Toulouse is a vibrant and fast-growing city (even still) in the south-west of France and one which, unusually, doesn’t have a castle. Its very name conjures up images of large muscular men running at speed with rugby hall in hand. It’s also famous for its aerospace industry and its great food.
There are three covered markets in Toulouse that have been in operation since 1892.
The largest of these is the Marché Victor Hugo. This market might put you in mind of Cork’s English market. It seems to have a similar mixture of produce, only in Toulouse, the range is that much wider, as would be expected of a French city.
In fact, it’s a lot wider and this market is considered as one of the finest in all of France for its range of top-quality produce.
It’s open every day except Sunday from 06:00 to 13:00 (that’s officially, but many places will stay open a a little longer, even until 14:00 sometimes).
The market is located in a prime foodie area. Around you within a stone’s throw are some unmissable temples of great eating produce, such as Xavier (on Place Dupuy). This is officially in the top ten of France’s cheese shops and is definitely worth a detour on the way to the market to come and pay homage or even buy some cheese.
Inside the noisy interior of the Marché Victor Hugo, the fun continues. If you’re in Toulouse, you really are in the land of the Duck. The toulousains have become highly imaginative as to the many variants of what to do with the winged creature and you can have duck fresh, dried or cooked in this marketplace. The other great foodstuff that this region is famous for is Foie Gras. Again, there is the full range of Foie Gras options from about €10 a jar up to €40 or €50.It might also surprise some just how much a chicken can cost. Chickens in France don’t taste like they do in Ireland. They taste a lot more… well, like chicken. For the top quality chickens, you can pay over €40 per bird. I was tempted to get one just out of curiosity. But I didn’t.
There’s a huge range of gourmet stalls too. Octave the ice-cream maker is here. For chocolates, check out the mouth-watering Pillon or Gimm stalls. For wines, Maison Busquets or Chai Vincent are worth a gander and for seafood, try Bellocq or Belou.
Best of all, perhaps, is the fact that there are no fewer than five restaurants in the market. When your appetite is sufficiently whetted by tasting samples in the market, toddle up the stairs and put your feet under the table. As well as sitting right above the direct supply and having the choice of an outdoor balcony overlooking the busy streets below, you also have some attractive pricing: Lunch is often available here at menus as low as €12. Restaurants are open between 11:30 and 14:30.
And from next year, famous three-Michelin-star chef Michel Bras is due to open a top-quality affordable sandwich place right across the road from the Marché Victor Hugo, giving you and ever greater choice.
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