I am at Toulouse Airport at the moment, waiting for my lift to part two of my second French Adventure for 2022, the first also being food related and a previous blog post. I have been coming to this part of France since 2014, a happenstance moment of flicking through some cookery school web-sites and stumbling across the Gascony Cookery School, todays final destination.
The flight had been perfect, not so keen on the 3:00 a.m. wake up and a blocked M4 due to an accident (hope no-one was seriously hurt), but with all being well I arrived in plenty of time, and the short flight from Heathrow to Toulouse-Blagnac went without a hitch. There are numerous ways of getting to Toulouse from the airport, I have been here some 7 times, but always in transit to somewhere else, I had never actually been to ’The Pink City’ which was famed for the red brick used throughout many of its buildings, and radiating a pink hue accentuated as the sun set; it is truly a beautiful place to visit and I was even more excited to be meeting a fellow foodie I had not seen for years, Jules, we met on a fish course at the very same Gascony Cookery School i was returning to for the third time, and she was flying in from Tasmania on the other side of the world!
When I had done my research in planning for this trip I was looking for a sensibly priced Hotel near to transport systems, not too far from the restaurants we wanted to visit and preferably in a quieter part of town so the Hotel de Brienne was chosen, it was a 10 minute walk from the Compass Caffarelli Metro line. It’s a lovely 4 star Hotel close to the Canal Brienne, which links the Garonne to the Midi Canals, and the centre of Toulouse is within easy walking distance.
I decided to take the shuttle bus from the airport, the easiest option and within 10 minutes I was walking towards the hotel and bumped into a……….Pizza Vending Booth….. jeez….never seen one of those before.
I am sure somebody must use them at times of abject desperation maybe after too many bieres on a Friday or Saturday night…..not me though as we were dining in style later in the evening, and before long I had checked in to the Hotel and caught up with my friend from Tasmania, Jules (2) (I am Jules 1!) she is English, in her younger 70’s and was to visit family and friends after we had spent a few days together seeing the foodie side of Toulouse.
We set off to wonder, a random escape into the unknown, the mysteries of Toulouse and its culture, history and food. It was a very hot day, but not the hottest which was due later in the week and after a shortish stroll of discovery we settled down for a coffee and a catch-up and the first of our ’foodie’ experiences at ’The CoffeePot’, which was near to the Basilique Saint-Sernin at 2 Place du Peyrou.
“Fancy a cold-brew” said the waiter, “I don’t drink alcohol before 18:00” I replied, no he said it’s a coffee that’s left to steep in cold water for a long time, less bitter than normal ’cold’ coffee’s, more natural and as their is less risk of the coffee being burnt, it’s a much nicer drink. OK, let’s have two of those please.
They were sold in jars, with paper biodegradable straws, and extremely tasty too so we had one more each and set off back to the hotel to get ready for the evenings entertainment.
Our table at Le Cenacle was booked for 19:30, it’s near the ‘Pont Neuf’ bridge in Toulouse nestling in the ’La Cour des Consuls Hotel and Spar’. The chef Clement Convard is innovative and pushes the boundaries with many of his dishes so the night was going to be a gastronomic night of fireworks, perfect as it was July 14th, Bastille Day and expectations were high.
I didn’t get a chance to write down the amuse bouche description, suffice to say, it tickled the tastebuds preparing us for the delights that were to come. We had picked ’The Cenacle” menu option, a selection of 6 dishes along with a wine flight of 5 different wines chosen to match the food. This was my friend Jules first Michelin star experience so I was somewhat nervous with what she would think, and whether the experience was overpriced and underwhelming!
We were then surprised with another course which I didn’t see on the menu, It was a Smoked Burrata, with Tomato Gazpacho, Onion Crisp Tomato and Pepper. And then along came a freshly made Brioche bun that was still warm and a Butter whipped with Thyme Flowers and put through some kind of noodle machine to make a ’worm pile’! Both were extremely tasty indeed and continued to tempt the taste buds.
The first course, Mackerel & red pepper Smoked and grilled, Squid ink crisp & Tomato ice cream was served in a round dish, the disk suspended the ingredients above a cavity full of a delicious full flavoured thick ’soup’, although it wasn’t. BOOOOOM, here we go, Michelin quality at its best. When you broke the disk and ate all the elements together, dancing on the tongue, in the throat, all over everywhere. YUMM
And what do we here, we questioned the waiter. Service so far had been immaculate, patient, great interaction and explaining to a couple of native english, not much french speaking food fanatics each dish, and when questioned even further, did their utmost to ensure we knew what was on the plate.
Lets go with Lobster In salad with zucchini Tagète herb granité. This was a delicate dish, delightful, tasty, subtle. At this time our waitress suggested trying some of the granité on its own, and then pile onto the dish and ’dive in’. BOOOOOM another hit, the delicate flavours of Lobster, the tiny Courgette adding texture the granité taking you in a completely different direction with its chilled herbyness, delish.
The next dish was somewhat fascinating, Sous cloche Bucatini pasta dome Toasted pine nuts & basil Cream of vieux Rodez cheese. Some might say it was a ’classic’ pasta and cheese sauce and in some ways yes it was, but in others it was so much more refined and delicate. The cheese sauce really packed a punch and was ’mighty’, the pasta perfectly cooked, texture from the Pine Nuts drew everything together beautifully.
The next course, Mediterranean Red tuna semi-cooked Eggplant Millefeuille & rillettes Tomato and verbena foam was outstanding, I wasn’t sure If I was going to like it, yes the Tuna, one of my favourites should have been great but this particular construction…BOOOOOOM another winner, in fact all the dishes so far had been outstanding. We had been offered copious amounts of delicious home-made bread throughout the evening, wine had flowed (more of that in a bit), and each dish meticulously put together with so much expertise, my friend Jules and I could not stop talking about each dish, comparing our views, she was having a great time and I was happy she was having a great time after travelling over 30 hours on a plane, she deserved a nice meal and she was loving it.
This next dish was awesome, Pigeon from la Coulonnière Roasted, almond and popcorn crust Potatoes cream with almond and Amaretto! Read the description at least three times! Amaretto in Potatoes, jeez it really did work, this was so so clever and even more delicious, you have to come to this restaurant and try it, just brilliant and clever food, thank-you Clement Convard and your brigade. I am guessing it was the subtle (ish) almond and popcorn crust that helped the potatoes along but its was mind blowing.
Dessert finally arrived, Apricot from Le Lot poached and confit Raspberry sorbet & jam Light foam, transparent crisp. Yum Yum Yum ’nuff said’, it finished the meal perfectly and cleaned the palate at the same time.
So, I mentioned the wine flight earlier, it was very good indeed, we did think though that the last ’glug’ a sparkling wine, was not sweet enough to match the absolutely stunning and delicious end to our fantastic meal.
We had a range of really excellent wines and all except the last were perfect matches, the whole meal was bl@@dy awesome, sorry for the slight language, it was damn good and my friend said it was the best meal she has ever had…. magic.
This day was a relatively short one, quick wander, amazing coffee, awesome meal, and then as we were leaving, as it was Bastille Day, there were thousands of people streaming off the bridge as the celebratory fireworks were finishing.
The next post will be covering the following day, a visit to a market and another different, but amazing meal.
……………………Until next time…………….L8ers…………………..