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Les Grands Buffets, Narbonne

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You hear the word buffet and think of mac and cheese, green beans, fried chicken and a tired salad bowl. At Narbonne’s Les Grands Buffets you see toque-wearing chefs inspecting their culinary presentations, a literal chocolate fountain anchoring an assortment of classic French desserts, and an entire table of various foie gras. Cheese galore.

The seafood is especially noteworthy: arrangements of crabs piled artistically, seafood paté’s that make your mouth water, herring prepared half a dozen ways, oysters, a variety of mussels, clams, sea escargot, prawns, scallops, a variety of fish … all fresh.

Move on to the charcuterie section: at least six legs of ham from different regions of France, Spain, and Italy hanging, inviting you to carve off what you will. Various salamis, sausages, and yes, that really is a pig’s ear in gelée!

The hot food section awaits, offering classic French dishes in chafing dishes, like suckling pig cooked in milk (with the head floating in the broth!), veal head (tête de veau), slow-cooked tripe, classic veal Blanchette, milk-fed lamb, roast quail … delicacy upon delicacy. If none of these entice, have one of the chefs fix you a steak, entrecote, or lobster.

The desserts were especially overwhelming: a variety of meringues, tartes, gateaus, desserts with mounds of Chantilly, éclairs, mousses, crêpes, puddings, macaroons, frozen desserts. Did I mention mounds of Chantilly cream?

The service was professional and impeccable, and dining in the garden under trellises of roses was charming and gave one a sense of privacy, even in the midst of a busy restaurant. Well done, and definitely worth the 33 Euros per person.

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