If you say summer, you say ‘guinguette’. Or at least in the South of France you do. You’ll see these uncomplicated open-air restaurants pop up randomly during the high season, mostly on beaches along the Med. And I discovered a great one overlooking the Lac du Salagou. The Guinguette du Relais Nautique is exactly what you’d expect a guinguette to be. They serve a simple menu with honest food in a fantastic location. And then you sit back and realise that’s all you need.
Au bout du monde
Every year from mid-June to mid-September- depending on the weather- La Guinguette du Relais Nautique alights on the banks of Lake Salagou. For the sporty ones, you can reach the restaurant by bike, canoe, or stand-up paddle board. Chéri and I were less active and arrived by car. Once seated and after absorbing the stunning landscape, all stress slid off our shoulders. At this least visited part of the Lac du Salagou, we felt as if we were ‘au bout du monde’, or at the end of the earth. The deep blue water of the lake stood out against the remarkable red soil. And the guinguette, with its natural construction, blended in perfectly.
It is quite a challenge for owners Julien and Malika to prepare a chef-worthy meal, as there is no electricity or running water. This means they have to be clever and use the available resources efficiently. Thanks to solar panels, water tanks and a good mood, Julien and Malika manage just fine. Also, the menu is simple and easy. One blackboard mentions the ‘plates of the day’, including charcuterie and cheese platters and one or two salads. The other blackboard has a more elaborate choice with a couple of starters, mains and desserts. Both menus are prepared with local produce. And it was surprising to see the quality of the food leaving the tiny kitchen.
Assiettes du Jour
As it was one of the first warm weeks, Chéri and I weren’t too hungry. Therefore, we decided to pick from the ‘Assiettes du Jour’ menu only. We started with sharing an ‘Assiette Mezze’. Snooping at the neighbouring table, we knew it was a fairly big plate of various spreads and vegetables. We were glad to have shared it, as the salads we ordered next were quite enormous too. Chéri had a classic Salade Niçoise, and I went for the Salade Pécalou with a crunchy wrapped goat cheese. Both fresh and delicious. Luckily, Guinguette du Relais Nautique had thought about deserts. There were two options the day we went: a gratifying apple crumble for Chéri and a tasty tiramisu for me. Sitting at the edge of the world, enjoying all this lovely food, life suddenly felt so uncomplicated!