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O VIEUX TONNEAUX, PEYRIAC-DE-MER: RESTAURANT REVIEW

Peyriac-de-Mer is one of those pretty little villages along the Med in the south of France that can be thoroughly enjoyed by folks like us, ex-pats with time on our hands and an interest in the local scenery, for about nine months out of the year. You can find a place to park. You can stroll along the seaside or through tight, quaint little alleyways at your leisure. The vendors in the square on market day have the time to give you their undivided attention, demonstrating both their wares and their charm. But come June, July, and August all bets are off. Peyriac will be packed. All day. Every day.
 
Don't get me wrong, I don't begrudge tourists their right to experience places like Peyriac and I don't begrudge Peyriac the right to make hay while the sun shines. I'm not one of those callous transplants who doesn't understand those truths. I simply bring up the point so that you, dear reader, understand that it's probably not a good idea to visit Peyriac during high season unless that's the only time available to you. If you must, you must. Be forewarned.

Vieux Tonneaux translates to Old Barrels. I didn't notice any old barrels during our recent visit on a gray April day but I wasn't looking. I did see a number of picnic tables in a square in the middle of town giving way to a slightly dark, inviting, pub-like interior divided into a couple of rooms with booths and tables reasonably well separated and reasonably comfortable. Slates announced the day's special and listed available wines. We were a tad early, just before noon, almost the first in. But by the time that we left, the joint was nearly at capacity both inside and out.

Two of our party of five chose the special - an endive salad with lardons; faux filet with a light mushroom sauce, veggies and a baked potato; and a fruit salad for dessert. The starter salad was full and crisp with a typical cream dressing. The beef was French beef, done to order and not as chewy as some. And the fruit salad was fresh, not canned, and interestingly flavored with verveine (verbena) and cinnamon. All good. Three of us went for a regular menu item featuring locally sourced tastes - a nice portion of dried, smoked ham accompanied by a toast smeared with tapanade followed by a stack of perfectly grilled lamb, veggies, creamed potatoes, and onion confit. I just love French lamb.

Service was spot on and the waitress was happy to find out for us how the fruit salad had been spiced. With a liter of rose en pichet and four coffees at the finish, 99 euros.

I may have told this story before but it's worth repeating. A foodie friend once asked me if I preferred one meal at a Michelin Star restaurant or three bar-food meals for the same price. My answer was, "It depends." Some days you want to have your palate challenged. Some days you just want some good grub. This was good grub.





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