“Don’t speak to the dog,” the man sitting beside us warned. “He won’t leave you alone if you do.”
The dog in question looked up at us with pleading eyes that said ‘don’t listen to him, please talk to me.’
The whole thing about dogs in restaurants in France is amusing in itself. I kind of like it and they were never a bother… as long as you didn’t engage one in conversation.
And, anyway, Le Terminus in the main square in Tarascon was that sort of place (or Place).
We’d just arrived in Tarascon at the wrong end of France’s midday to 2pm lunchtime. We chose Le Terminus on the basis that we didn’t have a lot of time left and it was packed with people, nearly all French. Plus the menu looked above-average interesting and extremely good value, the formule (set lunch menu) being €12.80.
We squeezed into one of the last remaining exterior tables under an awning (the sun was cracking the pavements). Unfortunately the sadistic globe sought me out, shining through the narrowest of cracks throughout lunch making the experience a bit like dining in a sauna.
Le Terminus is clearly a Sunday lunch venue for locals and we were surrounded by couples, friends and families. The couple with the dog next to us chatted to us between courses. Our French was terrible, their English worse. Somehow we managed to communicate. He’d been to England a few times but had never seemed to get out off air-plane hangars; she bemoaned the increase in prices since Mitterrand had been in power; he choked on an Irish coffee that was too hot and had a generous amount of Irish whiskey in it and all the while the dog’s eyes pleaded for some attention.
The customers were friendly and the staff no different. It had a warm and fuzzy family feel all round.
The Food at Le Terminus
I don’t hold with the mantra that where the locals eat in numbers is always the best. It’s normally decent food, but value for money is usually the main motivator. Subsequently I expected good, but not outstanding local fare at Le Terminus. The food surprised me.
My lentil salad entrée turned out to be a rather nicely presented brown lentil salad on a bed of mixed leaves with a few unexpected friends. As well as lentils there was ham, spicy sausage and crispy… I’m not sure but they were tasty. There were a lot of different flavours holding their own little party in there. It was a salad that deserved promotion to a main course.
Where mine was robust with multi-culinary personalities, Andy’s entrée was a simple affair of half a cantaloupe filled with muscat. On a searing September afternoon, a mouthful was like taking a dip in a refreshing, alcohol filled pool. Simple but sensational.
A steak in pepper sauce with crusty breadcrumb topped beef tomato main course was only ordinary with the meat not being the best cut Andy has ever eaten. But I lucked in with a hearty vol-au-vent filled with chicken in a rich and creamy mushroom sauce.
Andy’s lunch perked up once again with the arrival of a vanilla éclair whilst my isla flotante was a surreal affair of marshmallow icebergs and nuts, drizzled with honey and floating in a vanilla sea. The Frenchman opposite was in full flow at the point my isla flotante arrived, prompting his wife to exclaim: “Let him eat, his islands are in danger of sinking.”
It’s not the sort of thing you expect to hear over lunch.
Lunch at Le Terminus was almost perfect. Warm in temperature as well as atmosphere, with food that displayed quite a bit of culinary creativity. It was a good introduction to the town and I reckon our enduring view of Tarascon was influenced by our experience at le Terminus. First impressions do count.
Le Terminus; Place du Colonel Berrurier, +33 4 90 96 53 01; open midday to 2pm and 7.30 to 9.30pm; lunch for two with wine and coffee came to €33.20.
Jack is co-owner, writer and photographer for BuzzTrips and the Real Tenerife series of travel websites as well as a contributor to lots of other places. Follow Jack on Google+