For such a large town Douai has remarkably few restaurants. The superb fish restaurant Le Turbotin we went to several times many years ago has long since disappeared, and we’ve struggled to find somewhere decent when we’ve had occasional cause to stay overnight nearby. It would appear that the inhabitants of Douai (Douaisoise?) choose to eat at the many chain restaurants or pizza shops scattered about.
We were pleased to find Le Soleil de Tunis, just around the corner from the Petit Place near the town centre. From its name you are obviously going to expect to eat couscous here - the fairly standard fare of steamed couscous, a choice of meats (lamb or chicken in a variety of forms) in a rich spicey gravy, vegetables similarly prepared, chickpeas, and harissa (the chilli sauce accompaniment) - and you are not going to be disappointed. Sometimes also sultanas, but not at Le Soleil.
To further set the scene the inside is a riot of moorish tiles, with seating on two floors. We were brought a couple of small Tunisian bites and home made harissa each to nibble while we made our choice - one effectively a mini merguez sausage roll and the other a kefta samosa (brik). These would traditional be washed down with a glass of sweet mint tea, but we went straight in to the wine list. The north of France is not wine country, and the choice was even more limited in this little bit of Tunis. The choice was between Moroccan Boulaouane red or rosé, French Tavel rosé, Aligoté, or St Emilion AOC, and a red Château Mornag 2012 from Tunis. I opted for the Ch. Mornag, a blend of carignan, syrah and merlot which despite its youth turned out to be quite a rich fruité wine and went very well with our food choices.
Our couscous selection included barbecued skewers of lamb, spicey lamb merguez sausages, lamb stewed in a tagine, and ground lamb keftas. A modern upmarket restaurant would doubtless call the dish “lamb cooked 4 ways” but they’d be pushed to better the flavours.
The only real alternative to couscous are the same meats or a vegetable dish served with chips instead of steamed semolina. Desserts were a couple of Tunisian honey flavoured baklawa pastries, and we finished with coffee and small tots of boukha (a fiery fig eau de vie) and thibarine (a sweet date liqueur).
Service was homely and friendly. With its rather limited choice it is not somewhere we would eat regularly, but we’d certainly go back again.