What To Know When You’re Invading A French Restaurant– French dining etiquette


One of the first things you’ll say to yourself on entering a French restaurant (restaurant français), be it anywhere in the world, is ‘this place is way different from the rest of them’ and you won’t be far from the truth. French eateries have their own style of cuisine which in itself varies. They serve disparate meal-courses, not to mention them having their own lingo whether it’s on the menu or coming from your garçon (waiter [gaar-sohn… with a silent n]).


The Meal

With rich tastes, variety and style, the French do indeed know their food. At a restaurant catering to France’s unique way of approaching cuisine, you’ll find bread (baguettes [bag-ette]) at every table which to the French is a symbol of hospitality. Now, to the 5-course meal, sometimes 6.

1. Hors D’oeuvre [hore-duh-vv…elongate the uh sound] or L’entrée [lawn-tray]: What horsd’oeuvres really means is ‘out of works’ where, for some odd reason known only to the French, ‘works’ refers to the main course. To the rest of us, hors d’oeuvres mean appetizers. You’ll find they’re sometimes accompanied by a cocktail or, as the French call it, aperitif [app-peri-teef… stress the letter ‘p’].

2. Fish Course: This is not often part of the general course-run (it’s usually clubbed into the main course) but don’t be surprised if you’re served this number, garnished with veggies followed by a small dish of lime sorbet to reset your palate and get you ready for the…

3. Main Course or Le plat principal [luh-plaa-princee-paal]: Let me keep this brief… Whatever it is you’ve ordered for the main course comes at this time, be it chicken, mutton/lamb legs (Gigot) or roast beef (Rosbif) served alongside veggie delights like potatoes (pommes de terre [pohm-duh-tear]), French beans (haricots verts [hari-co-vayr]) and flageolets. Speaking of veggies, next on the course-run is the…

4. Salad Course: Served right after the main course it’s primarily to cleanse your palate again and to help ease digestion early, especially after that main course. It consists of simple greens, delish as can be, tossed with vinaigrette (oil and vinegar with mustard and garlic) and potential other French-specific salad flavors. They call this, in general, green salad (salade verte [sal-aad-vayrt]).

French Dining

5. Cheese Course: How can anyone think of cheese after all the food that came before? Well, the French will somehow have cast an inexplicable spell on your tummy that when you see assorted cheeses, served in pretty little slices on a wooden board (called fromage [fro-mage…with a sound like shh and je]) and with cut fruits, you can’t help but give them a shot. You’ll find cheeses like Camembert, Roquefort and Brie. Don’t blame them for the inclusion of cheese in the course-run. After all, the French eat more cheese than any other people in the world.

6. Dessert Course or Le dessert [luh-diss-ayrt]: They should make this the main course. Boy, I love dessert and the French have given me reason to go on loving it. In addition to being perfectly balanced and not overly sweet, French desserts are beautifully decorated and presented and pack a taste that belongs on the table of the gods. The most common dessert they have is tarte aux pommes [tart-o-pohm] and tarte aux fraises [tart-o-fray], which are essentially tarts with fruits or a chocolate cake.

The Wine or Le Vin [luh-van… with a silent ‘n’]: Funny, they serve wine more than they do water so don’t assume they’re trying to get you drunk. Ask for water and you’ll get the nice sparkling mineral variety, ask for ‘flat water’ and you’ll get some good tap-aqua, filtered of course. There will be two glasses for each person at the table, one for water and another for wine. Red or white wine is the norm, not beer or soft drinks so don’t make a fool of yourself and order the wrong ones.

Other beverages: Le café [luh-caff-fay] or espresso coffee is served, almost always after the final course. If you’d like a digestive, be sure to ask for Cognac or Armagnac.

The Etiquette

French Etiquette1. Some of you may not even know that’s actually an English word and it means ‘manners’. Well, the French have one priority etiquette rule and that’s to keep your hands on the table at all times during your meal. Any well brought up man or woman knows the opposite, namely not to keep your hands on the table. Well, there’s the French for you, to them it’s sort of like an insult if you don’t place your hands as mentioned.

2. Keep your bread in the upper left area of your plate. When eating it, pick bite-sized pieces and don’t dig your fangs into the bread as is.

3. Get the napkin on your lap (for women) or around your neck (for men) a few seconds after being seated. It shows you’re ready to eat and that makes them feel great.

4. After each course, take a moderate slice of bread and wipe your plate with it. Eat the bread after, of course. It shows you loved the dish (you most certainly will too, no worries).

5. Once you’re given your choice of wine, don’t fill the glass to the brim but keep it at the three-fourth level.

6. Never use your fingers to eat something. Even after you’ve wiped your course-plate with some bread, be sure to use a fork to eat it. To eat with your fingers in any way insults French sentiments, especially at the dining table. Besides, their food comes designed to make it easy for you to use a knife and fork, and also a spoon.

Ooh la la, we’ve reached the end of our so-called tutorial on how to handle yourself inside a French restaurant. Of course, not everything is covered in this single post so be sure you do your research, if needed. Pretty soon, you’ll be—forgive my deplorable French—loué-ed (praised), admiré-ed (admired) and the point de mire (cynosure or center of attention) of French people everywhere.

Image Credit: diningguidechiangmai, 123rf


  1. Need to go to a French rest fast before i forget……………LOL

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