Sam­ple the fruits of the Mediter­ranean and the Pyrénées in our din­ing guide.

France - - Contents -

1 Le Divil

Look­ing up from Le Divil’s menu, I no­tice a multi-coloured bull’s head mounted on one wall, and the fore­quar­ters of a sec­ond bull – this one black – emerg­ing from an­other. Sur­real, but ap­pro­pri­ate for a restau­rant famed for pa­tiently ma­tured beef, which shares space on the menu with free-range pork from Cerdagne and jam­bon noir de Big­orre, and seafood in­clud­ing oc­to­pus and an­chovies from Col­lioure.

The big treat is se­lect­ing your own cut of meat to be grilled on the flam­ing chem­inée. You could pay €30 for a 220g filet de boeuf, or €18 for a bro­chette de boeuf, but I de­cide to push the boat out with the €45 menu en con­fi­ance.

My ter­rine de jarré de boeuf comes with very thinly sliced car­rot, en­dive, pick­led red onion and gherkin. It is fol­lowed by tar­ragon-aged beef carpac­cio, ac­com­pa­nied by cheese shav­ings. Next up is pork con­fit, crispy-skinned and with lay­ered ten­der fat, on a plate scat­tered with fresh peas and their pods in­clud­ing a hint of mint that cuts through the pork’s melting fat­ti­ness.

Fi­nally, the steak: six thin slices of dry-aged rump steak, crusted with sea salt and black pep­per, pre­sented with a streak of potato puree. And for dessert? Tarte au cit­ron, pre­sented un­der a shell of meringue.

In­spect­ing the wine list, I find a lo­cal rosé, Château Valmy, at €18 – per­fect for sum­mer, but not ro­bust enough, I feel, to do jus­tice to Le Divil’s meat. But there are reds from Rous­sil­lon vine­yards such as Do­maine Sol Payré and Do­maine La Casen­ove start­ing at €24, up to €48 for a for­mi­da­ble 2012 Rous­sil­lon Vil­lages Cara­many from Do­maine Mo­dat.

Friendly and pro­fes­sional ser­vice, a fun, funky space, and great value for money: in this price range, Le Divil has few ri­vals in Per­pig­nan.

Open: Tues-sat lunch and din­ner. Three-course lunch menu €18, à la carte mains from €16. 9 Rue Fabriques d’en Nabot, 66000 Per­pig­nan Tel: (Fr) 4 68 34 57 73 restau­

2 L’al­mandin

Ho­tel restau­rants do not al­ways en­chant me, but this one is dif­fer­ent. Even if the Île de la La­gune were not al­ready a fab­u­lous ho­tel, l’al­mandin would make it so. The ho­tel’s Rous­sil­lon-pink ex­te­rior gives lit­tle hint of the treats within. To reach the restau­rant’s out­door ta­bles (there is an in­door space too), I pass through an atrium dot­ted with odd­ball art in­clud­ing a vin­tage mo­tor­bike that has been trans­formed into a steam-punk sculp­ture.

I have opted for the four-course menu de sai­son, which be­gins with an amuse­bouche: a dab of ma­rine curry served on a smooth peb­ble, a sin­gle gamba en­cased in per­fectly crunchy spring-roll pas­try, and a cup of ver­dant soup riddled with seafood. The first course, a balade of prawns, sea snail and squid, comes with a freshly baked loaf and two kinds of dip­ping oil. This is fol­lowed by red mul­let ac­com­pa­nied by ar­ti­chokes, braised fen­nel, an­chovies and a green olive jus. The del­i­cate fish is per­fectly firm, quite a trick with rouget. The third course is pi­geon with cour­gette flow­ers, apri­cots and spi­ralled cour­gette, an ex­plo­sion of pink, orange, yel­low and green that is

3 La Galinette

Yes, this is a Miche­lin-starred restau­rant: Christophe Comes holds Per­pig­nan’s only star. No, it is not bud­get-bust­ingly ex­pen­sive. From Tues­day to Fri­day, you can lunch here for €25, with a ré­colte du jour that might in­clude a starter of striped bonito with her­itage toma­toes, tataki-grilled Nor­way salmon with shiso, and stuffed ap­ple with caramelised dried fruits.

But plan to spoil your­selves: the six- and eight-course Saveurs de Sai­son din­ner menus are tremen­dous value, too. Comes clearly likes his her­itage toma­toes (most of which, as well as many of the other veg­eta­bles, come from the restau­rant’s potager) which pop up here in sev­eral forms. He is fond of Ja­panese in­flu­ences and tech­niques, too, with dishes such as white tuna sashimi in Ok­i­nawa shoyu mari­nade. one of the pret­ti­est plates I have seen. It is al­most a shame to eat it; al­most.

Seafood dom­i­nates chef Christophe Sch­mitt’s carte, but meat-lovers will find, as well as pi­geon, out­stand­ing Here­ford beef and Pyre­nean pork. Un­like some tast­ing menus, this one de­liv­ers sat­is­fy­ing quan­tity as well as su­perb qual­ity.

If you are not stay­ing at Île de la La­gune, it is a 25-minute cab ride from cen­tral Per­pig­nan. Or you could drop in for lunch, then spend the af­ter­noon on Saint-cy­prien’s mag­nif­i­cent beach.

Open daily mid­day-1.30pm and 7.30pm-9.30pm. Menus from €49, for­mule du midi €30. Boule­vard de l’al­mandin, 66750 Saint-cy­prien Tel: (Fr) 4 68 21 01 02 ho­tel-ile-la­ Slow-cooked Cata­lan lamb with rose­mary and aubergines pays homage to lo­cal flavours, as do desserts such as a sweet-sour Pyre­nean nec­tarine and peach soup. A daily pop-up menu in­spired by ‘rare and no­ble’ sea­sonal prod­ucts fea­tures dishes that Comes may pre­pare just once: a unique ex­pe­ri­ence for the cu­ri­ous gourmet. Open Tues-sat lunch and din­ner; closed Sun-mon and all July. Six-course menu €48, eight-course menu €54. 23 Rue Jean Payra, 66000 Per­pig­nan Tel: (Fr) 4 68 35 00 90 restau­

A shady square next to Le Castil­let, gate­way to the his­toric cen­tre of Per­pig­nan

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