Cochlear Roman spoon at the Taberna Romana, Saint Remy de ProvenceTaberna Romana is an unusual and intriguing place to eat in Saint Rémy de Provence when visiting the Roman ruins at Glanum or Vincent van Gogh's room at Saint Paul de Mausole.

booking.com logoClick here to book a hotel in Saint Rémy de Provence

News The Taberna Romana in Saint Rémy has been sold since our visit in 2012, and is now a more conventional snack bar called La Pause Romaine.

However the owner of Taberna Romana, Mireille Chérubini, continues to sell Roman-inspired food products at appropriate Roman sites in Provence like the Pont du Gard, as well as online.

She also offers pop-up restaurants and catering at archeological events such as Arles' huge annual Arelate Roman Festival.

So we have left our review in place to give you an idea of what to expect. Read on to find out what we ate when we visited the Taberna Romana at Glanum.

When Chérubini took over the snack bar here, she decided not to do the obvious and run the restaurant as a fast food joint, but to turn it into a celebration of authentic Roman food.

Taberna Romana has now been in business for over two decades. "Rome wasn't built in a day," Chérubini says, very reasonably.

Cooking like a Roman at Taberna Romana, Saint Remy de ProvenceAlthough you don't need to wear a toga or tunic and lie on the floor in order to dine there, some enthusiastic patrons do like to dress for the occasion.

Chérubini researched Roman cuisine from an ancient text, De re coquinaria (On the Subject of Cooking), a book of some 500 recipes by an early gourmet named Apicius.

Her conclusion: the Roman menu is not a million miles away from today's Mediterranean diet. Olives, vegetables, fish, herbs and spices all form the basic ingredients.

What's more surprising is that other familiar tastes are missing: the Romans had neither tomatoes nor potatoes, corn, sugar or chocolate. In compensation, they used plenty of spices instead.

You can try out some of these piquant twists in Taberna Romana's various combination platters and tasting menus - each option offers a selection, so it won't matter too much if one thing is not to your liking.

The combination platters consist of a mezze-like meal of four little sample portions. The Aurelia has a spicy olive dip (tapenade, Roman style), chick peas in cumin and hard-boiled eggs in a creamy fennel sauce.

The Domitia (pictured below) has servings of tuna in pastry with walnuts and honey, caramelised celeriac and apricots in summer savory. Both finish with local cheese garnished with honey and mint.

The Phoenix has duck breast with dates and onions, foie gras with figs, lentils with preserved figs and brousse goat's cheese with sage.

The Cochlear tasting menu has ten of these savoury items, plus desserts. It's named after a spoon with a small bowl and an elongated handle made of bone, base metal or (for the rich) silver.

The Romans used the cochlear, pictured top left, for meals served in a sauce (generally they ate with their hands). The tasting menu includes a little spoon to take home with you.

Domita meal at Taberna Romana restaurant, Saint Remy de ProvenceThe cochlear is sold at archeological museums around the region as well as in the restaurant shop at Taberna Romana itself, where you can also buy small pots of condiments such as plums in celery and coriander.

The "amphorae of antique wines" contain some decidedly odd Roman concoctions: the red wine comes infused with rose or myrtle while the white wine is spiked with absinthe. They're a bit of an acquired taste.

If you're a Gaul, beer is available, and there's aqua too, from the spring which originally attracted Gallo-Roman settlers to Glanum.

Despite all this, Taberna Romana isn't a precious gastronomic restaurant with white tablecloths, expensive glassware and eyes on a Michelin star (the menu includes such comforting items as an ordinary salad or croque monsieur for anyone not feeling too adventurous).

The Taberna Romana, Saint Remy de ProvenceAnd it still has a surprisingly casual, even amateurish feel. A handful of simple tables and wickerwork chairs are scattered around a small shady terrace overlooking the Glanum Roman ruins, one of the more gorgeous views in the Alpilles.

However you're not required to buy a ticket to Glanum itself to eat at the restaurant, which has its own separate entrance.

The indoor dining space is minimal and Taberna Romana is closed in winter. It does not accept bank cards.

Visited May 2012

Where: The small entrance to the Taberna Romana is right on the edge of Glanum, opposite the car-park by Les Antiques and slightly to the left of the main entrance to the archeological site. Tel: (+33) 4 90 92 65 97. Website for Taberna Romana

RELATED ARTICLES

Main Menu