It was the day after the night before, I have always wondered about that particular use of english but I am sure you know what I mean. Jules (2) had a midday train to catch to Marseilles, to meet Chef Paul for some more foodie adventures before departing for the UK to meet family and friends.
As we sat down for breakfast at The De Brienne Hotel, before us an excellent selection of Pastries, Fruit, Bread, Meat and Cheese, you know, the usual continental affair backed up with Sausages, Beans and Scrambled Egg for the ‘Brits’ stuck in their ways and determined to keep up tradition, we carried on discussing the meal we had experienced the previous evening, and its location, a memorial night indeed.
As time was limited, I suggested we wonder over the road to the ’Japanese Garden’, a gentle stroll, there was a cafe too so we could have some refreshments as it was going to be a very hot day.
The garden was very quiet, peaceful and serene, nestled in a quiet suburb of Toulouse it definitely could provide an escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. We heard a couple of loud ’splashes’, there were the traditional Koi Carp in the expansive lake that was central in the beautiful landscape, it was a lovely place to chill, even for a few minutes and contemplate life, the stars, the moon, whatever your soul felt needing some contemplation time. After getting attacked by Mosquitoes umpteen times we headed for the cafe and had some light refreshments, then back to the Hotel, sorted a Taxi and said our farewells.
I felt a wall picture was apt at this point, on my own until the following day, what to do, I was slightly tired, it was getting hot, I definitely didn’t want to sit in my hotel room and waste time, ah, I needed a hat as I could not find mine before I left so donned some footwear, and set out again to explore ’The Rose City’.
After the experience so far, at the market the previous day, some amazing food with more to come, the fantastic architecture Toulouse was a city I wanted to return to as it had a certain magic that was almost drug like, hypnotic, it was a great place to get away for a short break, less than 2 hrs by plane and it wasn’t expensive. I wondered around taking in the sights and stumbled across Primark! Ah, hat, and 10 minutes and 4 euros later, had myself a rather cute ‘Peanuts’ cap, nice.
In my previous post I mentioned ’TheCoffeePot’ situated near the Basilica Saint-Sernin pictured above in resplendent glory, it was just around the corner and I didn’t need an excuse to stop for a ’cold brew’ as it was getting really hot.
I sat down for a while, ordered the refreshment of choice and watched the day go by for a while, soaking in the calm atmosphere, watching Toulosains going about their business in the afternoon heat it was thinking time, what was tonights restaurant going to deliver, there was no menu describing dishes, no clues, fingers crossed it was going to deliver… I popped in to pay and started chatting about the amazing coffee to the person that served me. The coffee was Carmelites, from Copan in Honduras and he kindly wrote the details down on the receipt, a nice touch for a foodie freak like me!
It was getting close to main event time again, I decided to walk through the now familiar streets, the ones we had ’flowed’ through on Bastille Day with two zillion other people, like rapids heading towards a water fall not knowing the final destination. Luckily, this time I did, Le Jardin De L’Opera, a 1 Michelin Star restaurant on the corner of ‘Le Place du Capitole’ which is the historical heart of the city of Toulouse. I was a bit early, the restaurant had not opened yet, so I took a wonder around the massive square and boy was I pleased I did.
Years go, it would have been in the early 80’s I started to get seriously interested in food and one of my food heroes at that time (and still is) was Anton Mosimann, a Swiss genius who ran the kitchen at The Dorchester Hotel and achieved 2 Michelin stars. He had numerous TV programmes and on one, showed how to make by hand, Kirsch Stengeli, ’sticks’ of hollow chocolate, internally lined with a thin coating of sugar and filled with Kirsch. I used to get them at Frankfurt airport when I was travelling for work a few years later, and then they seemed to vanish.
OMG, I almost bumped into the Lindt shop, famous for chocolate so I popped in, ’Bonseur, ave you Baton Kirch Sil vous Plait’…. Oui, yes we have the lovely man returned in english, automatically realising the limit of my french….BOOOOOOOOOM, Yeassssss, 5 minutes later 2 boxes of my favourite EVER chocolate were in my hands, well a bag….. I started to think, bu@@er, its 40 degrees outside, they will melt, I started to panic, then think……
There was a McDonalds a few shops up, surely it would be air conditioned, I could hang in there for a bit, pretending to buy a hideous ‘Big Mac’. I hung around in there for a while but it felt hot, next door was a mini CarreFour, I dived in there, bliss, air conditioning on full, it was COOOOOL. Whilst I wandered around the chilled area I looked at the various fresh produce, ’ugly’ tomatoes that would never grace a British supermarket shelf, they looked enticing to me. It was nearly opening time at the restaurant so I took a dash and a few minutes later I was in Le Jardin de L’Opera…. Phew.
Apéritif sir, yes please, why not. After the ’Lindt Dash’ my was heart was pumping a bit, the combination of heat (40 ish degrees), and the excitement/panic of finding a lost friend and wondering if it would survive the evening or end up a melted sludge. After some chill time I caught the waiters attention and said I was ready to start, and within minutes the wonderment started, a 7 course degustation menu with matching wine flight.
Hmmmm, this looks interesting as three differing receptacles of food were laid before me. I asked the waiter If they could write down what the menu was, for my blog and memory, they actually went further and emailed me Menu and Wine details a couple of days later, excellent. BOOOOOOM, here we go, this was just the amuse bouche, and my bouche was extremely amused, I cannot easily describe what I ate, suffice to say it was outstanding, fresh, light, tongue tinglingly scrumptious.
Garrigues Herbs are similar to a famous herb blend from Provence but with the hearty addition of rosemary, fennel, mint and bay leaf. The starter had texture in bounds, the smoked eggplant came in a pyrex dish with a lid and was served onto the plate at the table so you got a decent ’waft’ of the smokey herb/spice aroma, the sesame cream adding a delicate but tasty finish. the crispy slice of eggplant I suspect may have been in a hydration, it WAS like a crisp. Here we go again, BOOOOOOOOOM no.2.
BOOOOOOOOOM, no.3. At the beginning of the evening I had been asked the usual dislikes and allergies question and I had said none. I think if you are going to try a degustation menu, unless you do have a dangerous reaction to a particular food that could cause serious damage, proclaim it loudly, if not, go with the flow. I absolutely hate watching those cooking competitions on TV where someone, or a couple complain they don’t like this, or that, or whatever they shouldn’t be allowed to compete in the first place. Rant over, I am not a keen Oyster person, I am now a convert, the light delicate poaching, probably only seconds had firmed up the plump beauty and it was soooooo good, with the Soy adding seasoning and the green vinegar a punch of umami, jeez this chef and his brigade really know their stuff. The croquette was equally delish, dipped into the ’green’ vinegar that had the addition of sea weed too add colour and flavour.
Sorry……BOOOOOOOOOOM no.4. This dish was genius, I didn’t think it would work but it did, the quality of cooking, flavour balance, textures was outstanding and quite delicate, but enough to identify what was going on, I was in my happy place, amazing food, beautiful surrounding, great waiting staff, gorgeous matching wines….home made bread……ahhhhhhhhh, blisssssssss.
Can you feel it, the excitement, the joy, taste buds shouting at you to dive in….BOOOOOOOM no.5. I love this kind of food, if you are going to eat meat, then use as much of the animal as possible, don’t waste anything…. I Love sweetbreads, this dish had a small amount of Lemon Gel mounted on top, I love Blanquette, it’s a sparkling wine that originates from Limoux, it’s how Champagne was started, a Monk stole the idea and marketed the hell out of it, I’ve visited one of the original wine producers at a local cookery school. This dish was knockout, there was a content feeling flowing through my veins, I was happy, extremely content and really chilled out.
Hmmmmmm………Lamb…….Cassoulet………BOOOOOOOOOOM no.6. I adore Cassoulet, I have made it, in Gascony, at the cookery school was I was attending the following day, again this dish was clever, very clever. It retained all the flavours of a cassoulet in a kind of deconstructed way, but as you ate it, the flavours came together, like a Cassoulet but lighter..
Lets talk wine next.
I was so busy tucking into a delicious meal I only managed a couple of pictures, but the wine that was served is as follows:
– AOC Bordeaux Domaine Loumelat “Sauvignon” 2019
– IGP Pays d’Oc Vingobles Ferrandière « Marsanne » 2018
– Vin de France Vignobles Jean Claude Mas « Gewurztraminer » 2017
– AOC Côtes du Roussillon Château Lauriga « Bastien » 2014
– IGP Périgord Sens Dessus-Dessous
The wines worked very well indeed, I would say, for my palate perfect matches they slipped down very easily.
This dish was chosen in honour, and to remember amazing times approximately 8 weeks ago when I was in the region at my other favourite cookery school. I met two beautiful couples from Ireland, Joan, Seamus, Deirdre and Bernard and we shared many meals and cooking experiences together. During the week they realised I had a love of cheese, in fact I recall having cheese three times a day everyday, well, when in France. We had one particular meal in La Barbacane in Carcassonne Citadel, the medieval city and surprise surprise. I had the ’extra’ cheese course before dessert which was delicious.
So this cheese course was well crafted, Ardi Gasna, which means “sheep’s cheese” in Basque, it’s a French cheese found in the Nive valley of the Pyrenees Mountains. It is an uncooked, pressed, hard cheese matured for 4-6 months before being sold to the market. The cheese is available throughout the year, but the finest produce is available during the spring and summer months when the flavour of the milk is more pronounced. It was served with Nuts, a lovely fruit compote, some olive oil and a ’sauce’, absolutely scrumptious. BOOOOOOOOOOM…….. well, it’s cheese and I am an addict, but this was exceptional.
BOOOOOOOM…. No.7. Well the whole meal was, I think, the best meal I have ever had (ever), only beating Paul Ainsworth No.6 by less than a millimetre, it was that close. Clever wine pairing, a journey of flavours, sometimes intense, sometimes dreamy, sometimes rich, often subtle this is one meal I will never forget, and the main man will apparently pop out after service and say hello to everyone, that does it for me…. Awesome.
Jeez, whats going on now. I was presented with a flower pot and asked to look for a nugget of treasure whilst Rum Baba and Chantilly cream were placed in front of me. A small truffle, with a liquid centre was discovered and another play on textures flavours and an excellent finale to an amazing evening. Food 10/10, Service 10/10, Restaurant 10/10.
Cheers Chef Stéphane Tournié, you and your team made my trip to Toulouse something very special, the food was the best I have ever eaten, and yes, I love Sweet Breads and Frogs Legs, apparently it’s something us British folk don’t like. We chatted for about 10 minutes about food then it was time to go, I had to get those Baton Kirsch into the Fridge back at the hotel before they melted, TAXI!!
……………………….Until Next Time………L8ers………