Check out our expert guide to the best places to eat and drink in Tarn, a tranquil southwest region of France. In Tarn, expect to find everything from bio-dynamic wine to family owned farms selling cheese. If you’re feeling inspired, check out our best ever French recipes here.
This family-owned farm, in the hills near the village of Angles, is a classic example of the modern French farming experience. Owners Marie and Sebastien gave up their city jobs to take over Marie’s family’s herd of 45 dairy cows but while the family had previously sold their milk to a cooperative – for little profit – the couple now make award-winning cheeses that are sold and used in local shops and restaurants.
Organise a tour of their fromagerie for around 10am and you’re likely to find them making their organic camembert and roquefort. With a tour and cheese tasting costing €4 per person, amid idyllic surroundings, this is worth every centime. Arrive hungry!
00 33 668 345 574;
Taking your personal shopping trolley down to the local market is still how most people do their shopping in France, and it’s a great way to eke out the best of whatever the local area produces.
Albi’s covered market is a case in point. Grab a baguette and local, fresh duck pate and wander to a bench by the Tarn for a fresh, local lunch overlooking the river. During the summer months the size, variety and ripeness of tomatoes will astound you.
And don’t miss the Millas butchers and charcuterie stall – it’s where everyone in Albi, the regional capital, goes to buy their charcuterie and the queue speaks for itself.
If it’s delicious haute French cuisine you’re after, paired with local wines from the Gaillac region, then this smart rural hotel (with its own vineyard) hits the spot. Like the rest of the hotel, the restaurant is a study in restrained modern design, its sleek, steam-bent wooden chairs and white-clothed tables offering little distraction from the 13th century chateau’s old butter-stone walls.
Chef Ludovic Dziewulski is in charge of the kitchen – and is being tipped for the region’s first Michelin star thanks to dishes such as a deconstructed Provençal classic, pissaladiere and pate a choux, salted caramel and buckwheat ice cream.
Hotel guests can enjoy a free, pre-dinner wine tasting at 6pm each evening (add your amuse bouche of choice for €10) but if you’re not in the market for the full dinner experience, book in for the Menu Mauzac, a three-course, weekday, lunch menu that offers exceptional value for the quality of the food.
This Scottish-owned chateau and vineyard, in forests 10km from local wine hotspot Gaillac, offers a break from tradition in more ways than one. The beautifully restored 700 year old chateau at its heart is decorated with French artwork as well as old Scottish proverbs, and it was one of the first vineyards in the area to make bio-dynamic wine.
It’s definitely worth booking in for a tour of the vineyard; be sure to try their eau de vie – a spirit distilled from sweet wine, the Chateau de Mayragues version comes adorned with a large Scottish flag as its label.
If you’re after something a little different for dinner, head to L’ Epicurien. It’s currently one of the most fashionable restaurants in Albi thanks to a Swedish chef – Rikard Hult – who is putting a neat, Nordic spin on local French ingredients.
Expect dishes such as cured and pan-fried local rainbow trout with horseradish, veal tartare with dill and lemon, and cherry ‘soup’ with vanilla mousse and pain de Gênes (a dense almond cake). Plus lots of people watching (in this case Albi’s young and trendy).
This French restaurant, in Albi, was packed and buzzing during our visit, a state of affairs that didn’t surprise us once we’d tried its refined French cuisine. A second venture from the charismatic father-son duo behind it (their other restaurant, of the same name, is in Gaillac), it holds a Michelin plate.
Ask to sit in the covered courtyard at the back of the restaurant and, if it’s on the menu, definitely order the mango and pineapple carpaccio with kiwi fruit sorbet and passion fruit mousse. More reason to visit? It serves hundreds of local wines by the glass and each one comes with a printed label showing the grape, name and relevant wine region.
This restored 17th-century chateau, with its beautifully pale, oatmeal-coloured stone, provides the perfect balance of modern convenience and Old World soul. Now operating as a luxury B&B it’s a place where fires are lit, vases filled with fabulously blousy fresh flowers and antique and contemporary artworks sit side by side.
Ask to stay in the old wine pickers’ suite, with its en suite bathroom and a private drawing room with views over the vine-filled valley below.
Book in advance and you can enjoy a table d’hote dinner here, too; take a swim in the hotel’s south-facing swimming pool while owner Howard prepares a three-course meal using seasonal ingredients from the local market. Typical dishes include gazpacho, apple with goats cheese and endive and chocolate sable with fresh fruit.
For more general information on the Tarn region see tourisme-tarn.com or search for the hashtag #olivetravels on social media
Words | Adam Bush
Images | Le Domaine de Perches, Table du sommelier, L’ Epicurien, Chateau de Madragues, Chateau de Salettes, Adam Bush