If you only have time to visit one shop on a quick trip to Carcassonne, then this must be the one.
This little up-market deli/wine/coffee/tea/sweet/fine food shop looks like it’s been there for a hundred years. It’s only been twenty. Before that La Ferme was located just around the corner but away from the main street (if you can call such a narrow street “main”). Now it’s just one block from Place Carnot, the picturesque town square.
The owner and manager, Gilles Fiorotto, admires the quality of Fortnum and Masons and this has inspired him to create a unique atmosphere in a small space. Small it might be but he carries 6000, yes, you heard me correctly, 6000 lines of high-end food products and food-related gifts. I am sure that a packet of salt and vinegar crisps has never crossed the threshold.
La Ferme has a corner plot with large windows that are always full of gift ideas. Wooden boxes of wine with decanters, tins of tea with china cups and saucers, Absinthe spoons, caviar, picnic sets. The window-dresser must have been a tight-rope walker in a previous life as the boxes, bottles and assorted silverware are balanced in a seemingly impossible fashion.
The counters and shelves are all dark wood, giving a feel of a Victorian grocers shop. A lovely selection of gift boxes (‘Popular corporate gifts,’ says Gilles) are arranged on the old staircase. A hand-painted mural graces the wall behind the cheese counter, which adds to the charm of what is in reality quite a tight space.
However quaint this shop might be, it’s not a theme park. It is a haven for the gastronomically enthusiastic. Tourists are in the minority, with the most part of his clients being Carcassonne locals and buying from the deli counter. And what a counter! Jacqueline, Gilles’ wife, has chosen the best cheeses, smoked salmon, dried sausages available. The couple spend time looking for the best and they certainly find it.
La Ferme, Gilles tells us, is the only shop in the old town that sells Choucroute (sauerkraut – pickled cabbage) which is surprisingly popular with people from the south. He sells not only French products but a wide range of quality foods from all over Europe. Gilles is proud of his wide selection of whisky, and has a huge display of tins of loose-leaf teas for the more sober minded! There is a particularly delicious one called Easter Tea but it’s available all year round.
If you are lucky enough to pass a couple of days in Carcassonne then walk the few yards south from the square and visit La Ferme. Buy a little jar of tapenade, a cassoulet dish or some cheese, and pretend you live here.
La Ferme, 55 rue Verdun, Carcassonne.
Travel review by Chrissie Walker © 2018