The beautiful terracotta-pink city of Toulouse lies within day-trip distance of the ski-resorts of the Pyrenees and is surrounded by rolling countryside dotted with Cathar ruins. Several times per year, the mistral wind blows in from the Mediterranean, often for several days at a time. Even when the mistral is calm however, Toulouse has plenty of restaurants that will blow you away – we check out ten of the best.
Restaurant, French, Contemporary, $$$
Michel Sarran enjoys celebrity chef status in France, having been awarded two Michelin stars for this restaurant and for having judged the 2014 French version of Masterchef. So despite the fact that his restaurant is situated right besides the main campus of the University of Toulouse, this is decidedly not a student restaurant. Previous diners have rightly raved about their meals here, with one pointing out that at this level, one buys not merely a meal, but an experience – and one worth of every cent.
A local’s favorite, the small, eccentrically decorated L’aubrac is located in a side street away from the hustle and bustle of the city and as such, a reservation is more than recommended. Charcuterie with Aveyron specialties are the restaurant’s focus. Be prepared to order quickly and with an empty stomach as both portions and quality here are vast, though no matter how much you eat, the quality of the pork sausages and foie gras will leave you wanting more.
A very filling, very rich mix of haricot beans, duck, and sausage, cassoulet is a specialty of La Cave au Cassoulet. La Cave au Cassoulet is what it claims, a delightfully lit underground restaurant famous for its cassoulet, which here includes three different types of sausage along with duck and all the trimmings. The portions are very large indeed and the fame of their version is such that people come not only from all over the region, but all over the world to try La Cave’s cassoulet.
Equidistant between the metro stops of Capitole and Esquirol, La Faim des Haricots started life in the affiliated city of Blagnac as the first vegetarian restaurant in the famously carnivorous city of Toulouse. From inauspicious beginnings, it has gone from strength to strength and now enjoys its central location. Of course, success brings competition and there are now several vegetarian restaurants in Toulouse, but La faim remains the best. In homage to its hippy roots, the menu is a little different – there are five choices, including soup and quiche of the day.
Easily reached from the jean d’arc metro stop, Le Colombier is a family run restaurant hidden away from the tourist areas of the city. Tolosan and French classics are the order of the day here. Those on a budget need not fear, however. Despite its popularity, a three course meal will come to – on average – only 22 euros.
Literally translated to English, this restaurant would be ‘Grandpa’s Attic’. Not the most auspicious of names to entice you in for delicious food in a refined atmosphere, but Le Grenier de Pépé – a restaurant which specializes in French pancakes – more than makes up for any preliminary reservations. With this unusual name comes a suitably quirky interior that creates a homely feel. The oft-praised food can be considered spectacularly good value, the husband and wife owners more than friendly and the quality of the fondue, crepes and galettes is second to none.
Situated in the shade of the beautiful Basilique de Saint Sernin, where a church has stood for at least 1800 years, Le 7 Place Saint Sernin offers a refined menu paired with an unmissable view. The restaurant is perhaps best visited on a summer evening, for best effect. When the heat of the Mediterranean is cooling, you can enjoy a gentle summer breeze gently interrupted by the quarter-hourly church bells. Inside, the decor is bright and warm and the chef, Benoit Cantalloube, prepares dishes with a traditional, regional focus.
Even if you do not read French, you can probably guess where Les Caves de la Marechale is located – underground. This restaurant is the very definition of a hidden gem and from the outside it is unassuming. Inside however, you’ll find a fabulous restaurant located in a 12th century priory, serving traditional food from the south-west of France. There are two main dining rooms, so if you wish to dine in the cozy and atmospheric cellar then a reservation is highly recommended.
The upmarket Les Jardins del’Opera can be found right next to the imposing ‘place du capitole’, Toulouse’s magnificent town square. The star of the menu is of course the tasting menu. This comes in at quite a price, and the plates brought to your table are at the whim of the chef, Stephane Tournie. However, this is also what helped Les Jardins to win its Michelin star. Les Jardins is, certainly one of the best places for a treat during your visit to Toulouse.
If you wanted a stereotypical, beautiful French restaurant, then Xavier is the one. Specializing in cheeses of all kinds, it also offers a nation-wide cheese subscription, shipped to all French customers in climate-controlled boxes. Though this is available in Europe, sadly they no longer ship to the USA and Canada due to border problems. The proprietor, Francois Bourgon, has been titled the best shopkeeper (fromagier) in France and prides himself on his esprit du fromage – literally, spirit of cheese. The restaurant itself focuses on an excellent selection of cheese, charcuterie, and fine wine.