The Best Restaurants in Occitanie

Shutterstock_PAUL ATKINSON
91 restaurants ranked highest on Falstaff's 100-point scale in Occitanie. All information including address, phone number and opening hours.
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Just like a novel, a meal that can entice from the opening paragraph is a thrilling and rare accomplishment. It opens with a culinary ode to autumn and the wine harvest, headily and surprisingly expressed. A small purple grape, macerated, perhaps pickled in an elixir that heightened its intensity, partnered with a sliver of cep on a crisp and larger similarly mi-cuit grape set on a dramatic tranche of bark was the opening note. Brand new to Béziers, the hitherto sleepy city everyone in France is starting to know about, is L’Alter Native, the second restaurant of Gilles Goujon whose L’ Auberge du Vieux Puits in Fontjoncouse, a tiny village deep in Corbières countryside has held three Michelin stars for the past ten years. For Goujon and his wife Marie-Christine it is a coming home to the city of their youth and the grand passage for his two chef sons Enzo and Axel, who is a pâtissier. They are partners in the new restaurant, cooking alongside Quentin Pellestor who has joined from Le Meurice. A sure sign of the seriousness of its ambition is the arrival of Frédéric Rouen who has run front of house operations for Ducasse for more than 20 years. I only discovered after our astounding meal that Goujon initially trained with the legendary Roger Verge in Mougins, an impeccable grounding in local, seasonal and pure tastes that is joyfully espoused at the new restaurant that finally opened late May 2021. What’s groundbreaking, too, is Goujon’s pioneering of aquaponics in gastronomy. Long known for his unerring devotion to superlative produce, he is the first chef of his calibre to combine the best of aquaculture and hydroponics in a closed virtuous circle, surely a path many sustainably minded chefs will follow. In essence, this means repurposing fish waste from his own small fish farm to feed the vegetables growing in his new Béziers vegetable garden. It follows that the menu is exclusively designed around fish and rigorously seasonal vegetables with an impeccable emphasis and loyalty to small producers. A poached Gillardeau oyster set in an ethereal lemon jelly with a surprise hidden oyster tartare comes in a special oyster-shaped dish, a thrilling start to dinner especially accompanied by glasses of each of the house Champagnes: Gosset and Drappier. Playful riffs abound ensuring the mood is not too stiff. There’s a pleasingly crisp two potato variety galette topped with a precise roll of cured salmon trout with little mounds of both trout roe and caviar in a gently frothed Verjus sauce (explicitly not a dated foam). It manages to be both decadent and supremely comforting. Bread is irresistibly good, especially the seaweed bread. There’s more indulgence with a plump langoustine tail presented with a nod to the strong North African presence in Béziers: it is wrapped in kataifi and has a Moroccan spiced couscous broth. For those that revel in heat, a little tube of house harissa is proffered on the side. Red mullet epitomises the Mediterranean, here cooked melodiously in a butter of its own liver. The fish floats contentedly in a cocktail of several tomato varieties from the garden cooked to a fragrant essence. It is a beautiful dish singing purity with ingredients at their zenith, like a last hurrah for summer. Amberjack is not a fish I have encountered often. It has a firm texture more akin to turbot and a likeable deep flavour made more pronounced by an ambrosial seafood sauce. Partnered with a courgette flower filled with a langoustine mousse, it is stylish and sublime. A certain amount of pacing of the menu is advisable to do justice to a veritable cheese chariot wheeled ceremoniously to each table with numerous cheeses at different stages of affinage from those in their runny prime to those well aged with funky flavour and texture. The acoustics of the elegant back dining room are a little challenging, especially when trying to follow rapt descriptions of so many cheeses. A little more ventilation would also be appreciated. There’s a second dining room with similarly well-spaced tables and an artful decorative branch spanning the ceiling. A big draw too is the large inner terrace substantially covered by a prettily lit awning. Service is correct, impeccably drilled yet refreshingly friendly for a French restaurant of its calibre. Desserts are world class. A whole mandarin with ‘candied’ skin has pistachio ‘seeds’ served with a stunning chocolate sauce: a winning duo. Better still are fragrant strawberries mixed with candied black olives served with a platter of miniscule madeleines to dip into the fragrant juice. As a final flourish, an intense and impeccable chocolate tart made at L’Auberge du Vieux Puits. This is cooking of rare distinction, the unstuffy new generation of gastronomy. Reviewed by Sudi Pigott in September 2021

12 Rue Boieldieu, 34500 Beziers, France

2 rue Xavier-Tronc, 30128 Garons, France
Contemporary Cuisine

600 Route de Saint-Bruno, 30131 Pujaut, France
Classic & Traditional Cuisine

7 place du Chapitre, 30400 Villeneuve-lès-Avignon, France

2535 route de Saint-Hilaire, 11000 Carcassonne, France

1 place du Capitole, 31000 Toulouse, France

3 place de la République, 11200 Luc-sur-Orbieu, France

36 rue Cap-de-Castel, 81700 Puylaurens, France

47 rue Brescou, 34300 Agde, France

1 place du Général-Leclerc, 11300 Limoux, France

10 rue Littré, 30000 Nîmes, France

7 rue Bessières, 82000 Montauban, France

8 rue Méjane, 12500 Espalion, France

13 place Dominique-Martin-Dupuy, 31000 Toulouse, France

9 rue Fabriques-d'en-Nabot, 66000 Perpignan, France

8 avenue Louis-Montagne, 34120 Pézenas, France

Chemin de Garrigue-Plane, 11200 Camplong-d'Aude, France

17 Grand-Rue, 34210 Minerve, France

4 boulevard du Maréchal-Joffre, 11100 Narbonne, France

1 chemin Saint-Jacques, 32730 Villecomtal-sur-Arros, France