During our visit to Carcassonne in June 2013, my girlfriend and I often found ourselves heading towards Place Marcou (a bustling cobbled square in the heart of La Cite) whenever we were ready to eat.
Place Marcou is filled with restaurants, each one with outside tables spilling onto the square. Although it is undoubtedly a touristy location, it also offers a good selection of decent value menus. Each restaurant on the square offers its own set price 2 and 3 course menus, starting from around 12 Euros and climbing to 30 Euros or more. The cheaper options (from 12 Euros to 18 Euros) tend to include a starter of soup or salad, a main of cassoulet and a basic choice of desserts. The more expensive menus tend to have a larger choice of starters, mains including steak and fish and a selection of more luxurious desserts.
We spent a while on our first evening perusing the menu boards outside each establishment and making comparisons. After much contemplation, we decided that La Maison de la Blanquette looked to offer us the best value for money. Its 13.90 Euros "Menu Cite" was exactly what we were looking for...3 courses and probably the best selection of desserts!
We caught the eye of a friendly waitress and she showed us to one of the outdoor tables. It was still fairly early in the evening and the restaurant wasn't very busy when we arrived. It filled up considerably during the course of our meal.
The staff were happy to converse with us in English and the menu included English (and Spanish) translations.
Menu Cite consisted of the following options:
Salad with warm goat cheese and honey;
Salad with potatoes and sausage rind;
Slice of bread rubbed with garlic and anchovy puree.
Cassoulet Maison (bean stew with "muffs of duck");
Grilled turkey with Pistou (a sauce of garlic, basil and olive oil);
Liqueur ice cream;
Clafoutis with raspberries;
We both started with salad with warm goat cheese and honey. This consisted of a slice of crusty bread with a good sized wedge of goat cheese, drizzled in sweet honey with an accompanying salad consisting of tomato, lettuce leaves and balsamic vinegar. We also received a basket with two more slices of crusty bread each. This was a very nice starter.
We both ordered Cassoulet Maison for our mains. This was the quintessential local dish that we were determined to sample during our visit. It was served in one large pot for us to share. It was piping hot and contained butter beans (or perhaps haricot beans), two legs of duck (with delicious meat that practically fell off the bone) and two large pork sausages. It was very tasty and very filling, and came with another basket of half a dozen slices of crusty bread. We both enjoyed it a lot. The following evening we both had the cassoulet at a nearby restaurant (Auberge La Plo) and it wasn't nearly as enjoyable as this one at La Maison de la Blanquette.
For dessert, I ordered cheese. This consisted of two pieces of cheese; one was a salty, slightly crumbly, white cheese and the other was a piece of goat cheese similar to the one that was in the starter. It was accompanied by a solitary lettuce leaf. I was quite full by now and as I struggled to eat the dry cheese I regretted not ordering the liqueur ice cream. On the plus side, the cheese improved the taste of the house red wine that I was drinking!
Emma had the "Floating Island" for dessert. We had failed to obtain a satisfactory translation of what it was, but it looked nice enough on the photo in the menu. It turned out to be a slab of soft meringue (like you'd find atop a lemon meringue pie) floating on a custard sauce and covered in syrup.
To drink, we shared a 50cl pichet of house red wine (6.90 Euros). It contained a bit too much tannin for my liking, but was drinkable and reasonable for the price. Emma also had a Coconut King smoothie (4.50 Euros).
Tasty food and a very good value set menu. An atmospheric location on a bustling square in the heart of La Cite. It looked to be better value than neighbouring establishments due to the fact that its set menu offered a better choice of desserts. Recommended!
This is a bit further from Carcassonne but worth the trip and a delightful drive along the Canal du Midi. If the day is pleasant, you can sit outside and watch the canal boats go slowly by and see people and bicycles on the adjacent canal path.
There is no more perfect way to enjoy a delightful lunch on a sunny afternoon . . . and if it's raining, the inside is cozy and the French doors allow the same view in warm comfort.
We had a gite next door and enjoyed the Auberge de l'Arbousier several times during our stay. The next time we'll stay in the Auberge since the gite left much to be desired.
Update: We revisited L'Arbousier a couple weeks ago and it is every bit as nice as we remembered. It is lovely to sit along the Canal du Midi watching the boats, hikers and bicycles go by eating your excellent dinner under the shade of the huge Plane trees.
If you go for lunch on Wednesday, Thursday or Friday, there is a 15 euro menu that is excellent.
Favorite Dish: Here's my journal entry for the day:
"Walked back to Auberge de l’Arbousier for dinner and it’s a winner. We got seats looking out onto the canal and both of us ordered the 22 euro menu. We got kirs to celebrate our arrival and then ordered the asparagus salad as a starter. Quelle surprise . . . the asparagus was green. In France it’s usually white. This was not only green, it was warm asparagus, absolutely tender, with a Parmesan disk and a cold tomato confit that was delicious.
Ed ordered salmon with lentils as his entrée and I got chicken with a ratatouille. Both were excellent and the bread was the best we’ve had so far on this trip. Our cheese course was three tiny chunks of excellent cheese followed by a dessert course of creamy chocolate mousse . . . all with a delightful Minervoise white wine . . . and . . . my favorite Lavazza Italian coffee. Great dinner.
Update: Brasserie le Donjon added a new terrasse in May of 2012 if you enjoy eating al fresco.
We first ate at Brasserie le Donjon in 2000 when we were visiting with our oldest daughter. She and I were looking for cassoulet and it was on the outside posted menu. We went in and ordered it and were most pleased.
Hence, when looking for a restaurant on this trip, we walked by Brasserie le Donjon and decided we had one good experience there; why not try for two. Good choice. We had a pleasant meal, well served and a reprieve from the hectic tourist scene outside the windows.
I must add that on yet another trip to Carcassonne, we went to Le Donjon and discovered it completely booked for a tour group. Having no choice, we found another restaurant. Perhaps that's a good thing as it forced us to explore.
Favorite Dish: Here's my journal entry for that day.
"We left (church) and checked a few restaurants but ended at the Brasserie le Donjon where we had eaten with Jean many years ago. Their cassoulet is as good as we remembered and the staff was excellent. We only got cassoulet and dessert and were stuffed. For our dessert we chose a mascarpone with meringue and chocolate and loved it. Excellent meal."
This is a hotel restaurant and is part of the Best Western chain. In Europe the Best Western is locally owned, usually run by a family, small and very friendly. They are often in historic buildings and don't feel like a chain hotel at all. I highly recommend them.
We were driving to our gite near Carcassonne and decided to stop at a favorite restaurant in St. Hilaire for lunch. AAAAAAAAAGH, it was closed on Saturday. We retrieved the car and kept driving. When we got to Carcassonne, our daughter, who had never seen the ancient Cité was so excited by it that we decided to stop for lunch inside the walled city.
Good choice. We entered and walked up the pathway to Place Marcou. The very first restaurant had an excellent menu posted so we made an executive decision to eat there.
We started with a Blanquette de Limoux to celebrate our arrival in Carcassonne. If you're not familiar with Blanquette, do try it. It is a sparkling white wine that was invented before Champagne and we like it better. It has a very rich flavor for a white wine. According to the abbey at St. Hilaire down the road, Dom Perignon stole the recipe when he was banished from their abbey to an abbey in Champagne . . . and the rest is history!
Favorite Dish: Here is my journal entry for the meal: Ed and I ordered the Cassoulet Regional and Peg got a daube of beef . . . both excellent. We ordered ice cream for dessert and were stuffed.
It was late for lunch but they still served us cheerfully and it was fun sitting in the very busy Place Marcou watching all the people (and their dogs) walk past. If you are not familiar with cassoulet, it is a famous regional dish and one of our favorites. It is a casserole made with white beans, duck, sausage and often other meats. It usually has tomato in it but not always and it must have a crust of bread crumbs on the top. Everyone has the favorite recipe and it's fun to check different ones. Our very favorite is the cassoulet at the Auberge le Cathar in Belflou near Castelnaudary (worth a detour). Nothing is better than cassoulet on a chilly day!
La Bonne Demeure had a very nice cassoulet and the daube (stew) of beef was hearty and tasty. It's good food at a good price and the service was excellent.
The Hotel de L’Evéché, is a Logis de France in a historic building on the Aude River and right beside the Abbey. In nice weather sitting on the lawn by the river is glorious.
We were staying in a gite in Cavanac near Carcassonne and decided to drive to Alet-les-Bains to visit the Abbey. To our delight the entire town was wonderful, very medieval, in very nice repair and virtually tourist-free. It was a hidden gem. We visited the abbey and it is so casual that the ladies in the tourist office simply give you a key to the abbey gate and you let yourself in and out. We toured the abbey and then explored the delightful little town where Nostradamus supposedly lived for a while.
Lunchtime approached and the only place we found open was the Hostellerie de L'Eveche. It looked lovely so we entered. The prices were fine; the setting perfect and the service excellent.
Favorite Dish: Here is my journal entry for the day: We sat on their lovely terrace shaded by huge trees and warmed by a friendly yellow tom cat. We ordered the 18 euro menu (no choices) and started with a fabulous crudité platter to share containing two generous slices of melt-in-your-mouth foie gras and two shredded vegetables in marinade. Next came a crock of “Basque” chicken, four generous pieces of chicken baked with autumn vegetables . . . yum . . . and accompanied by very thin, crisp frites. We had ice cream from a selection of about eight desserts and it was topped with a very light meringue. Delicious and in a perfect setting.
This hotel is a Logis de France so you can check their web site at: Hotel de L'Eveche
The direct hotel web site is listed below.
This is a listed16th century castle which is situated on the banks of the River Aude.The outside restaurant is in the courtyard which is rectangular with a large circular tower at each corner.This makes an amazing place for a meal.
We decided to have a change from the restaurants in La Citie and take a walk down to the town square in Carcassonne.We were not disappointed, as we came across Brasserie Le Longchamp.
The food was plentiful and enjoyable.The young waitress was sociable with excellent service and i have not seen someone work so hard for a long time.
We made 3 visits here.The quality of the food and service were very good and it was pleasant sat in the shade under the trees in the midday sun.Our waiter had a great sense of humour which made it fun.
This small intimate restaurant serves imaginative, delicious and beautiful food. With only 6 tables you feel as if you are eating in someone's house and indeed the artwork on the wall was created by the owners mother.
A 3 course dinner will set you back €18.50 but it's worth every cent and with a glass of local wine costing only €2 it is all very good value for money.
Anne and Isa deserve medals for what they have created.
Favorite Dish: Examples of the amazing dishes are:
Imaginative cold asparagus soup with floating island - an interesting twist of local starter and dessert ideas.
Seared benito (similar to tuna steak) cooked to perfection with a sesame crust, saffron rice and salad
A subtle lavander flavoured creme brulee.
Located in Place Marcou in the center of the Cite, Le Menestrel is one of the places that serves food best described as adequate. Set in the square surrounded by about eight of the restaurants all vying for the tourists as they lunch up. The 12.90E menu includes a prix fix of three courses, salad, cassoulet or fried chicken, and a dessert. I arrived before the lunch crunch, and enjoyed a cafe latte overlooking the square. The food did not really interest me.
The Basilique Saint-Nazaire is 11th and 12th centuries, but is on the site of a 6th-century church. Among the historical interior sites are stained-glass windows from the 13th and 14th centuries. Right across this amazing historical building you will find a nice street vendor for a good cold refreshment and some fast and convenient food..
So, don't worry if you didn't take mineral water with you or you forgot to buy before the trip as you can find this vendor inside the walls of the medieval city of Carcassonne. The concept is very easy, because it sells anything you can think off in the range of food and drink. For example you can have some French fries, sandwiches, chips, ice creams, and so on. Don’t expect too much quality, for us it was just a fast way to have some refreshments and continue our walk in the medieval city of Carcassonne.
Just a few steps from the Basilique St. Nasaire is a comfortable, patio setting where one can enjoy a beer or glass of wine and light meal. I opted for smoked duck over warm cheese on toast, with a small salad. A young staff played old time rock and roll. Kids seemed to be welcome as there was ample space in the patio.
The Restaurante Saint Jean was on a short list of restaurants recommended by my hotelier. Located in the Cite, surrounded by the Castle walls, it is a nice restaurant serving good, local food. They have several menus at various price points, and all seemed very interesting. I settled for a lamb shank. The service was good, but considering the prices, being served by waiters in t shirts took a little of the ambiance out of the place. The tomato comfit on bread with small chunks of cheese in a green sauce was a little weird. They did service 50 CL bottles of wine, which is great for solo diners. The cake with a decoratively laid out sauce was very good.
Favorite Dish: Lamb shank
Le Clos Occitan is a very nice restaurant in Lower Town featuring specializing in "Mediterraneenes and gastonomique". The waitresses wear smart black uniforms and are attentive, although speak very limited English. I ordered the four course meal, and a 50 cl bottle of local red wine. They serve a pastry with cured salmon. Then the courses started. A dish of two pates and three pastries with different flavored toppings, onion, duck, the second course being a nice piece of salmon, the third being stips of steak with a tasting dessert plate. Following dessert they give you another dessert plate. ;-)
Favorite Dish: The salmon was very good.
Sitting inside the castle walls in the Cite, are a number of restaurants all vying for your business. As I walked through the town, a young woman dressed in medieval garb and armed with a dagger and free tastings of cassoulet, well it seemed obvious I should go in. I started with a plate of dried meats, and then the cassoulet with sausage and leg of duck. Washed down with a 50 ML bottle of Revelette, a local red wine. The prix fix menu was 18.50e, plus 8e for a 50 cl bottle of wine.