Dining out in France: a guide to French dining establishments

21st October, 2016
With a variety of cuisines and dishes to suit everyone, France is the perfect place for any foodie to experience, with your stay only enhanced by the variety of dining establishments on offer, whether you choose to stay at our villas in Provence in the south or our Brittany villas in the north. Ranging from casual to gourmet, the wide range of places to eat can sometimes cause confusion for tourists.

Each type of place differs not only in its atmosphere but also in the dishes it offers, meaning it’s well worth trying as many different kinds of eateries as you can during your visit. Here are just some of the eateries you may encounter while in France.

Café

Perfect for a laid-back bite to eat, cafés can be found all over France and are often the heart and soul of any neighbourhood or town centre. Depending on the location, some cafés attract regulars of all backgrounds, while some attract a more hip and trendy crowd. Although they mainly serve coffee and other hot drinks, they also serve a number of light dishes such as toasted sandwiches, and are open throughout the day from as early as 7am.

Bistro

For a casual dining experience with a wider ranging menu than what cafés have to offer, bistros offer reasonably priced classic French fare. Though they tend to get crowded, they can be some of the best places to sample some of the country’s culinary staples. Some bistros also double up as ‘tabacs’, which are like corner shops and sell goods such as tobacco and lottery tickets. Bistros are only open during mealtime hours – typically between 11.30am and 2pm for lunch, and between 7.30pm and 11pm for dinner.

Brasserie

Perhaps most similar to a pub-style restaurant, brasserie translates to brewery in English, meaning that alongside their food selections there also tend to be some great wines and beers on offer. Brasseries feature an even wider selection of dishes than bistros, serving food all day long.

Restaurant

Offering traditional multi-course meals, restaurants in France operate in much the same way as other restaurants in Europe. Diners can either select dishes from the a la carte menu or opt for the fixed price menu, which offers a selected starter, main and dessert for a slightly lower price than the a la carte menu. Like with bistros, restaurants are only open at mealtimes, and may also be closed on day of the week (usually a Sunday or a Monday).

Auberge

Attached to rural hotels and countryside inns, auberges offer rustic and simple meals, often using fresh ingredients from the surrounding local area. Auberges typically offer a table d’hote with limited options, though you can expect the food to be of a high quality.

Image: Daxis, available under Creative Commons