It was one of those mornings when you draw back the curtains and can tell by the look of the sky at 7.00 am that it is going to be a beautiful day. One of the many reasons for now living in the South of France is to take advantage of days like these when they come along and one of the many reasons for working for myself is that I have the flexibility to do so.
We have been meaning to try this restaurant for some time. It is in the pretty Minervois village of La Liviniere, home to the best wines in the Minervois - a very pleasant forty minute drive from Carcassonne through poppy laden fields and verges. The vines are still the vivid bright green of early growth and everything in the countryside is still verdant and bushy, giving the landscape a soft edge. In the far distance the last remaining snow glinted on the very top Pyrennean peaks.
Les Meulières is in Place Occitane on the edge of the circulade. The inside of the restaurant contains only a few tables but is tastefully decorated and furnished. Outside in the centre of the Place is a large covered area capable of seating up to 50 people in shady comfort. The waiters and waitresses tirelessly trek back and forth over the 20 metres between restaurant and terrace with plates and glasses, bottles and carafes.
For a Tuesday in mid-May it was very busy with all the outside tables occupied and a good number of local French people taking lunch too - always encouraging both for the future of the restaurant and the quality of the food.
One reason may be the stunningly good value of the fixed price menu du midi at €15, for which you get three courses, a quarter litre of wine and a coffee all included. On the day we visited there was a choice of gambas with mayonnaise or a goats cheese salad to start, pan fried perch fillet or confit de canard for main course and creme caramel, faisselle and honey or isles flottantes for dessert.
All was beautifully presented and generous.
Debrah's goats cheese salad came with endive and radish in the mix and a sticky balsamic dressing added a hint of sweetness. I had ten large prawns and a good dollop of homemade garlic mayonnaise.
The perfectly cooked pan fried fillets of perch were served with a cream sauce, melting buttery potatoes, sauteed carrots and strips of roasted red pepper - an unusual, but colourful, addition that didn't really sit with the dish - our only noted fault of the entire meal.
Creme brulee was as it should be - lightly crisp on top not burned to an impregnable barrier and creamy vanilla inside. We couldn't agree whether they were bought in or freshly made, but they were so perfect that it didn't really matter.
The staff were very friendly and efficient - they apologised for a minor delay of 5 minutes when we arrived and thanked us profusely when we left. It was hard to find fault at all - so we didn't.
There is a good looking carte and local wine list and fixed price options from €23 to €45, so there will be something to suit all tastes and pockets - but as I haven't sampled those menus I can't recommend them as yet. Somehow I feel that you won't get a better deal than the fixed price lunch.
We will certainly be returning to sample it again.
Les Meulières, 2 Place Occitane, 34210 La Livinière, Minervois +33 468 75 40 16