An Irish Chef in France

Irish chef Martin Dwyer and his wife Sile sold their eponymous restaurant in Waterford some years ago and moved to France. They now live in the Languedoc, where they (normally) take guests - and feed them very well.  


This month: On being in lockdown in France

We could have picked plenty of places to get “locked in” which would have been a lot worse than our Chambre d’Hote here in the Languedoc. Here we can enjoy the advantages of having the whole house to ourselves and with seven bedrooms we could pick a different place to lay our heads each day of the week if we wanted to, but of course we don’t.

Here in France we are allowed out only for essential shopping and for one walk in our neighbourhood each day, and for that we have to fill in a permit each time or face a fine. I must say I have no objection to that and so far it seems to be working. We have only heard of one case in the village – although I fear there may be more.

This lock in has created two highlights in our otherwise fairly dull day.

The first is our walk; when we heard first what the conditions of our confinement were to be, I imagined that we would be taking off in all directions from the village but strangely we have opted to do the same stroll almost every day.

As the Presbytère is next to the church we are right in the old heart of Thézan, inside the old walls where all the houses have roots which lead right back to the middle ages. When we started getting the house redone we discovered that there were doorways in the walls - long closed up - so that in times of attack people could escape to other houses within the walls. We also discovered a hidden passageway in the garden which led under the walls and to freedom.

Many relics of days gone by are still evident in the village and now that we have all the time in the world we can look around with a new curiosity. Our daily walk leads us out through the old walls, through a gap which must have been created when free access was more important than fear of an invading army. We walk along outside these walls and pass the remnants of a barbentine, a stone sentry box high in the wall where the man on look-out would have been protected from flying arrows.

However very quickly we are out into the countryside. The Languedoc has the reputation for being the part of the world where there are more vines growing per hectare than any other and certainly, bar some asparagus and some fruit trees, it seems to be the only crop grown around our village.

This is a particularly good time for us to be vine watching as the vines are just starting to show their new season’s growth. Each vine has been mercilessly pruned down to one small stem and then all the power of the plant will go into making the bunches on this stem full of juice and sweetness. The Languedoc, unlike a lot of other parts of France, uses a blend of grapes in its local wines. These grapes come to bud at different times so every field offers us vines at different stages of growth. As we pass some of the vines are still quite bare, some are producing soft, lime green leaves and others, already in leaf, are starting to produce tiny bunches of grapes.

But I did say there was another highlight to our day, and this is of course our evening meal. Because we have decided that we will only shop one day a week, and then in the supermarket (most of the outdoor markets have been closed) I have, for the first time since we left our restaurant, to plan our dinners for a week in advance. This has meant that we are relying more on vegetables and eggs for our sustenance, as meat and fish are not as good at seeing out the week as are the excellent eggs and vegetables which are available in the Languedoc. There is very little hardship, we have discovered, in living on Cheese soufflé made with The Tomme cheese of the Pyrenées or in baked eggs which have been cooked in a ratatouille made with the local Coeur de Boeuf tomatoes.

Our lives are really not too bad here, we have our terrace and our garden and the mild weather of spring in southern France to help us along.

Martin Dwyer started cooking professionally over 40 years ago in the legendary “Snaffles Restaurant” in Dublin. After a time in a Relais Chateau in Anjou and in “The Wife of Bath” in Kent he opened his own acclaimed restaurant, “Dwyers”, in Waterford in 1989. In 2004 he sold this and moved south to France where he and his wife Síle bought and restored an old presbytery in a village in the Languedoc. They now run Le Presbytère as a French style Chambre d’Hôte. Martin however is far too passionate about food to give up cooking so they now enjoy serving dinner to their customers on the terrace of Le Presbytère on warm summer evenings. Martin runs occasional cookery courses in Le Presbytère and Síle’s brother Colm does week long Nature Strolls discovering the Flora and Fauna of the Languedoc.
Le Presbytère can be seen at:;




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