Our Blog - Albi: Meals
Right around the corner from the Cathedral and the covered market is our lunch spot, which is called Le Bruit en Cuisine (translation: the noise in the kitchen). While it has some tables inside, everybody was sitting outside on the terrace which overlooks the Place Sainte-Cecile and the Cathedral. You can actually see the terrace from the corner of the place and the tourist office, but you have to go up and around the corner to get to the door. It was pretty full for lunch, partly because about 1/2 of it was filled up with what looked to be a little party. Tom had found this in an article on Albi on the website of the UK paper The Telegraph. Perhaps you could order off a menu although we weren't necessarily offered one ... they had the evening menu posted outside and when we asked about a lunch menu, she rattled off a 3-course menu that sounded fine with us, so that is what we both took.
We started with a cold green lentil salad, which seemed somewhat normal :-). We aren't exactly sure what everything else was ... but there was this really good red sauce in the bottom and it was topped with a scoop of what seemed to be ice cream, although it wasn't specifically sweet nor salty ... it is hard to explain, really.
The main course was a risotto topped with tiny vegetables (broccoli, carrots, zucchini) and then topped with a pan seared chicken breast piece (the bottom side was nicely seared) with something crumbled on top. The stripe on the plate was something (not sure what) but it was purely decorative (although edible if you wanted to scrape it off). What was really interesting for us was that we were close enough to the kitchen to actually see them plating. You could see them "paint" on the brown line and then plate the risotto. Another chef then spooned on the vegetables, then on went the chicken and then you could see them sprinkle the crumbles on top. The chicken was perfectly cooked and the vegetables were still nice and crisp (which they would not have been if they had been cooked into the risotto).
For me, dessert was a little bit of a let-down ... 3 slices of an apple cake with a whipped cream on the side. They were good, but really didn't stand up to the first 2 courses.
For dinner, Tom selected a restaurant on the "other side" of the river called La Table du Sommelier (just what you would think .. the table of the sommelier), which was also in the same Telegraph article on Albi. The owner, Daniel Pestre, was previously France's sommelier of the year and showcases local wines there. Looking at their menu, they had a few really interesting ones, specifically the Menus Autour des Vins (menus around the wines), with 4 different 3-course meals that were paired with wine (1 glass per course). There was one for dry whites, one for reds, one for sweet whites, and one that included 1 white, one red, and one sweet. I went for the dry white and Tom went for reds. For mine, they brought out a glass with each course (as they were chilled) while they brought all 3 of Tom's out at the same time (as they didn't need to stay chilled). It seems like you could also have more than just the 1 glass if you wanted, you just let them know and they would refill for free (at least, that was our understanding of the French that they spoke to us).
We'll go with the food first, and then I'll do the restaurant and surroundings....Tom's first course was "pied de cochon en croquette, emulsion persil", a croquette of pig feet with a parsley emulsion. You can see the green parsley emulsion in the little glass jar, and then the white things are nuts that were coated in something sweet. Tom has had pigs feet before although not quite like this, and so he was a little leery in ordering since pigs feet normally are a bit of a pain to eat. This was perfect, in that you had all of the meat already removed and wrapped in the croquette. Mine was bouchées de gambas croustillantes, or crispy prawn bites. You can see the shrimp/prawn tails wrapped and friend. The green is actually sea weed and the white is a wasabi foam. The orange and tan creams were a sweet potato puree with spices and a peanut paste.
Main course, we'll start with mine, which was a mi-cuit (half-cooked) marinated tuna with a black risotto and beet puree. Around the outside were cubes of watermelon that were marinated in the same spices as the tuna but with a bit of a "kick". I'm a big fan of seared tuna where the inside is basically raw, so this was right up my alley! Tom had another pork dish, this one being pork cheek that was put together like a double-decker hamburger without the top bun! It had a spicy mustard on top along with some vegetable crisps. Around the bottom were crushed tomato, anchovies and capers, along with hard-boiled egg whites, dried in a parsley sauce.
I'm normally a HUGE fan of desserts, but I must say, today (in general), I was a little disappointed. Mine was a small cake that was part lemon, part coconut, part meringue, along with caramel ice cream. While it was really good, what I really wanted was more of just a normal lemon tart, which I adore. Tom's was three chocolates in different textures with a cookie and ice cream (which I actually enjoyed more than my tart).
Then of course, we finished with a little espresso with 3 tiny treats: a little pistachio sponge cake round, a chocolate chip cookie (tiny one), and a piece of caramel.
Now the restaurant itself. It is quite large although the majority of the tables (at least from our view walking through the restaurant) are outside on a patio area, which is where we sat. There were normal dinner tables as well as a few more "relaxing" tables that perhaps were for if people wanted to relax and just have wine without eating. Around the patio were town signs that seemed to be related to wine, like Champagne, Pauillac, and Sancerre.
You can tell this is France ... there was a small group at the table next to us that seemed to be a tour group with people who seemed to be both Americans and Germans (based on accents). One of them had brought in this little dog. The restaurant brought in a bowl (the white thing that you can see on the floor behind the chair) with water for the dog and then the dog basically laid down under the table the whole evening.