Lunch in Cauterets after a Night Off the Grid

It’s been a year now since our hike up to the base of Vignemale, the highest peak in the French Pyrenees. A morning that started out gloomy due to rain and fog (and the realizaton that we had left at home some of the instant meal packets we had so carefully prepared the night before) turned into a gorgeous day of exploring and reconnecting with nature. We hiked up to the Refuge des Oulettes de Gaube at 2,151m and took a moment to enjoy the beautiful northern face of Vignemale, along with the glacier shining bright white from within its rocky crevices under July sunshine. In the afternoon, we climbed back down to the beautiful Lac de Gaube at 1,725m and spent the night in a tent there. Waking up to that view and a fresh cup of coffee prepared on our little blue butane burner was by far one of the most memorable experiences of an already pretty eventful summer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the morning we packed up and hiked back to the car, choosing Cauterets nearby for the obligatory post-hike caloric beer and meal. After exploring the summertime vibe of this bustling ski town, we came across Le Regent restaurant and took a seat on the terrace. Two frosty pints of beers arrived shortly after.

To share we got this ridiculously delicious, creamy thing, which was on the menu as a slider. Good, fluffy bread with seeds came with a juicy little pattie of meat and some fried onions doused in a cheesy, thick bechamel-style sauce. Certainly not the most elegant or healthy option, but exactly what we were craving after a sporty 24 hours in the wild.

Breaking my own rule about ordering seafood (especially raw seafood) in a landlocked, mountainous region, I got a poke bowl, which turned out to be a surprisingly good choice. A gigantic bowl of fresh greens came with sliced red onions, bamboo and bean sprouts, all tossed in soy sauce and topped with plump cherry tomatoes, a very generous portion of perfectly ripe and flavorful avocado and cubed chunks of raw tuna, also flavored with soy sauce. Quite honestly, I was not expecting to see any rendition of a classic Hawaiian surferboy staple at a restaurant in a sleepy town of the French Pyrenees. I was especially not expecting it to be halfway decent. I ordered this strangely out-of-place dish because it happened to be the only appealing fresh and filling looking thing on the menu. I ended up eating almost the entire bowl. Sure, the tuna was not of top quality, but in poke its not supposed to be. This dish was first prepared by fishermen who would season the scraps and cut-offs of their catch to have it as a snack. These pieces were quite juicy, fresh and well-seasoned. The avocados were also at their peak of ripeness, very smooth and full of flavor. Overall a great dish with tons of texture and flavor, immensely satisfying after our adventure in the mountains.

Ben got a bavette steak smothered in a creamy shallot sauce, french fries and a little salad. The meat was pretty tender, the shallot sauce not oversalted, and the fries were nice and crunchy, if a little dry. Another satisfying post-exercise meal in the perfect little mountain town of Cauterets.

Here’s hoping that Le Regent has maintained quality in the past year, providing the same moment of pause and gratification as that which we enjoyed during our hike last summer.

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