MIREPOIX is one of those villages that restores faith in the French way of life. It is still a village, although it has a massive cathedral so gets classed as a city. The square is still unreconstructed middle ages with wooden fronted houses overhanging the pavement, originally created for artisans and these days filled restaurants and small shops.
I am tempted to give it a collective entry here. It has a fine fishmongers, two superlative boulangeries of which DD would not be out of place in any European capital…
It has an excellent hotel in the Relais de M run by a comitted husband and wife team and more than a dozen places to eat of which even the more touristic elements in the square seem to be better run than usual. It is a village that you might say is still localised. It has not been overrun by the tourist buses that descend on nearby Carcassone, Castelnaudary or Toulouse.
Le Comptoir is really a bio wine merchant which has a few tables in the back plus a garden, open on Saturdays and market days (Monday) and any week days you might ask for. It is a brilliantly obvious idea that if you are buying wine, you might want to taste it as it were in situ first, please note M Oddbins, M Majestic etc. And the wines around here can be as excellent as they are unknown. See this from Jancis Robinson.
So essentially this is a produce restaurant, the art of the natural says the web site, but it does advertise its cassoulet as a speciality and homemade which may not always be the case in these parts where it has become the must-have iconic tourist menu essential. It is a strange dish: originally just a mess of haricot beans to which might be added any of the meats hanging from the farmer’s wife’s ceiling or concealed in the confit pot. It has become Gucci-d. Cassoulet Dior. Or maybe Top or TK Cassoulet. The farmer and the farmer’s wife have been removed from the equation. Although perhaps not completely for this one. Here it is:
Scoop around and you find pieces of duck, of bacon, of sausage, of pork…but essentially this version is a haricot dish with flavour rather than the fancier up market version where the meats, especially the confit of duck, are laid up on top, so in that sense it is closer to its roots. It reminded me of its distant cousin, a minestrone where only the white beans are used but no meat.
Before this there was a superlative, outstanding salad: It had been 40 degrees the day before, so the green edifice was a herb sorbet allowed to melt into the greens and the egg. I need a different vocabulary to describe degrees of ripeness in a tomato but these were a 10. There was also, surprise, a mit cuit foie gras:And some lovely cheese (to go with artisan bread) and more ice cream (do not pass up the ice creams). With more wine than we expected to drink, the bill was 70 euros for two.
Le Comptoir Gourmand, Porte d’Aval, 09500 Mirepoix
Tel 0561681919 www.lecomptoirgourmand.com