The Best Steak by Far

Posted by Gasparou

I had been in the Aude going on a year and had not found it. It’s the national dish don’t forget, so everyone’s doing it, but that doesn’t mean a great deal! But then I did. Find it I mean; not purely by chance, because I’d been looking, but it was unexpected and so was all the more satisfying, a better steak than you can dream of eating!

I’m going to tell you about it.

From the outside the place is typical enough to look at…a bistro that sits off the beaten track, not far from the hustle and bustle of Carcassonne’s train station, right opposite the canal du midi. Inside was no different. Quite unpretentious and on first impressions really very modest. A mismatch of design with style which is more the norm than the exception in this corner of France. What is it about regional France when it comes to style & design? Is it that they don’t care or do they just not get it?!. Whatever it is they make no apology for it.

But here, at this bistro, all that cacophony fades into the background when you first see the fire. It isn’t dead and centre like some altar, and as soon as you walk among the tables you appreciate the simplicity of the rest of things, and how purposefully it all contributes to the character that imbues this place; quietly supporting the role of the fire and the point of the restaurant. It is of course all about steak.

I arrived quite early by French standards, so well before the room had filled. The fire crackled over its silence. She seated me with comfortable informality. It’s then you realize you’re in someone’s home more than their restaurant. It’s formal in its informality and proud in its modesty – humble if you will. This is a place run by two people who respect and celebrate their produce by paying it the compliment of serving it justly grilled and correctly seasoned. Nothing more, nothing less.

The couple are a curious pair; they work quietly and efficiently and it’s immediately obvious they’re more than just colleagues, or indeed business partners and the warmth of their union adds to the atmosphere. She is Spanish, he is French. Together they offer up something special. They operate without help (a reflection of the punishing French labour laws I suspect). He deftly butchers the meat, while manning the wood fired grill. He then weighs it before laying it over the blistering coals that have fallen through the fire grate on to the hearth below. A spectacle indeed, that is as impressive as it is mesmerizing.

Considering all she must do, she seems to glide effortlessly about the room, delivering people and plates, pichets and steaks to the tables. There’s no rush and there is not fuss. She is seen but not heard, until that is you engage her in a discussion about beef. Here the passion in the spanish blood is stirred as she speaks to you without pause on the provenance, the quality and the superiority of their beef. It’s all from one of two farms, she tells me, one in Kansas and the other in Nevada. Entendu! This is US beef and it’s incroyable! And considering the price – 23 ½ euros for a 14.1oz (wet weight) perfectly cooked sirloin (faux filet) or 25 euros for the rib eye (entrecote) of the same size, this reflects incredible value in Kansas, let alone in Carcassonne and is further testament of their commitment to their craft. And if you choose the house red from Corbieres, punching well above it’s weight at about $10 for a litre, you’ll get out for two for just about $60. This is a great restaurant…and the steak, well its the beat to a great track! You’re in for a treat here. There’s simply nothing to beat the quality of this meat…Have a google for this place, there is no website (often the norm in the Aude). Other good steak can be found at Bistro Norbert in Carcassonne, where the meat is all origine française.

TIP: for great steak at home buy it directly from your favorite steak house. in our experience the chef / patron will be willing to place an order with his supplier if you are willing to make it worth his while, and for a good steak it is definitely worth it