic spectacle in the area. Fourteenth of July fireworks never disappoint.

If the village fête doesn’t sound quite right for you, try to find a slightly higher viewpoint on a hill where you can sit, relax, maybe enjoy a bottle of wine and watch as surrounding villages’ fireworks go off simultaneously. It really is breath taking!

*Chanson Paillarde (loosely translated from the French Wikipedia page):

A popular song chanted among friends in a warm and welcoming atmosphere. Generally the lyrics are crude and filled with innuendos, most commonly sung when inebriated at some form of festivity.

How to get tickets for the community meal:

Its very simple, just go to the local Mairie in the town or village you’d like to spend the evening and ask their secretary for tickets to the feast.

Sunday 14 July 2013

Where to drink in Beziers? - Le Chameau Ivre (The Drunken Camel)

This fabulous Béziers wine bar is an absolute must. It is very popular, as the owner, Philippe Catus, is a highly renowned wine merchant. Le Chameau Ivre has at its disposal 3500 different wines.

The walls of the interior are completely hidden because of the huge number of wine bottles stacked in elegant wooden racks surrounding the entire space. Although the bar is situated in the centre of town, when sitting inside you feel as though you could be in the wine cellar of a noble Domaine. There is also a very pretty outside seating area with high chairs and tables and large white summer parasols. Occasionally live bands are hired to play at weekends.

Not only does it offer an extremely wide range of delicious wines but it also harbours some of the best tapas in Béziers. At the centre of the boutique sits an island where you can see the tapas being prepared.

Here a just a few examples of these tasty aperitif nibbles to give you an idea of the quality:
On the spot they slice very thin pieces of mouth-watering, organic “jambon Serrano” right off the leg, which hangs in a very authentic French style.

They serve a delightful assortment of black and green “tapenades” that are brought to you with fresh, daily-baked “pain au levain”. (Sourdough bread)
Lunch and dinner menus are also available at very reasonable prices (lunch 10€, dinner 15€).

For those of you who have not quite reached the status of “wine-connoisseur”, luckily enough the owners and other staff working there have. They will give you great recommendations depending on what you are eating or even on your mood!         


04 67 80 20 20

15, place Jean Jaures 34500 Beziers

Closed every Sunday and Monday

Thursday 11 July 2013

101 things to see in Sommières, Languedoc


Sommières is an enchanting medieval town situated in the Languedoc-Roussillon region.

Its many shops, cafés and restaurants populate the historical centre.

Cobbled streets intertwine leading to secret passageways and strangely placed dead-ends, making it easy to get lost in this little town, nonetheless part of its charm. Weird and wonderful antique shops sell everything from 19th-century chairs and decrepit mirrors to leather cigar cases and hip flasks.

 Small perfumeries and handmade soap shops fill the old streets with a fresh scent, fusing with that of the crèperies selling pancakes, waffles, sorbets and gelatos.

Restaurants are situated underneath picturesque medieval arches, circling the central square and running along the river that stretches on the town’s outer banks.

Make sure you stroll through at a gentle pace; let yourself to be distracted by the diverse boutiques and tempted by the many menus! Make sure to finish your meal with a ‘noisette’ (the French term for a small milky coffee) at a café lining the river.

Tip: Go to the fantastic Sommières Saturday morning market. Not only does it sell ANYTHING you can think of, but tables are also arranged in the plaza where you can sit and enjoy fresh oysters and other tapas-styled regional delicacies. 

Properties surrounding the town of Sommières include:
  • the perfect venue for weddings and large parties.

Check out our video of Domaine de Montmel and Sommières town!