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The Return of La Maison, Tourbes

Reader, Jun 26

A New Rather Unique Languedoc Dining Experience - The Return of La Maison.

Living in the Languedoc we are lucky to be surrounded by an astonishingly lush landscape filled with an abundance of fresh local products. We are also lucky to have so many fine restaurants that make the most of our region’s natural bounty. Now to add to your list of dining experiences La Maison in the charming village of Tourbes on the outskirts of Pézenas. While it has been a part of Tourbain life for years, its new proprietors Chef Damian Martin and his wife Florence, are taking it in a new and fascinating direction. A direction which I think will earn them a place in the pantheon of Languedocian fine dining.

To begin with Chef Damian’s approach to his menu is unique. Unlike the typical restaurant with its daily specials attached to a long list of standby dishes - many waiting to be reheated - his menu consists of two or three entrees, two or three main dishes and a few desserts each day. My wife and I experienced this menu in the course of several lunches and dinners at La Maison and every dish was superb. Rich flavours and inventive textural combinations brought out the best in every ingredient. Damian explained that this short list allows him to really concentrate on creating dishes built around each day’s fresh ingredients; like fresh caught red tuna delivered by a fisherman.

Over the course of our meals we had a variety of fish and meat dishes and each one was well prepared and tasty. Damian’s cooking is daring and inventive. He’s like a jazz musician, who well versed in the music - of French cuisine - and riffs on it. He gently spins the spicing or introduces an unexpected ingredient to a dish.

And we weren’t the only ones enjoying the food. During our meals we overheard other diners praising their dishes and sharing taste bites with their tablemates. In one surprising incident a somewhat overenthusiastic diner stood up mid-meal and shouted across the restaurant to Florence, “Super, super good. Bravo.”

This of course makes it difficult to review particular dishes since by the time one gets to La Maison the dishes will be different. However I did photograph many of our dishes just to give readers idea of Chef Damian’s cuisine.

It has been a long journey to La Maison in Tourbes for Damian and Florence Martin. Damian was born in Galway on the West coast of Ireland while Florence is from the Averyon region of France. Damian grew up in a family immersed in the food trade. His father was a butcher and his mother’s family farmers. “My father was a butcher and passionately taught me this art. He also taught me to respect the animal and this remains prominent in my mind and translates into my work as a chef. I proudly worked as a butcher for 6 six years before embarking on my culinary apprenticeship. It was at this point I realised my destiny to dedicate my working life to the culinary arts.”

Then after receiving his culinary training and certification in Galway, Damian set off to travel the world and hone his skills.

Florence was born in a small village in the Averyon and grew up around the restaurant trade. “My mother worked in our local restaurant and on many occasions I helped her with village fetes and weddings. This was my learning block for organising and delivering quality service.” After receiving her diploma in hospitality she moved to Dublin and found work in one of the city’s fine dining establishments.

Around this same time Damian returned to Dublin, got a chef position at this same restaurant and met Florence. They fell in love and soon embarked on their own. “We successfully leased a restaurant outside Dublin for three years adding to our repertoire and making us thirsty for something more. We moved to France and through time I developed my love for the French way of life,” Damian explained to me.

At La Maison while Damian hovers over his dishes, Florence manages the front of the house and coordinates the restaurant’s chambre d’hotes. Her warmth and professionalism (as well as her fluency in English) clearly puts guests at ease. “I love meeting people and my work is enhanced by doing my best to ensure that all our customers have a pleasant experience.”

Their attention to quality has paid off and within a few weeks of opening La Maison has developed a brisk trade. Chef Damian says that he has a goal of making his “mark” with La Maison. Given the remarkable dishes he creates and the reception he’s gotten so far it is clear that he’s well on his way to achieving this goal.

Photos and text © 2015 Steve Meltzer

La Maison
Restaurant and Chambre d’Hotes
9 Avenue de la Gare
34120 Tourbes

Hours: Sunday, Monday, Tuesday Lunch service 12h-14h
Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Lunch 12h-15h, Dinner 19.30h-21h
Closed Wednesdays.

Reservations are recommended:


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