Peckish and a doodlebug? Well heres just the restaurant
for you Le Jardin de Naris is the oldest and most bohemian
establishment in the small port town of Marseillan (34340 - Herault,
Languedoc Rousillion). Spilling artistically out onto 24 Bvd Pasteur,
the restaurant has been run for the past 30 years by its artist/owner
Jacqueline Servan, whose hallmark is her dedicated band of doodlers.
When people ask why there are crayons on their table I
always tell them its so that they can leave their mark, a trace
of their visit, on the table napkin, she tells this writer.
Naturally the kids love it the most -- where else can they can
be positively encouraged to scribble all over the table at lunchtime
-- and that cant be bad for encouraging loyal customers
Jacqueline Servan attended the 'Ecole
supérieure des beaux-arts de Montpellier and developed
her love of cooking as a result , whether it was the artistic
arrangement of the ingredients, or just a primal need for herself
and her roommates to survive, is not clear. I left college,
wandered, travelled, painted and then fell into this restaurant,
where I still do all four, she said simply.
Where other restaurateurs bustle up to the table with the bread,
menus and the wine list as you sit down, Jacqui inscrutably offers
you a collection of felt tip pens and crayons before bringing
the couverts and amuse bouche.
As a result her collection of original restaurant art is now
enormous. I dont keep it all of course, but I select
the best and either use them as is, or make collages or other
works out of them she says. Its a sort of artists
collective around a lunch table, where most of those who come
to dine, have no idea they had other hidden talents.
She offers warm words of encouragement to her guests and along
with the bread, wine and amuse bouches makes sure that they are
well supplied with doodle pens and crayons for before, during
and after the meal.
The ambiance could not more conducive. The outdoor patio is a
riot of colour, objets dart, souvenirs collected on her
travels, bits and pieces from vides greniers, an eclectic assortment
of visual delights casually assembled to accompany a menu that
is entirely in keeping.
The Outdoor Patio is a Riot of Colour
As Elle magazine noted recently In the dining room, one
admires a deco that is a mixture of artworks and Chinese objects.
The courtyard is verdant and the patron ensures the marmots (slang
for children) are encouraged to scribble on the table cloth with
crayons she supplies. The menu is traditional cuisine reshaped
with recipes offering moule madras au curry et fruits, (clams
in a curry and fruit sauce), crumble de courgettes aux herbes
fraîches et basilica, burger légumes dété
et fromage frais ( a vegetable burger with fresh summer vegetables
and goats milk cheese).
The Menu is priced between €12.50 to €26 (lunch) with
a special menu for the little artists at €7.50
The building itself belonged to her great great grandparents
whom she would visit as a little girl playing in the courtyard
which today comfortably seats some 30 people
under colourful tasselled umbrellas at tables covered in paper
napkins and supplied with all the normal trimmings of a restaurants
and a pot of crayons and felt tip marker pens.
And here is the result says Jackie, pointing under the restaurant
counter to a vast pile of decorated napkins . She says she turns
the best of these into art works which she hangs on the walls
of the restaurant or sells over the internet or at the local médiathèque.
Apart from customers I also have poets who come here to
write tablecloth poetry
Customer Doodles - Le Jardin de Naris
The artists penchant for travel is reflected in her menu
which includes curries and vegetarian dishes all mirroring both
her own experiences and the demands of a cross-selection of tourists,
foreigners and locals who frequent her restaurant. I travel
a lot and I like spicy and regional foods, she says explaining
Jackie, 52, lives just outside in a suburb called Maldormir.
Explaining the name she (poor sleep) she said in the early days
of the town, which is on a lake that is fed from the Mediterranean,
people were massacred by mosquitoes and the labourers
building the suburb, who slept around here, gave it its nicknamed
which persists through to the present.
Here are notes from visitors who found the restaurant through
the internet (although Jackie herself declines to set up a website):
Small and welcoming resto in Marseillan with a small inner
courtyard and garden for fine weather dining , open year round
. choice of 5 menus. Recommended by le
Routard, Tel. 04 67 77 30 07 Excellent value the menu at €18.
50. Warm and friendly welcome! the canard aux cerises was very
And while you are in the town -- birth place of one of France's
most famous dry vermouths -- pay a visit to the Noilly
Here grape varieties -- Blancs de Blancs -- are matured in large
oak casks in warehouses first used in 1850 and combined with a
variety of spices and herbs from all over the world before being
aged outdoors for a year.
More on the
Noilly Prat cellars here