One of Cajarc’s gems! -  L’Allee des Vignes  - go on – you deserve it!

We’re lucky enough to live in a region that produces the best ingredients a chef could wish for.  For many of us it was this food and (of course the) wine that attracted us to the region.

We each have our regular, local restaurants and our favourite ‘special’ restaurants.  However, surrounded by so much deliciousness it’s easy to become a little blasé about the wonderful food we can and do regularly eat.  A recent trip to Cajarc reminded me of how great food, and the passion for it, could make a good day into a great day!

In the middle of the village there’s a lovely enclosed terrace in front of an old, renovated presbytery serving the most amazing food and wines.  All of this is the work (very hard work) of Claude-Emmanuel and his wife Evgenia.   This is L’Allee des Vignes, the culmination of the pair’s years of work and travel, culinary-training and enormous passion.

Claude-Emmanuel was born in Nice and is half Mexican.  He’d grandparents with a home in the Quercy region and so spent some of his childhood here.   Evgenia is Russian and the couple met when they were both working in London (Evgenia was previously at University in Leeds).  They then married in Belgium and began a life pursuing their dream of a restaurant reflecting their combined visions.

There was a huge amount of work to do to prepare the old building for ‘opening’ but in 2011 they brought their international worlds together and L’Allee des Vignes opened its doors.  It has since forged a great reputation for very fine food, excellent service and a unique style.

I ate lunch in the beautifully shaded courtyard. It felt like an oasis from the heat of the day and the quiet bustle of life beyond its walls.  The plates of food each looked like works of art, delicate, thought-through and truly delicious.  

Amongst the lovely things I ate this lunchtime was an entree of Copeaux de foie gras aux graines torréfiées, jaune fermier confit à l’huile d’olive du Lot.  Probably one of the prettiest and delightfully enjoyable things I have eaten in many-a-year.  It was a shame to destroy the layout of the dish but it ended up being well-worth the artistic destruction.  Touches like the very pretty edible flowers and the butter with a little rock-salt on-the-side, ensured that this was something I’ll remember for a long time. 

This is truly a gastronomique restaurant offering a bistronomique menu at lunch time (Mon-Sat).  Then during the evening and Sunday lunchtime, when people generally have a little more time to spend, the menu acknowledges this fact and dining provides a real opportunity for flavours to astonish and culinary-skill to excel.

Wine lovers will enjoy the extensive (and well-informed) choice on offer or you can opt for a small serving of a different wine with each course – advice is given by the professional staff.  I had to limit myself and enjoyed only one – a wonderful white wine from just down the road at Gaillac’s Domaine de Pleyjean.  Definitely one I’ll be looking out for in the future.

So even if Cajarc is not terribly near to you, maybe you deserve a trip out!  Maybe a visit to St Cirq Lapopie and then either lunch or dinner at this inspirational restaurant, the brain-child and absolute passion of these two hard-working and extremely talented (and lovely) people – Claude-Emmanuel and Evgenia.  Please check opening hours and call to reserve before travelling. www.alleedesvignes.com