I’m just back from a couple of weeks in France and I'm already missing the weather, the wine and the holiday way of life. But the food? Not so much. The restaurants were a bit underwhelming to say the least. Frites, frites and more frites with everything, pizza and crepes staples on most menus with the burger bringing up the rear.
Vegetables were as rare as Perigord truffles although the salads get a thumbs up. Lack of variety and creativity in most restaurants and a distinct lack of choice on kids menus (although they did feature lots of mussels) made for some disappointing dining.
All is not lost though. If you are heading to France on holidays, here are my top tips on dining out (and in) with the kids:
1) Unless you have very clever children (mine aren't) they will not be able to read the French menu. So you (and your translation app) are in charge of ordering. Pick something different for them and see how they get on. Often kids revert to the familiar and end up eating pizza for seven nights in a row so grab this opportunity to order them something different.
2) We saw lots of French kids eating the same or similar to their parents in the restaurants we were in. This feeds into the French food culture and is a joy to behold.
3) Accept that they will have fries, especially if you're in high-traffic tourist spots. And lots of them - portion sizes were big.
4) French restaurants tend to keep stricter hours than what we may be used to here. Lunch starts at midday and finishes at 2pm. Dinner service starts at 7pm so plan your meals carefully or you'll end up eating ice-cream all day.
5) If you are in a self-catering apartment or campsite, take advantage of the great produce available in the markets and supermarkets. Feed the children a great breakfast and/or lunch and let them eat fries for their dinner in the knowledge they've already consumed their five a day. They most likely won't be getting any veggies with their dinner .
6) On one occasion, we fed the children at our apartment and then ate out while they enjoyed an ice-cream and played in a nearby playground. This allowed us to enjoy a meal without all the stress of the kids and they had a ball. We wouldn't do it every night because, after all, eating out is about much more than the food.
What do you do when you eat out with your kids on holidays?