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'Boring and unimaginative': Readers in France give their verdict on French cuisine

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'Boring and unimaginative': Readers in France give their verdict on French cuisine
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17:37 CET+01:00
French cuisine has been heavily criticized recently by a top French chef so we asked our readers in France, who've spent a good deal of time eating out in brasseries and bistros, exactly what they thought. You can add your own view in the comments section.

Despite it being the international standard for haute cuisine, top French food critic Philippe Faure recently blasted the "lamentable" standard of cooking in France. 

"Thirty or 40 years ago you could cross the country stopping randomly every 20 kilometres and eat very well; there were good bistros everywhere. But that is no longer the case," Faure said.

"Without using a guide you can now eat better in Switzerland, Spain and in Italy," he added, when it used to be "the other way around".

So does French cuisine still deserve to be held up as a gastronomic benchmark or is that all in the past? Does where you live in France make a difference to the food you eat? Or does it simply depend on how much money you have?

We thought our readers in France would be best placed to answer the question, not least because they know better than anyone the quality of fare on offer on France these days.

On the whole, The Local France's readers agreed that French food isn't all it's cracked up to be, with one of the top complaints being that it is “boring”.

Jane Le Maux, 69, who lives in Dordogne, complained of  “unimaginative” French restaurants, and described a menu that will be all too familiar for many residents in France.

“It's always the same pretty much where you go around here, soup, terrine with gherkins, some kind of meat, apple tart or créme brûlée," she said.

Sally Smith, 69 who lives in the department of Maine-et-Loire agreed that “it is rare to find anything different on restaurant menus.”

“I ate much better when I lived in Belgium,” he said.

Italy was mentioned by Dawn Howard, 52, who lives in the department Alpes-Maritimes, as a country to get “cheaper and better” food than in France although added that "if you spend a bit more on mid to luxury range French cuisine" then the quality improves.

Richard Eakin, from Northern Ireland who lives part of the year in France believes French has a worsening reputation because other countries have caught up in recent years.

"France needs to step up a gear," he said.

 

And Ewen Adamson, 72, from Nouvelle-Aquitaine, went as far to say that, these days, French food is on a par with English cuisine.

“My experience is that the average meal in France is as good as, but no better than, the much maligned English food.

"The fact that there are now more varieties of English cheese than French about illustrates the changes” he said.

 

Adamson like other readers complained of patchy quality when eating out in France, with the risk of eating “mediocre” or “inconsistent” food running high.

“I have the occasional surprise when I think, 'this is what eating in France is all about' but often it is not that good and occasionally 'Bleaugh, what is this?'” he said.

And paying more for your meal won't guarantee you top quality gastronomy either according to Michael Holden, 47, from the department of Inde-et-Loire.

“A local restaurant once served me tinned potatoes and tinned carrots! I wasn't impressed. I've had food that was worse than school dinners and I've has amazing cuisine, and the better food wasn't always more expensive," he said.

Bill Crawford, 71, from Aveyron, put this “serious” deterioration of French food standards down to lack of training for chefs in France nowadays. “There is no comparison to quality of French dining that was available in most cafes in the 70's and 80's,” he said.

"French chefs have little or no training today and no idea how French traditional cuisine should taste," he said.

However, although the majority seemed rather underwhelmed by their eating experiences in France, there were a few defenders of French cuisine among our readers.

Some of them, like Connie Porter-Richards, 75, from Dordogne thought it was all a question of finding the right restaurant, saying its hard to beat the “many long-standing and excellent bistros and restaurants that offer superlative food, not easily found elsewhere.”

And Jerry Nason, 72, raved about the restaurants where he lives in Mayenne, Pays-de-la-Loire, claiming they are reasonably priced and offer plenty of choice.

“We have numerous local restaurants (in small villages and towns) which offer high quality "plat du jour" at very reasonable inclusive prices. We have a wide range of places to go for an evening meal, and we are rarely disappointed," he said.

 
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Pete - 17 Dec 2018 18:27
The food locally (Albi, near Toulouse) is utterly unimaginative. It's always salmon (or a much cheaper fish) or steak or chicken, cooked with almost no herbs or spices and a huge pile of lettuce leaves (the outer ones usually) as 'veg' - dressing (if any) from a bottle. Dessert is usually Isle Flottante or Creme Caramel or ice cream. And in Albi the 'chalked up' tourist menus haven't changed for years. No wonder the chefs are bored themselves. Almost every lunch menu (12-15 euros for 2 or 3 courses) we've had in the last few years has been very disappointing. Much better food in Spain or Britain these days. Sad. Mid-range food should be the measure of a country's cuisine, not top restaurants.
Daniela - 17 Dec 2018 19:59
We live in the hills just outside Nice, and getting to Italy is quick and easy. We'd rather go there, than go into Nice and have a mediocre meal. The restaurants in Italy, just across the border of France, serve excellent food at very reasonable prices.
In fact, restaurants all over Italy, serve excellent food, wines and deserts. Far, far better quality than France, unfortunately. And can anyone please tell me why meals in France are so much more expensive here, than Italy? In fact, I've noticed that even in the UK, where it can be quite expensive to eat out at various places, you can eat a decent, tasty meal cheaper than France!
S Routledge - 17 Dec 2018 21:03
40 years ago, we spent our honeymoon cycling from Paris to and down the Loire valley and back. No advance reservations. We were both vegetarians and the hotel chefs often took it as a challenge to prepare something for us. Since returning to Europe after many years in America, and spending two four week holidays in France, I was very disappointed in the fare we were offered. It seemed that the chefs had their standard menus and were unable or unwilling to venture outside them. Even those for vegetarians were uninspiring.
This was very disappointing as I'd been looking forward to eating in France again for several years. What's happened?
Lynn - 18 Dec 2018 04:31
We've lived in Burgundy 15 years and we've watched the restaurant quality decline dramatically. The rest of the world has enthusiastically gone global, experimental, and local with their cuisine, while France has stagnated. So many restaurants now serve industrially prepared food. It's disheartening.
- 18 Dec 2018 06:40
Barbara,
French restaurants have declined in quality. 30 years ago
one could get a quality meal but now the quality and preparation is not as good. They do not seem to care about quality. People seem to accept this nd do not complain. There have bee many times I have had to return my food because it was inadequately prepared.It seems as if the cheps are ill prepared or do not know how to cook good French food
Linda - 19 Dec 2018 16:58
We live in the Var. When we came here 25 years ago, there was a lovely duck dish with a dark fruit sauce that I adored. Today I never see anything like that. The restaurants serve the same old, same old stuff over and over again and the quality can be very poor. We recently went to a golf club restaurant for a holiday luncheon which is supposed to be posh. Several people at the table complained about the quality of the duck which was impossible to cut. The manager got annoyed with them and treated them like they were out of their minds. We also went to a 1 star restaurant for a special birthday and spent 500 euros for four. The food was good but it rather irritated me that we paid all that money and were still charged 4 euros each for a coffee. We went there once on New Years Day where the main course was veal. It turned out to be 3 tiny bits of meat half the size of a golf ball. Needless to say I was not impressed. However, these days there are quite a few very small restaurants in a nearby town with young enthusiastic chefs who create something imaginative and delicious for a very reasonable price. It's very encouraging. And whatever you do, don't order a caesar salad. Yuk!!!
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