Though it’s the only gastro-quality restaurant in the cosy hilltop commune of Saint-Lizier, in the Pyrénées, Le Carré de l’Ange is still hidden away from the main drag. A wooden doorway and flight of steps down from the Palais des Évêques leads onto a stone terrace, with spectacular views over the valley and cathedral below. To the right, the restaurant occupies half of the patio, minimally decorated with potted box shrubs and lit by low level lamps.
The kitchen and interior dining area is tucked away in the vaults of the palace, but the outdoor terrace is where you want to be. The whitewashed interior has a slightly cold, echoey feel to it, and the mild temperatures of the Ariège region mean that even as the sun sets, a scarf thrown over the shoulder combined with an apéritif du jour will suffice to keep you there for the evening.
The cocktail of the day when I’m there is sublime: a sparkling white wine infused with a few orange-gold strands of saffron. It’s a fresh and flavoursome accomplice to the amuse-bouche that comes next: a shot glass of vegetable broth topped with a feather-light fennel cream, with a foie gras crème brûlée – an ingenious concoction that whips the liver with double cream before caramelising a crust on top. Perhaps unexpectedly, considering the richness of its principal ingredients, the resulting mouthful is incredibly subtle and light, and devilishly smooth.
I opt for the Carré d’Huard menu, which is mid-range in price at €41 for four courses. The entrée is particularly delightful. Impossibly silky scallops are served with local cèpe mushrooms, in a white wine and cream sauce and on a bed of crab and potato cake, the subtle flavours of the shellfish lifted by a sprinkling of chives and a dry white from nearby Pau.
The main, veal escalope with a lasagne de legumes, cream sauce and thyme jelly, is perhaps a little heavy on the meat and lacking in carb. The ‘lasagne’ comes minus the pasta layers I had anticipated – and bargained for, on my third large glass of wine! With good timing, warm bread rolls are brought over to balance it out.
The cheese course showcases the produce of local fromagers, followed by a fig frangipane tart, its figs plucked from the restaurant’s very own kitchen garden that day. It’s sweet, sharp, and utterly divine.
Be sure to pay Le Carré de l’Ange a visit if you’re in the area. It’s got both the fanciest food and most impressive views of any restaurant within miles, which combined with its excellent service makes for a real treat of an evening. It’s also got a vegetarian menu if foie gras and veal isn’t your cup of tea.
Le Carré de l’Ange, Palais des Évêques, 09190 Saint-Lizier. Tel.: +33 5 61 65 65 65. Open Tuesday – Sunday. Fixed menus ranging from €25 to €99.
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