Eating out in a foreign country can always be tricky and especially when English is not widely spoken. Plus, France has a reputation for producing perfect children when it comes to eating in a restaurant. Kids who will sit still, eat everything offered to them, and keep quiet through the whole thing and this was emphasised in the parenting manual 'French Children Don't Throw Food
'. But France is all about eating out and enjoying food so here's our guide to making it easier to eat out in France with kids.
It's a myth that French children behave
The first thing we are pleased to let you know is that it is a big fat myth that French kids don't throw food. Or more accurately throw tantrums and embarrass their parents in restaurants. Twice during a recent family holiday, we witnessed this myth being shattered. The worst case being in a lovely little créperie in Falais. The boy was around seven or eight and really flipped out complaining to his Mother, Father and Grandmother that he didn't want to be there. He was loud, screaming and even kicking out. It is probably one of the worst tantrums I've seen in a restaurant and much worse than our two have managed (so far!). I felt really, really sorry for those parents but one thing was very clear to us. The myth that French children don’t throw food was shattered and you shouldn't worry anymore about your kid’s behaviour than you usually would – after all they still need to behave and not ruin lunch for you and others! As you can see from the above picture in this bistro Champ was on his best behaviour
More choice than you think
One thing that might put you off venturing out to local restaurants is an unfortunate lack of choice for children. While they do all provide a children’s menu (menu enfant) it is very often limited to ham or chicken nuggets with chips. So while you get to indulge in the Plat du Jour (meal of the day) with possibly an entree and dessert you feel bad your kids can only have the same thing - every day. However, we discovered that there was more flexibility on offer than shown on the menu and if you ask the restaurant they will often serve a plat du jour with two plates to allow you to split it between two young children. If your kids are older and approaching or in double digits, then go straight for the plat du jour for them anyway.
Another family favourite for us is to visit a créperie. While the kids don't enjoy a Galette (Savoury buckwheat pancake) as much as we do there are plenty of sweet pancakes with a variety of fillings for them to enjoy. We understand the value of a balanced diet but you are on holiday and there are two other meals in the day to pack them full of veg and fruit.
Be prepared for a long lunch
The French treat meal times with respect and the table is pretty much yours over lunch and they will be in no rush to get you out. This is great for adults so that you can enjoy your food and have a chat. But this isn't always great for little ones so it is worth carrying a few pens and paper with you to allow for some drawing time, or maybe a useful app on your smart phone such as the CBeebies app to keep them entertained. Just turn the volume down to avoid annoying other tables.
Key phrases to help when eating out
The following key phrases can be useful when eating out in France
Menu Enfant - Childrens menu
Plat du Jour - Dish of the day, this is usually a tasty but basic main meal prepared in bulk and provides good value for money.
Plat du Jour avec deux assiettes pour les enfants si vous plait - Plat du jour with two plates for the children please (and point to each child)
If all else fails
McDonalds is prevently in France and they now include the computerized ordering system where you can choose your language and it's nice and easy but please try the local restaurants as they have fantastic food on offer and are lot more family friendly than their reputation would sometimes suggest.
We travelled to France with Brittany Ferries and back on the
Eurotunnel as our ferry was cancelled. During this trip we stay at 4 rue de la dive provided by
Toddler Holiday a great choice for an easy family holiday.
Useful items for eating out in France
Some items that can help you enjoy eating out with Children in France availble via Amazon.
Something to keep them busy (and quiet over a long lunch)
Order with confidence or better understand the menu choices with this highly recommended phrasebook
Cbeebies app to help keep them occupied
Not willing to share you phone with your kids then maybe a tablet is the way to go