Combes village is up in the hills above Lamelou-les-bains (Take the D908 from Hérépian to Lamelou, continue as far as Poujol-sur-Orb and then turn right onto the small and windy D180 which leads to the village.) The auberge is in such a magical setting looking overlooking the hills of the Languedoc National Park. From the terrace the view is a wide rolling arc of tree-clad hills – the thick green carpet stretching all around you. There’s a patch of orange in the mid distance which must be a quarry but there’s no sign of habitation at all. Dinner on the terrace on a perfect summer’s evening was hard to beat.
Prices are high at the auberge (but they offer a 3 course lunch with a glass of wine for 24 Euros on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays). Everything we ordered was beautifully cooked and exquisitely presented with lots of little touches (a tuille in the shape of a lollypop to start, shavings of white truffles on the steak, little cheeses served with honey…) I had the freshest tuna ever, briefly seared on each side. There was filet steak with chanterelle mushrooms, strawberries with mint in a light and fluffy mousse. The sommelier talked us through the wines and suggested a superb local white wine from Faugères – only 2 barrels are made each year – and a red from Corbières where some of the best vintages since 2003 were blended ‘to perfection’. Both cost between 35 and 40 Euros a bottle, but they were exceptional. We paid £75 a head for a really special meal and excellent – though not over fussy – service. However, portions were larger than we’d thought and with all the little extras there was really too much to eat. I would definitely try a lunchtime or go ‘à la carte’ another time and just choose a couple of courses.