French food and eating out in France
France is famous all over the world for its wine, but also has a rich history of fine French food and wonderful cuisine with many regional specialities.
There are thousands of different restaurants and cafes and these range from the small bistro to the ultimate in haute cuisine, which basically means high cooking in French, but with a price tag to match!
No matter your budget, the quality of food will be a delight to all as the French chefs take their cooking very seriously, meaning that you will no doubt experience a very high quality meal. So from Quiche Lorraine, the regional speciality of Lorraine, served in the local cafe to a slice served in a top restaurant, you may not taste much of a difference, it comes down to the pleasures of your surroundings.
Haute cuisine is a type of meal characterised by elaborate preparations and presentations of the food in some of the finest hotels and restaurants throughout France. Normally accompanied by extensive wine cellars and efficient silver service waiters and waitresses, the actual types of food available will vary from the classic regional delicacies to the contemporary fusion cuisine.
Menu du Jour
Menu du Jour literally means menu of the day and most restaurants will have one that changes frequently if not daily. The food prepared from this menu will be what is available locally at the time and therefore is always constantly changing, yet is the freshest produce available, but also normally means the most reasonably priced meals for the whole family to enjoy.
Sauces and Wine with food
Most French food is quite rich and different sauces usually accompany a meal and you will find that there are often particular sauces that are regarded as a speciality in certain restaurants, so if you do get the chance you should consider experimenting with these you just don‘t know what you will discover.
France is renowned for its wine with many wine growing regions, from the Champagne-Ardenne area with the famous Champagne, through to the Aquitaine region with the fruity reds of Bordeaux.
Due to its popularity and being a way of life, you will find that wine is served with most meals and as we have found, in many restaurants when you order from a set menu or the Menu du Jour, you will get a glass of wine, or a bottle in some cases, automatically within the price.
In the UK if you ask for a table wine, it is like getting the worst possible on the wine menu, whereas in France you will find that the table wines can be just as expensive and in a lot of cases far more so than others. Yet they are of excellent quality, as the owners of the French restaurants wish you to have a pleasant meal, but they also make more profit on these in comparison to their vintages.
Obviously, if you know the type of wine you like then you can opt for others on the wine list, however, do bear in mind that if dining at a plush restaurant, then it is customary to order a different wine to accompany each different dish served.
Red meat is very popular throughout France and if you are in a restaurant where the staff do not speak English you will be asked the question la caisson? which basically translates to how would you like it cooked.
Your reply will obviously depend upon how you like to see you meat. For a general guide Saignant means rare and from our experiences that is truly rare! Saignant à point is generally medium rare and bien cuit is well done.
If you want to eat breakfast out, then it is highly unlikely to be in a restaurant, but at a Patisserie where you can get croissants, bread, fillings such as cold meats and cheeses, pastries and a nice cup of coffee.
Although, it is customary to serve coffee black that is usually very strong. So if you do not want your eyeballs spinning like we found the first time in France, it may be an idea to ask for café au lait, which literally means coffee with milk.
You will be able to find numerous different cafes and bistros whilst walking around any town or city in France, but it is worth noting that they often add an additional charge to your bill if you decide to sit outside on their terrace, rather than at the bar or a table inside.
Within the UK, we are more used to having a lunch then our main meal of an evening, but this is completely reversed in France.
Even though many restaurants now provide a Brunch type service, most French people will have their main meal at a lunch time, and this is usually served between a two hour period, which can be Noon to 2pm or 12.30pm through to 2.30pm, which is also this time that the majority of shops will be closed.
As for the evening, meals are usually served from around 7.30pm onwards, so if you do get peckish earlier, then you would need to go to a Brasserie, which is like a cafe and restaurant mixed into one, and they are usually open all day serving food from the same menu.
When the French do go out for an evening meal they tend to dress up for the occasion, so it is highly recommended to check with restaurant as to what the dress code will be, because if you turn up in Jeans and they require a jacket and tie, you will not be allowed in, even if you have booked!
You will also probably find that in most restaurants you are not pressured to leave and the whole meal experience becomes a complete evening. But if you are ready to leave, then you may need to ask for the bill and the way to do this is to say L'addition s'il vous plait, which basically translates to the bill please.
Some Basic Words on a Menu
- Friture is fried
- Rotir is roasted
- Griller is grilled
- A La Vapeur is steamed (with the word in front for whatever is being steamed)
- Bouillis is boiled
- A la Crème is basically in cream sauce
- Le potage de ……. Basically means a soup of …..
- Legumes mean vegetables
- Poisson means fish
- Viandes means meat
- Pommes de terre are potatoes
- Oeufs are eggs
- Vin is wine
- Rouge is red
- Blanc is white
Pretty straight forward really!
Well we hope you enjoy your meals out at the many French restaurants throughout the country.