Yeah, check it out. That gleaming spiral of goodness is the famed saucisse Toulouse. Made of pork, wine, garlic, herbs and a few other bits. It’s a simple concoction, a damn tasty one and coming to Toulouse and not trying it is sacrilegious.
So here we are, after a typically delayed flight from London courtesy of easyJet. Checked into the hotel, dropped the bags and pretty much headed out immediately to the markets for a wander and a bit of food. I reckon this has to be the first overseas trips where I did next to no research on the destination. Mr K, our holiday is in your hands. Normally it’s me scouring the internet for ideas on what to see and do in each town and city but somehow, this time around, I took the back seat.
This little group of Poms, Kiwi’s and an Aussie waddled on over to what could well be the epicentre for all things food in Toulouse – Marché Victor Hugo – the largest covered market in town. Toulouse is typically French with its relatively planned tree-lined streets and older buildings not scaling more than four storeys.
Wooden shutters and planter boxes add splashes of colour to the street-scape as do the chic strutting French housewives puffing on cancer-sticks and sunglass-donned pooches begging for Euro-cents for their homeless owners.
The vision of Marché Victor Hugo is not what I was expecting. Plonked in amongst gorgeous French residential architecture an above-ground 1970’s multi-storey carpark, in its harsh concrete glory, makes home to this towns providore central.
The ground floor is an organised space of stalls displaying some of the most gorgeous food in the region. Bakeries, butchers with the famed Toulouse sausage as well as horse meat, almost endless varieties of cheese, seafood, a bottle shop and even places to sit and have a bevvie at 10 in the morning. Fancy a glass of red with your almond croissant? You can have it here and nobody will judge.
Outside are stalls selling fresh fruit and veg plus dried fruits and nuts yet the one that stole the show, for me, was Betty Fromager. This cremerie has an amazing selection of cheeses in every shape and form. Not that the other four cheese places around the market were at all shabby. High cholesterol, here I come. These Frenchies really know their stuff when it comes to the fromage.
I didn’t try it here in Toulouse, but the cassoulet is also a specialty. Many market stalls sell massive jars of beans and pre-prepared mixes for this hearty regional dish and mounds of cold duck confit sit in the fridges to be taken home for decadent consumption. It’s a shame we didn’t have a kitchenette at the hotel plus more time in this city as I could see myself cooking up a storm.
Upstairs on the first floor you’ll find five restaurants sitting side by side, each of them looking like the last. Suppposedly they don’t take bookings so getting in early comes with recommendations though we didn’t have trouble finding a table at one of them.
Which do you choose? No idea. Whatever takes your fancy. The way it’s set up has you walking through all of them if you want to get to the last one so we stopped off about halfway.
Le Louchebem is where we plonked ourselves, out on the balcony overlooking the rue down below. I think the view from up here is better than the one from across the street, the one with the view onto the actual carpark building. The food at any of these joints has a great cross selection of the regional offerings going in these parts.
Speaking and reading the local tongue will get you everywhere as the menu is all French. None of us speak it, but lucky for us we had a waitress with limited English and a lot of patience for this table of foreigners. At least we tried. There were a few things on the menu I could understand but others were an absolute mystery. A taste of things to come, methinks.
I couldn’t go past the foie gras (€12) so let me contradict myself. I watched a documentary a long time ago on how this is produced in France and was so shocked I changed the channel. I thought it was terrible. This may be my third time to this country but it’s the first time I’ve eaten it in France. It had to be done and it was delicious. Toasted pieces of baguette topped with a creamy disc of foie gras and a little black pepper.
Ok so I’m going to hell to be force-fed until my liver is 12 times its normal size. Kill me now.
The lamb (€12) that Mr K ordered looked a little on the sad side, all writhed and twisted on top of the fries. It wasn’t great but it did hold onto a bit of the juicyness before it was fried. Definitely rustic!
My duck confit (€14) went down a treat and was perfectly cooked and very meaty. Golden fries, pear chutney and a few leaves of lettuce is all it came with and the house white I was sipping was a bit rough around the edges. I don’t think this is the place to come and sample fine wines.
I don’t know who spotted it first from our lofty vantage point but the bakery across the road was calling our names. Glazed pastries, here we come.