Here, in no particular order, are 10 of our favourites. They’re not ‘fine dining’, because that’s not our style: their food is often relatively simple, but well cooked, and the ambiance casual and friendly. Most offer a menu du jour for under 20 euros, often much less, and a plat du jour from 8 euros or so. Serving hours are, in general short, even in summer: the very latest you should plan to arrive is 13h30. If you want to be sure to bag a prime table on that terrace, book in advance or be there by 12h15.
1. Restaurant de l’Etang de Lers
The étang de Lers is situated at an altitude of 1274m above Massat; from Massat follow signs to Le Port (D18) then for Aulus les Bains / Etang de Lers.
Huge, sunny panoramic terrace at the back of the building overlooking the lake and mountain beyond; there’s another terrace at the front for drinks and ice cream. Menus start at 19 euros and focus on local produce and regional recipes.
Tél: 05 61 04 93 22
2. Auberge de la Sapinière, Col de Port
Another mountain restaurant, this time situated at 1249m the Col de Port on the road that links Massat with Taracon sur Ariège. Traditional and robust cooking based around local products, and a lovely terrace overlooking the green mountain tops. Menus from 18 euros. Get here by 12h15 if possible, especially in summer. Closed on Monday.
Tél: 05 61 05 67 90
3. 11 Place de l’Eglise, St Lizier
In the medieval cité of St Lizier is a lovely arcaded square, just outside the Romanesque cathedral, and in that square is this small salon du thé/restaurant/épicerie. Don’t expect complicated cooking, but do expect very local produce, often organic, treated simply – tartines, salads, charcuterie, cheese - alongside local wines, beers and juices. It’s a thoroughly nice place to sit and watch the world go by. Closed Wednesdays, except July and August.
Tél: 05 61 64 27 36
4. Auberge Les Myrtilles, Col de Marrous
Set in wooded hills at an altitude of 1000m, on the green road (route des cols) that takes the slow road to Foix, this is one of the more ‘serious’ places that forms part of this list. It’s well known and well reputed for its cooking, a real ‘cuisine du terroir’ that tends towards the rich rather more than the light: azinat, cassoulet, gratin de ravioles with ceps … the excellent menu du terroir is 25 euros. The terrace, as you can see, is just beautiful, and you can easily spend an afternoon just relaxing here after your lunch. Closed Mondays.
Tél: 05 61 65 16 46
5. Auberge des 2 Rivières, Pont de la Taule, south of Seix
This has been an auberge for many years and has now changed hands; it’s now owned by Robert and Philip, who are Dutch and Belgian (or is it Belgian and Dutch?). It’s situated on the D3 just 4km south of Seix, at the point where the river Salat meets the river Alet, and its lovely terrace overhangs the water. There’s always a menu du jour – from around 15 euros – and a plat du jour, based around traditional local food.
Tél: 05 61 66 83 57
6. Le Tomate du Jardin, Daumazan sur Arize
Slightly out of the way but absolutely worth travelling for – and it’s on the route to Toulouse so is a great place to stop on your first or last day. The cooking – contemporary in style and genuinely interesting - is based on top quality organic produce from local producers (the bread, wine and other drinks are all organic too); they treat vegetables with unusual respect and the restaurant even has its own potager. There’s a lovely south-facing garden/terrace outside. Weekday lunch here is an absolute bargain: 14 euros for 3 courses. Highly recommended, and it wouldn’t be a bad idea to book. Open every lunchtime except Wednesday in July and August, and from Thursday to Sunday for the rest of the season.
Tél: 05 81 30 40 03
7. Auberge de la Core, Arrien-en-Bethmale
Situated in the celebrated Bethmale valley, in possibly one of its loveliest villages, this auberge is absolutely bang on the mark with really well cooked cuisine du terroir and a very warm welcome; the terrace overlooks the mountains and is surrounded by green and by flowers. The magret de canard, with frites cooked in duck fat, is well reputed, as are the local cheeses. There’s a lunchtime menu (weekdays only) at 12 euros which offers exceptional value. Open every day except Monday in July and August, and from Thursday to Sunday during the rest of the season.
Tél: 05 61 04 80 53
8. Le XIXe Siècle, 2 rue Delcassé, Foix
Down by the river next to the Lons Hotel, you’ll find this huge, old-style brasserie where all of Foix seems to lunch – you’re as likely to find yourself next to a table full of firemen as one full of lawyers. It’s remarkable value, with 2 course lunchtime formules for less than 10 euros; or you can choose from the carte: huge salads, excellent steaks and all sorts of other things at equally reasonable prices. The ‘frites maison’ are recommended! There’s a large terrace overlooking the river; you’ll need to book or be there early to make sure of a table there. Open at lunchtime only; closed on Sunday and for (usually) the second 2 weeks of August.
Tél: 05 61 65 12 10
9. La Maison de la Grotte, Le Mas d'Azil
Right at the entrance to the prehistoric caves, on the grassy banks next to the river - a lovely situation. This is a very simple place - but the food is spot on: all made on the premises from local ingredients. It's run by two women and is light and appealing; there are always vegetarian options too, though you might just be tempted by the 'hamburger Ariégeois', made from local beef! Open for much of the year, though opening times and days vary out of season.
Tél: 05 61 67 26 98
10. Le Galopin, rue du Pont Vieux, St Girons
This is one of those archetypal French café-restaurants that serve a menu - 3 courses, wine and coffee - for 13 euros. Many of them, sadly, are now reheat-and-serve places. This one isn't, since it changed hands a couple of years ago. The food won't win any prizes for originality (duck confit, steaks, charcuterie ...) but it's all made on the premises, including the dessert, and it's very well done. The terrace is great, overhanging the river by the old bridge in the middle of St Girons, and it's a very welcoming and friendly place that has drawn several of our guests back again and again.
Tél: 05 61 01 07 43
11. Le Carré de l’Ange, St Lizier
It must be said that this isn’t our usual style of restaurant – it definitely gears towards the ‘gastronomique’, with prices to match - which is why it's here as number 11 in a list of 10! But I couldn’t not include it, because there can be few more beautiful terraces in the Pyrenees … and in fact on a weekday lunchtime a cool 19 euros will buy you the two course menu ‘Carré du Bourassou’, which given the views and the quality of the surroundings and food is actually rather good value (3 courses are 21 euros). Other menus start at 29 euros, and there’s an impressive wine list which starts at around 16 euros a bottle (and goes up to over 200 euros!). Le Carré de l’Ange is situated in the old bishop’s palace in the historic centre and is open from Tuesday to Sunday.
Tél: 05 61 65 65 65