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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm reluctant to start a "What do I like least about France" thread but an unwelcome change has been taking place in French restaurants over the last decade or two. It's the creeping blight of serving pre-prepared meals that's eating away at one of France's greatest cultural offerings.

Yes, there are still affordable gems that exist - family run restaurants and hotels - that somehow have managed to survive, but sadly these places are slowly disappearing as the realities of modern life catch up with rural France. If they haven't yet disappeared, then la carte has shrunk with each passing year. Yes, the big names are still "out there" - but I'm talking about places that are routinely affordable - not the temples to gastronomy that you might go to to celebrate a major anniversary.

It costs (in ‘social’ charges) about 2000€ a month* to employ someone here on a modest wage – and that’s before you start paying them the wage..

* This figure was given to me recently - but please correct me if I'm wrong.

So the restaurateur has two choices: either put the prices up – or invest in a large microwave oven. Or perhaps both. Into the oven goes pre-prepared food provided by Brakes (an English company!). Here are their offerings for SW France.. They have similar products tailored for the rest of France. (Look under les catalogues)

I’m not suggesting that their products are poor quality – but what they're doing is leveling the playing field. It's the "blandification" of cooking as George Dubya might have said.. It’s destroying the art of cooking – all you need to employ now are “ding” chefs* – who need far less training and knowledge, therefore they are cheaper. If you go into a restaurant, and they have a huge menu, you can guarantee you’re about to enjoy a Brakes meal.. (From Wiki: Brake France emploie près de 1900 personnes, livre 43 000 restaurateurs dans toute la France)

How about starting a thread where we list those places that still provide food to the old standards?

* the sound the microwave makes when it’s finished!
 

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I'll have to check around online, but I believe the French government (or perhaps the restaurant industry itself) has come up with a designation for restaurants that prepare all their offerings in house - ah, here it is: The new sign on French menus - BBC News

Can't say as I have seen this sign up at any restaurants in the area, but then again we don't eat out much. (I prefer my "home made" to be literally made at home, but that's just me.)
Cheers,
Bev
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I'll have to check around online, but I believe the French government (or perhaps the restaurant industry itself) has come up with a designation for restaurants that prepare all their offerings in house - ah, here it is: The new sign on French menus - BBC News

Can't say as I have seen this sign up at any restaurants in the area, but then again we don't eat out much. (I prefer my "home made" to be literally made at home, but that's just me.)
Cheers,
Bev
We don't eat out that often either as Madame cooks comme un ange.. It is nice to be able to give her a break though.
 

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I'll have to check around online, but I believe the French government (or perhaps the restaurant industry itself) has come up with a designation for restaurants that prepare all their offerings in house - ah, here it is: The new sign on French menus - BBC News

Can't say as I have seen this sign up at any restaurants in the area, but then again we don't eat out much. (I prefer my "home made" to be literally made at home, but that's just me.)
Cheers,
Bev
Don't know if it's the same thing, but there is an issue with a government label re 'fait maison' in that it requires not just the dish, but all of the ingredients to be prepared on site in that it's too hard and too expensive to meet the requirement and actually precludes a lot of ingredients.

However France Bleu here does a program on local restaurants every weekday morning, and more and more of those are focusing on restaurants that use local and/or local organic produce and prepare their dishes on site from fresh foods. IMHO it's great because it goes hand in hand with buying fresh produce direct from local farmers.

Pip - I'm not sure I understand the title of this thread. Edit: Oh, I see it's referring to the UK company - but there are lots of companies from France and elsewhere who provide frozen ready-prepared dishes to restaurants.
 

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They deliver to private addresses here in our part of Spain. SWMBO, on the recommendation of another Brit, placed an order which was duly delivered. Verdict very expensive and even more so for rubbish.
 

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Eating out in France has become to expensive if you want nice food.

The last 4 times that we have eaten out has been a massive disappointment and one was a top-notch expensive restaurant. It was dire.

Like the OP says, the cost of employing people and the high cost of running a business is destroying the culinary industry in France.

Don't move to France for the food.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Pip - I'm not sure I understand the title of this thread. Edit: Oh, I see it's referring to the UK company - but there are lots of companies from France and elsewhere who provide frozen ready-prepared dishes to restaurants.
You're right - I should have called this thread something other than Brakes..!

What I wanted to achieve, apart from pointing out what's happening in the restaurant world, was to be able to populate our own online map with our favourite restaurants that still offer the kind of cooking that France was known for - the restaurant on a river somewhere.. or buried down a tangle of narrow lanes - known only to locals! Probably run by a third or fourth generation of the same family.

How about posting the names and accurate addresses and I'll put them on to our map.
Here's what we have so far.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Eating out in France has become to expensive if you want nice food.

The last 4 times that we have eaten out has been a massive disappointment and one was a top-notch expensive restaurant. It was dire.

Like the OP says, the cost of employing people and the high cost of running a business is destroying the culinary industry in France.

Don't move to France for the food.
Not true Smeg - there are still places where you can eat as of old at sensible prices. The whole point of this thread is to capture our communal knowledge. As in all things, you have to be increasingly selective these days.
Two of the three restaurants I've posted on the map provide excellent (and I mean that) home cooked 3 course lunches - with wine and coffee - for two for ~35€.
I'm sure most of us here have their own local favourites that never disappoint.. Let's put them on our map!
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 · (Edited)
There's one that I won't post here because it's difficult even for locals to find - let alone people from elsewhere in France.
It's waay up in the Pyrenees (20-odd minutes south of Itxassou - details provided to anyone who would like to go there). They do a 3 course randonneurs menu for 17€.. inc. wine and coffee.
We took my cousin and her hubby there about a month ago and she wondered where I was taking them as we climbed and climbed up into the hills.
We sat down in a glass-walled conservatory overlooking the Pyrenees and ordered..
The first course was a tureen of homemade soup.. (I advised them to try and have only one serving..). Then followed a massive omelette with jambon de Bayonne and home-made sausages. After we'd ground to a halt - and finished the bottle of wine - the waitress brought out some Basque cheese for us.
She looked at the empty bottle and took it away - and replaced it with another..! (saying "You can't have cheese without wine!")(I agreed!)
A slice of gateau basque each and coffee..
The bill? As advertised: 4 x 17€..
These places do exist.. let's find them!

PS Changed my mind - I will post it on the map.
Restaurants
 

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Actually, someone just contacted me to say that there is a site already up and running for restaurants that make their own from scratch to announce themselves. Restaurants qui font ? manger cuisine fait maison, label fait maison, produits frais

I used to joke with friends back in the US that I don't have any favorite French restaurants here, because we eat "French" all the time at home. DH cooks very well, and if I want to cook French I have several Julia Child cookbooks. When I get the chance to go out to eat, I prefer some form of "ethnic" cuisine - Chinese, Thai, Italian, etc.

When I was on the CA of the local AVF, people liked to go out together for lunch after the meetings. One of the members of the board used to get all crabby about how "all" the restaurants in town were "Chinese" (I'll give him the east Asian - there were some Thai and Japanese ones in there, too) - yet when it came down to letting him choose a place for us to have lunch, he complained that the one French restaurant in town was "too expensive." Never could figure why he didn't count the local crêperie as "French" but somehow he didn't. We did lunch there a couple of times and it was nice enough (for me) and at a good price.

I don't know if the crowd here on the forum is the right bunch to be asking for restaurant suggestions. I know for me one of the HUGE attractions of the French lifestyle is that you actually cook your own food at home (using local ingredients from the marché or, in our case, from our garden). To me, that's the difference between being a tourist and actually living someplace.
Cheers,
Bev
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Actually, someone just contacted me to say that there is a site already up and running for restaurants that make their own from scratch to announce themselves. Restaurants qui font ? manger cuisine fait maison, label fait maison, produits frais

I used to joke with friends back in the US that I don't have any favorite French restaurants here, because we eat "French" all the time at home. DH cooks very well, and if I want to cook French I have several Julia Child cookbooks. When I get the chance to go out to eat, I prefer some form of "ethnic" cuisine - Chinese, Thai, Italian, etc.

When I was on the CA of the local AVF, people liked to go out together for lunch after the meetings. One of the members of the board used to get all crabby about how "all" the restaurants in town were "Chinese" (I'll give him the east Asian - there were some Thai and Japanese ones in there, too) - yet when it came down to letting him choose a place for us to have lunch, he complained that the one French restaurant in town was "too expensive." Never could figure why he didn't count the local crêperie as "French" but somehow he didn't. We did lunch there a couple of times and it was nice enough (for me) and at a good price.

I don't know if the crowd here on the forum is the right bunch to be asking for restaurant suggestions. I know for me one of the HUGE attractions of the French lifestyle is that you actually cook your own food at home (using local ingredients from the marché or, in our case, from our garden). To me, that's the difference between being a tourist and actually living someplace.
Cheers,
Bev
I enjoy "ethnic" food too - especially Greek.. but I doubt if there's one within a 100km radius of here. We're also both fond of Indian - there are a couple in Biarritz but they're no great shakes. I do Chinese myself - and we're blessed with a great Asian supermarket not 10 minutes from home - as good as any I've seen.
As for eating out, I agree that home cooked food is hard to beat (or impossible if my wife's cooking!) - but now and again I like to give her a welcome break.
As for your last observation, all I can say is that the tourist trade in Bayonne must be doing great "all the year around" business because the restaurants are always packed! :D
 

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I like la Rôtisserie du Roy Léon at Bayonne, although it's not particularly cheap (that said, I defy anyone to eat the menu complet), and entree and main dish or main dish and dessert is now 36 euros - but for that you get a huge feed and the guys there are just great. For most dishes you have to wait a fair while, because so many are only cooked once you order. They also have main courses for which you pay extra (a friend of mine loves the palombe when it's the season - not my thing though). They specialise in local produce and on-site preparation. Actualités : LE ROY LEON: Restaurant - 64100 Bayonne
 

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La Cour du Louvre
23 Rue Saint-Agricol, Avignon, France
09 70 35 15 86
Down a small alley, a husband and wife team. Just delicious and well priced in the centre of Avignon. 35 euro menu.
 

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Have to add, if you are in the Sarlat area and looking for foie gras - a small restaurant on a back country road. The best and freshest foie gras and duck -their farm is across the road. Monsieur serves, Madame cooks. Family resto with some serious eaters there. 24 euro menu.
Michel Lacombe
24200 Saint-André-d'Allas, France
+33 5 53 30 43 39
 

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Forgot to say, I like this idea. I will definitely use it!
Me too - when my health improves :) Oh, and I have to get to Avignon - haven't been there yet (well, not into Avignon itself).

Pip I would love it if you would post the details of the resto in the Pyrenees, even if hard to find. I'm aware of some others there, but can't remember the details - if I do, I'll post them.
 
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