In rural areas, restaurants tend to serve lunch between noon
and 2pm and dinner between 7.30 and 10pm, and it is not easy to find something
in-between those two meal times. But you can usually get a sandwich in a café,
and ordinary hot dishes may be available in a brasserie.
In French restaurants and cafés, a service charge is
included. Tipping is not necessary, but French people often leave the small
change from their bill on their table or about 5 percent for the waiter in a
nice restaurant. And if you've had an especially pleasant meal, with attentive
service, then tip accordingly; it will be appreciated.
There are restaurants in all towns and cities but usually
only open at traditional meal times. Food ranges from regional cooking to nouvelle
and haute cuisine – expect to pay anything from €12 upwards for a
main course, depending on the type of food available. Many restaurants offer
good value set menus at lunch times; the plat
du jour is always worth thinking about, not least because you can get 3 or
4 courses very inexpensively. You can often find restaurants specialising in
fish and seafood, especially along the coastal resorts, and I was once
advised never, as a principle, eat seafood more than five miles from the sea.
High-end, fine-dining restaurants will be found in all the
major cities; they may not all be Michelin-starred, but they will be good. But
beware, if you're not used to this luxury cuisine, don't overdo it by eating
out every night. Apart from damaging your wallet, the rich food can upset your
tummy, too. But as a 'Welcome to France', or an 'Au revoir' it's good to splash
...are where to have a coffee or
breakfast in the morning. You will often find men standing at the counter
drinking a pastis (aniseed-flavour alcoholic drink), even early in the
day. At lunchtime, the tables are set with cutlery and paper cloths and you’ll
find good-value, simple food. Of course quality will vary, so it’s good to go
somewhere that seems popular.
Brasseries are found in most cities and towns and often
serve food 24/7. The white-aproned waiters buzz between the tables, taking
orders for coffee, drinks or food – steak and chips, duck, chicken – from
locals and tourists alike.
The ubiquitous fast-food outlets McDonalds® and Burger King®
(France even has its own chain – Quick) can be found in the centre of most
French cities and on autoroute service areas these days as well as pizza
places, kebab shops, take-away crêperies. Ideal for anyone on a budget or in a
These places are mainly frequented by lorry drivers, and can
be found along main roads. But food is cheap and they can be a good option if
you’re en route somewhere and don’t want to waste time going into town. If it’s
important, do some advance research at www.relais-routiers.com.
As well as serving food, auberges also traditionally offered
accommodation to travellers. They are the French equivalent of the English inn,
and usually found in the countryside and an attractive option to both eat and
stay. They normally serve regional produce; it will be simple but wholesome.
There are thousands of crêperies across France,
especially in Brittany. A crêpe is made with sweet batter and a galette
is made with salty batter – both are usually available with a choice of
Vegetarians will be disappointed to know that there are few
places that cater exclusively for their needs; vegans even more so. At its
simplest, the French don't understand why anyone doesn't want to eat meat. But
it isn't impossible, and the key is to ask first. Don't be drawn in by
assurances that they can produce a vegetarian meal; try to find out what they
can do, otherwise you'll end up with a mushroom omelette – it will be an
excellent omelette, but there are only so many omelettes you can put up with.
Moreover, if you find a restaurant you like the look of, make a point of asking
if the chef can prepare something for you, but maybe do it a day in advance,
he/she may need to buy in ingredients. So be sure to book a table at the time;
it's only fair.