Recently I was sent to Montpellier for work and got to spend a few days in this beautiful and culturally rich town. My first night there mostly consisted of wandering the old town’s narrow streets – taking in the beautiful architecture and relaxed way of life.
I was looking for somewhere to eat after trying to go to Le Petit Bistrot only to find it was closed in Tuesday evenings (don’t worry, I still got to eat there the next night). I did a bit of exploring and came across a small, leafy square containing several restaurants – the busiest of these being Le Grillardin. I always think this is a good indication of a decent eatery, particularly as many of those eating outside seemed to be locals.
The staff were very attentive and, after witnessing my poor efforts at French, gave me an English menu to browse. I ordered a glass of red and had a look at what they had to offer. The first thing worth mentioning is that the setting of this eatery is just perfect – you get to really take in the atmosphere and the surroundings are authentically that of the true Montpellier Old Town. Plus a full view of the square made for great people watching!
Before I’d settled on what to have to eat, a waitress bought out a complementary amuse-bouche – which she told me was a gazpacho of carrot, tomato and peppers. It had a chunky texture and was served chilled in a little shot glass. It was a really refreshing start to the meal and I always think providing a little freebie like that is a classy touch for any restaurant.
For starters I ordered trotter meat, fried with shallots and accompanied by a salad. When it arrived I also found it had a lovely little puff pastry slice garnishing the top too, as well as the obligatory basket of bread (which, being France, was extremely good). Having the trotter meat in a salad was the perfect way to offset the richness of the pork, and the slither of pastry provided a nice contracting texture. What a perfect introduction to the food here!
For main course I decided on fish of the day served with artichoke puree, crystalised lemon and sour cream. The waiter did kindly tell me what the fish of the day was but unfortunately I’ve forgotten the name of it – it’s a fish caught in the Atlantic ocean in the north of France. The dish that arrived was simply but very elegantly presented and I almost forgot to take a picture before I started stuffing my face (fortunately I didn’t though – that would’ve been a shame). The fish I would say was quite similar to cod but with a firmer, meatier texture (most comparable with something like monkfish). The artichoke purée was silky smooth and strong in flavour but didn’t overpower the fish and, when combined with the sauce (which I assumed was the sour cream with lemon), the three elements came together beautifully.
There were a couple of other elements to bring a bit of variety in texture and flavour dotted around the plate – a lone raspberry, some sort of crumbly stuff (this might be the crystilised lemon) and some skinny courgetti. All in all, I was really pleased with my first eating experience in Montpellier – I would say the prices at le Grilladin are reasonable, as their dishes are quite elevated in terms of ingredients and presentation. Service was great and they also advised me of a little bar to go and enjoy a glass of wine at afterwards – which was called L’Amuse Vin and only about a 1 minute walk away.
The walk from the Old Town back to my hotel was around 30 minutes and, as I approached the popular Place de la Comédie I found myself hankering after something sweet. Fortunately there was a place doing crepes outside on the bustling Rue de la Loge – I ordered a nutella one and it was cooked perfectly in front of me. The crepes man even let me take a cheeky snap of him. There was no scrimping on the Nutella, which was very pleasing, and two nights later I even went back to try one with nutella and chantilly – which was basically like the poshest, best whippy cream I’ve ever had (and was worth walking home unaware of the copius amounts of cream on my face for).
My Montpellier adventure didn’t stop there – I also ate at a tiny bistro entirely run by one brave man, a wine bar in the north of the Old Town and enjoyed loads of the historic sights! For more stuff like this follow me on Facebook!