The success of any restaurant comes down to two factors: location, and quality – both of the fayre, and the people running the show. In my neck of the woods, for example, there’s an idyllic riverfront restaurant that’s just gone under for the third time in nine years under three different owners. The reason? It was just that bit too far down river to attract sufficient punters – and with the most recent collapse, the poor reputation of the management and staff only sped up its demise.
Cuq en Terrasses, an eighteenth-century presbytery, perched in the shadow of l’Église Notre Dame de la Nativité in the tiny hilltop commune of Cuq Toulza, is at the opposite end of the spectrum. Its location may be off the beaten track (well, tbh, it’s actually not far from the well-beaten N126), but to use the old cliché, it is stunning, and worth travelling many kilometers for. However, even if it were located in a back street in Burnley, such are the charms of the owner-operators Andonis and Philippe, and their team, it would no doubt still stay afloat. This review is for the restaurant. Cuq en Terrasses also offers chambres d'hôtes, which by all accounts are equally charming.
For me, two words encapsulate the mood here: unhurried, and unharried. There’s no dress code, which suits me fine as I hate stuffiness, and no formal greeting on arrival, which also appeals. You just walk in as if you own the place and, providing the weather is clement, make your way down through the property to the calm of the garden restaurant, which takes full advantage of its vantage point with a wonderful view of the Tarn countryside.
We arrived about half an hour before sunset and settled-in to some delightful amuse-bouches, followed by an entrée of asparagus with smoked salmon and poached egg dressed with herb vinegar, all topped-off with parmesan shavings. After that, as you are welcome to do, we took a ten-minute pause, strolling down the stone steps to the lower terrace, from where we watched the most glorious of sunsets.
By the time we returned to our now-illuminated table, we felt sufficiently exercised to savour our next course of chicken breast filled with cheese and figs wrapped in bacon, and coated in madeira sauce. We took Philippe’s recommendation on the wine, and he took the time to conduct a jovial blind tasting at the table, but despite some years in the wine trade I was unable to correctly identify it. A dry white, surprisingly, it turned out not to be from the Tarn (or California as I had concluded), but Spain – and went down well enough to order another.
Next arrived the bite-sized cheeses (I could have done with slightly larger portions as they were delicious), each sourced from the revered Revel market, just twenty minutes’ drive away. A strawberry Tiramisu provided a sweet ending to a memorable meal.
However, at Cuq en Terrasses, the end of the meal doesn’t signal the end of the evening. That’s because at around 10pm, all guests are invited to make their way inside, as Cuq turns Cockney-style with a singalong, probably best described as a pianola-oke. It’s led by Andonis and Philippe, both of whom turned out to be highly talented in the vocal, as well as chef and sommelier departments.
My wife and I enjoyed the perfect evening at Cuq en Terrasses, and we would like to thank our great friends who treated us to all the above. They have the good fortune to live locally, and dine here a few times each year. Sounds like the perfect existence to me.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- An 18th century presbitary turned into charming accomodation with restaurant, pool and gardens. Set in a 6 acres park in peaceful surroundings, Cuq is ideally located between Carcassonne, Toulouse and Albi and is an great base to explore the region and enjoy gourmet dinners and breakfasts ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Cuq En Terrasses Hotel