Sunday, 2 November 2008

The cost of eating out

I contribute to a travel forum occasionally. One of the main concerns people seem to have when they visit France (and I can understand this) is "how much does it cost to eat".

Most of the questions refer to Paris, and I am constantly staggered by how much some people are prepared to spend on a "cheap" meal. Prices like 28€, 35€ or 40€ get thrown about as great value. I am sorry, but a 3 course menu where the main course is Moules Frites just doesn't seem like good value at 30€. I know the price of real estate is high in Paris, I know it costs a lot of money to live there so wages are higher, but 30€ for moules is excessive. Even more excessive is what people will happily pay for Michelin stars. People who know me know that I am cautious when it comes to spending money, so when I am in Paris I am startled by restaurant prices - a 3 course menu that costs more than 20€ always has me thinking twice.

It is lucky, then, that we are in Preuilly. A 3 course lunch can cost as little as 11€ (wine included) at various restaurants in the small villages around the area - in one case locally produced melon, followed by duck with potato dauphinoise and then apple tart. This was served with a couple of litres of red wine (between 4 people).

The most we have spent is 32€ each for two courses (which in true French style really means 5 or 6 courses) at la Promenade in la Petit Pressigny. This restaurant has a Michelin star and is spectacular without being too pretentious for words. It is true they don't serve veges with the meat dish, but vegetables is what food eats so that's OK. [Note from Susan: don't let this comment from Simon put you off – vegetables are served as dishes in their own right, not as bulk to fill up the plate the meat is served on.]

Most of the time though we eat in Preuilly itself - either at La Claise, which does huge pizzas (more on which later); Auberge St Nicolas, which does more your classic French cooking, or L'Image which combines classic french in a more homely style. We have not yet eaten at L'Esperance, because we believe they only do lunch, which we rarely eat out when we are home. It is, however, on our list. It amazes me that a town as small as Preuilly can have this many restaurants/hotels, plus a crepe restaurant and a visiting pizza van on Saturdays.
hotel l'Esperance, Preuilly
The desserts on this entry are two of those served at l'Image: Fondant au Chocolat, Sauce Menthe (chocolate fondant is like a very thick soft fudge, in this case accompanied by a creamy mint liqueur sauce) and Charlotte aux Poires, Coulis des Framboises (pear charlotte with raspberry sauce). Adrian took the photos - it wasn't ALL baths while he was visiting!



Anonymous said...

Your charlotte photo reminds me of a delicious strawberry charlottine we ate (with coulis des framboises). You wouldn't have a recipe for that kind of charlottine, would you? Googling hasn't worked--well, it did dig up one recipe which starts out with a rice cake (the loofah-like substance that dieters resort to when times are desperate) and I lost faith in it.

Anonymous said...

Hi Simon,
Just like you I find restaurant prices in Paris outrageous. French people are probably very rich since they don't blink an eye when they look at the very hefty checks. In the US you would have twice the amount of food for less than half the price. But wait. QUALITY. That's the buzz word.
What I'm trying to say is the quality of the food served in France is so amazingly good that, after all, it doesn't seems that expensive, after all.
The same thing goes for fruits and vegetables that are so much tastier than in the US.

Susan said...

I like rice cakes, but using them in a charlotte is weird, for sure! I will PM you with a recipe. Charlottes are not difficult. Line a bowl with sponge cake, spongefingers (aka lady fingers) or biscuits roses de Reims, fill with syllabub and refrigerate for at least 6 hours so it sets (syllabub is whipped cream and stewed or puréed fruit in more or less equal quantities. You can also include some thickish custard and/or a splash of sweet wine or liqueur.) Summer pudding, that glory of British cuisine, is really a variation of a charlotte, made using bread instead of cake and just thick stewed berries with no cream. You can choose to completely enclose a charlotte by topping with cake and pressing it lightly whilst in the fridge. Then it can be turned out before serving.

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