Plate With A View: Spoon, Carthage, Tunisia
Saturday 14 January 2006
Spoon is the creation of the French restaurateur Alain Ducasse, and is an unexpected exercise in contemporary minimalism on top of one of the most historic hills on the North African coastline.
Byrsa was the defensive citadel of Carthage, the "Shining City" built, according to legend, in the ninth century BC by Queen Elissar Dido. The ruins of one of the most dazzling cities of the Mediterranean lie just above Villa Didon, the hotel that houses Spoon.
Outside, a shallow trough of water runs around the hotel while sun loungers are placed within their own awnings. Inside, everything is monochrome except for a huge red sofa and the fluorescent tubing that illuminates the wine racks. M Ducasse is evidently committed to the idea of transparency - the Spoon kitchen is spot-lit and highly visible.
The food couldn't possibly taste as good as it looks, because presentation is everything here. M Ducasse has designed a multi-ethnic menu and has created certain signature dishes for Spoon - lemon-spiced maltagliati with shellfish and crustaceans, warm soft-boiled egg with mullet, Catalan-style chicken breast and pan-seared sword fish in a sweet and sour sauce.
Huge windows give some of the best coastline views in Tunisia. Immediately below the restaurant are the ancient Punic ports of Dido's Carthage, one circular and the other rectangular. These amazing feats of engineering were built in the third century BC when Carthage was a major player in the Med. Their distinctive shapes are still discernible though the trees and modern development.
Beyond the ports lies the Bay of Tunis with Mt Bou Kournine rising on the horizon. People come here to dine around sunset - or just to sip gin and tonic as the sun dips.
Expect to pay 50 dinars per person (£21) for two courses. Tunisian wines at Spoon start at 25 dinars (£10.50) for red and 30 dinars (£12.50) for white.
Villa Didon is open daily; you can book online or by telephone.
Villa Didon, 2016 Carthage, Byrsa Tunisia (00 216 717 334 33; www.villadidon.com)
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