People in France eat out a lot (although somewhat less during the present crise). On Sundays, you will often see whole families from grandparents down to babies tucking into a five-course meal. This is the reason why French children are generally so well behaved in restaurants. They have got the eating out habit early. They also get used to eating en famille.
For my other posts about French customs, please see Customs under Topics in the right-hand sidebar. For Part 1 of Table Manners, about how to behave when invited for a meal by French people, please click here.
Arrival: it’s customary to greet everybody when you enter a restaurant, as it is when you go into a shop (but unnecessary in a big supermarket – just in case you were thinking of trying it). I like this habit, although it took a while to get used to it. In England, people would think you were barmy. It makes sense, though: why pretend no one else exists but you? Diners at adjacent tables often wish each other ‘Bon appetit’ as well.
The menu: as well as à la carte, most restaurants offer a fixed price menu (some offer only that), which is normally good value. The main course often changes daily, according to what is in season or available at the market. It is therefore cooked that day and not microwaved from the freezer.
One of our local restaurants, L’Auberge de la Grange du Cros, is a converted barn in a tiny hamlet. Thierry does the front of house (serving up to 30 diners) while Rebecca cooks in a converted dovecote. Thierry’s performance alone is worth the journey, as he describes each course in poetic French – he also speaks English. The menu changes every week and is always interesting, combining locally sourced ingredients with an imaginative twist. This is this week’s menu: