1,000 French restaurants sign up for 2 for 1 deal

The reservation lines opened on Monday for Tous au Restaurant - an initiative that will see almost 1,000 restaurants around France offering three course meals on a buy one get one free deal.

1,000 French restaurants sign up for 2 for 1 deal
Chef Gérald Passedat is opening the doors of his Le Petit Nice for half-price meals. Photo: AFP
Ever wanted to experience France's fine-dining scene but haven't been able to justify the cost?

Well, it's your lucky day or it could be if you act quickly enough.
The reservations for Tous au Restaurant opened on Monday morning, allowing foodies from the world over to book a cheap(er) evening out in France between September 21st and October 4th.
The initiative, that was launched in 2010 by star-studded French chef Alaine Ducasse (pictured below) to get more people into restaurants in France, will see 923 eateries offering two guests a full menu – starter, main, and dessert – for the price of one.

(Ducasse poses in his restaurant “Le Jules Verne” at the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Photo: AFP)
This year's event runs for two weeks rather than the usual one, and marks the first year that a wine list is included.
The restaurants include everything from cheap eateries – where you could dine for two for just €25 ($28) – to the likes of Le Petit Nice in Marseille which will set you back €395 ($447) for lunch alone.
So what's the catch?
There doesn't appear to be one. Although people who took advantage of the initiative in recent years have taken to TripAdvisor to warn that it's only selected menus that are available – not the restaurant's usual full menu. 
And it might be tough to get a place. The official website has had an electronic countdown ticking down the minutes until Monday morning at 10am when the booking lines were open, suggesting the event may be as hotly anticipated as last year when around 500,000 people took part, according to the L'Express newspaper
There's even a second booking opportunity that opens on September 21st for those who missed out.
If you're not put off by potentially swarming restaurants, here is the full list of restaurants participating – and click here to book

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Reader question: Exactly how many different types of cheese are there in France?

One thing everyone can agree on is that France has a lot of cheese - but exactly how many French fromages exist?

Reader question: Exactly how many different types of cheese are there in France?

Question: I often see a quote from Charles de Gaulle talking about ‘246 different types of cheese’, but other articles say there are 600 or even 1,000 different types of cheese and some people say there are just eight types – how many different cheeses are there in France?

A great question on a subject dear to French hearts – cheese.

But it’s one that doesn’t have a simple answer.

Charles de Gaulle did indeed famously say “How can anyone govern a country with 246 different types of cheese”, but even in 1962 when he uttered the exasperated phrase, it was probably an under-estimate.

READ ALSO 7 tips for buying cheese in France

The issue is how you define ‘different’ types of cheese, and unsurprisingly France has a complicated system for designating cheeses.

Let’s start with the eight – there are indeed eight cheese ‘families’ and all of France’s many cheeses can be categorised as one of;

  • Fresh cheese, such as cottage cheese or the soft white fromage blanc
  • Soft ripened cheese, such as Camembert or Brie
  • Soft ripened cheese with a washed rind, such as l’Epoisses or Pont l’Eveque
  • Unpasturised hard cheese such as Reblochon or saint Nectaire
  • Pasturised hard cheese such as Emmental or Comté
  • Blue cheese such as Roquefort 
  • Goat’s cheese
  • Melted or mixed cheese such as Cancaillot

But there are lots of different types of, for example, goat’s cheese.

And here’s where it gets complicated, for two reasons.

The first is that new varieties of cheese are constantly being invented by enterprising cheesemakers (including some which come about by accident, such as le confiné which was created in 2020).

The second is about labelling, geography and protected status.

France operates a system known as Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC or its European equivalent AOP) to designate food products that can only be made in a certain area.

As cheese is an artisan product, quite a lot of different cheese are covered by this – for example a blue sheep’s milk cheese is only Roquefort if it’s been aged in the caves in the village of Roquefort.

There are 63 listed AOC cheeses in France, but many more varieties that don’t have this protected status.

These include generic cheese types such as BabyBel and other cheeses that are foreign in origin but made in France (such as Emmental).

But sometimes there are both AOC and non-AOC versions of a single cheese – a good example of this is Camembert.

AOC Camembert must be made in Normandy by farmers who have to abide by strict rules covering location, milk type and even what their cows eat.

Factory-produced Camembert, however, doesn’t stick to these rules and therefore doesn’t have the AOC label. Is it therefore the same cheese? They’re both called Camembert but the artisan producers of Normandy will tell you – at some length if you let them – that their product is a totally different thing to the mass-produced offering.

There are also examples of local cheeses that are made to essentially the same recipe but have different names depending on where they are produced – sometimes even being on opposite sides of the same Alpine valley is enough to make it two nominally different cheeses.

All of which is to say that guessing is difficult!

Most estimates range from between 600 to 1,600, with cheese experts generally saying there are about 1,000 different varieties. 

So bonne dégustation!