French dining is often considered a must in terms of Gastronomy. The best place to relish French food being France itself, why don't you indulge yourself with a culinary trip during your next holidays?
You will find below useful info about eating out in France, with the different types of French venues from the traditional Bistro and Brasserie to the latest star restaurants.
Originally considered to be a Bar or a Cafe, the "Bistro" turned to be pleasant and typical restaurant, really popular amongst the French as well as foreigners! Their convivial - sometimes bustling - atmosphere and reasonably priced meals have made their success for a long time now.
French Bistro in Paris
French Bistros feature a historical décor, held either in ancient tavernes (in rural areas) or in early-20th century buildings like those you can commonly see in Paris. Each bistro has its own ambiance but these cosy, cramped neighbourhood venues are often busy, especially at lunchtime! Waiters are generally relaxed - even scatterbrain sometimes! - and blackboard French menus affordable (about €15-30). The decoration is as well very simple, small round tables, basic (often wooden) furniture, a few posters or paintings on the walls are the main features.
Le Bistro is indeed a perfect destination to enjoy simple - yet flavourful - French food! It is not surprising then that many Bistros in big cities like Paris are rapidly over-crowded. By the way, bear in mind that some of them are even famous for being great tourist destinations and the service is unfortunately often rude in that case.
The French name Brasserie was originally used for "brewery", but it turned to represent a certain type of large, busy restaurants proposing typical French food. The Brasseries are now renowned worldwide, refering to great non-stop venues which are generally open late and do not require booking in advance.
Le Train Bleu Brasserie
Larger than the French Bistros, the traditional Brasseries have subsequently more extensive menus, offering fine dining meals as well as simple dishes (such as a grilled steak served with fresh Provençal herbs and delightful chips, a mainstay of the French Food!). Three-course meals are more expensive though (between €30 and €70).
Whilst the bistro tends to be an intimate gastronomic restaurants, the brasserie retains the charm of the ancient brewery; frequently loud, such restaurant will satisfy every lovers of beer and wine, and remains a great opportunity to experience the French art de la table.
French Brasseries also often feature a beautiful 19th-century décor, as examples Bofinger's (Paris, 11th) and Train Bleu's (Paris, Gare de Lyon) are really worth the visit!
An increasing number of Brasseries are now run by chain companies - Flo, Maitre Kanter, Chez Clément being the most renowned. These venues boast many seats and can readily host groups (a plus in busy towns like Paris!), but for this reason, they may not satisfy those who expect a more exclusive dining experience.
Michelin Star Restaurants
To really indulge your taste buds and discover what the French gastronomy is, Michelin star restaurants are doubtless the perfect destinations!
The best restaurants of France were granted the so-called Michelin stars, creating the huge range range of "Michelin starred restaurants". Boasting from one to three stars, such restaurants ensure a high quality service, original and/ or elegant décor, fine wines and above all, terrific and sophisticated food.
The best-known French Chefs - awarded by several Michelin stars - are Alain Le Nôtre, Paul Bocuse, Alain Ducasse, Bernard Loiseau, Claude Troisgros and Marc Veyrat, to give just a few.
You can find every top addresses in the Michelin Guide (or Red Guide) for a fine-dining experience, or if you search for good values, have a look rather at the Guide Gourmand (the "Bib Gourmand" restaurants featuring forks and knives instead of stars).
The traditional Auberges restaurants are an excellent and pleasant combination of French gastronomy and art de vivre.
Generally situated in rural areas or at least in remote, peaceful surroundings, such venues are run by (independent) professional caterers and chefs who want to promote and highlight the products of their regions. Authenticity, Simplicity and Quality are the Auberges leitmotiv. Some country venues - named Fermes Auberges (refering to farm houses turned into restaurants) - even propose a hearty cuisine made of their own farm products.
Auberges' other plus is that the owners are generally extremely friendly, coming to speak with their guests and giving visitors interesting info about the region. Such convivial venues can be compared to the French Chambres d'Hotes when they also offer Table d'Hote (including dinner).
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