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Urgent: a decent lunch in Calais??

h
Hallie Aug 3, 2001 07:01 AM

An unexpected change of weekend plans finds me there for an afternoon tomorrow (Saturday). Is it at all possible to get a half way decent meal there?

  1. m
    Mike Aug 3, 2001 10:20 AM

    Is this a trick question? Why doesn't it make any sense?

    10 Replies
    1. re: Mike
      h
      Hallie Aug 3, 2001 01:39 PM

      Why doesn't it make sense? Calais has never touted itself as a gastronomic capital. After a very bad dining experience in Lille I need some bona fide recommendations from people who have had meals to crow about in Calais.

      1. re: Hallie
        m
        Mike Aug 4, 2001 05:05 AM

        Well, let's see: you asked "Where can I get a *decent* lunch in this part of France" (emphasis added). Maybe if you read it aloud a couple of times you'll get it. If you still don't, let me recommend the Tesco in Calais -- I'm sure you'll find "decent" food there.

        1. re: Mike
          h
          Hallie Aug 6, 2001 06:04 AM

          Mike, I think you're being slightly pedantic about my choice of words. I was only asking for a restaurant recommendation.

          French eating experiences are not made automatically outstanding simply because the restaurant or cafe that one walks into happens to be in France. I have had some terrible meals in France - in Lille, in Avignon, and in Paris. I have even endured a bout of food poisoning after one of them. Knowing Calais for what it is (a place that caters to daytrippers from Britain)I was interested in sifting the wheat from the chaf and not hazarding a visit to some place that looked good from the outside but turned out disappointing in the end.

          We did actually find a great place that I would now like to give a well deserved airing: La Sole Meuniere in the yaucht basin (on Avenue de Resistance). Excellent 3 course lunch with wonderful, personal service. They are broadly speaking a seafood restaurant but after my langustines (which were steamed in a type of lemon sauce) I opted for veal with artichoke sauce (fantastic). They also had a very impressive cheese tray - though I choose from the selection of sinful cakes ( a little too rich for me though). Coffee was served with homemade petit fours and merangues.

          All in all it was pretty good!

          And by the way, Tesco's Calais only does wine and spirits...

          1. re: Hallie
            m
            Mike Aug 7, 2001 07:29 AM

            Pedantic? Do you know what "decent" means?

            Also, I am under the impression that the word "chowhound" means someone who seeks out food. Implicit in that is that the food be good (why else seek it out?). If you have managed to find bad food in cities all over France, I think you need to sharpen your chowhound skills.

            It is my experience that with a little common sense, a little previous experience and an open mind, almost anyone has an excellent chance of finding a delightful meal in France, or, well, almost anywhere!

            And the fact that, in the end, you succeeded in finding good food in Calais shows that your chowhound skills are improving.

            1. re: Mike
              h
              Hallie Aug 7, 2001 12:19 PM

              So basically what you are implying here is that as 'chowhounds' we shouldn't have to ask for recommendations because we should be able to nose our way around and find things by ourselves. Those who ask for assistance are of a lesser breed. Not everyone knows exactly which restaurants to frequent without some previous experience. Equally, not all of us have been blessed wads of cash to spend on holiday, therefore making dining experiences in the best places in town a possibility. Even the most experienced chowhounds do manage to get it wrong. I despise this mistaken idea that asking for assistance is a weakness. Forgive me for asking for a friendly recommendation and attempting to have a pleasant exchange on the subject. By adopting that attitude you have in a sense, completely missed the purpose of posting on this board.

              1. re: Hallie
                j
                jen kalb Aug 7, 2001 12:33 PM

                Hallie, thanks for posting your Calais find. Should help the next person who heads that way - and bty hopefully other posters can eventually add on to make this thread more useful.

                1. re: Hallie
                  p
                  Pan Aug 7, 2001 01:26 PM

                  I agree with Hallie here.

                  I spent 2 summers in France as a student on somewhat of a budget, by the way. I do consider myself a chowhound. I found that I had great luck in finding excellent, inexpensive food in Nice, but more trouble in Paris. Could my "chowhounding skills" have used more practice? I don't know, nor, to be honest, do I really know what that means - how does one "practice" judging one cafe or brasserie from another purely by sight and menu? What I do know is that my experience in 2 summers in Paris is that it's easy to find overpriced, mediocre restaurants, but that one is also apt to find wonderful restaurants - it's kind of like New York in that respect. And not all Parisians are chowhounds, so having Parisian friends meet you somewhere is no guarantee the place is any good.

                  1. re: Pan
                    h
                    Hallie Aug 8, 2001 05:28 AM

                    Thank you Pan (and Jen) for springing to my defense. I didn't really think that chowhounding is an elitist activity, nor why this particular poster got his nose so bent out of shape.

                    And yes, even in France it is very easy to strike out at an eating establishment. I have come to believe that you really do get what you pay for in most cases. This is particularly true when you are travelling on the continent. When you live somewhere it is a bit different. You have time to sniff out the places and you come to know the area where you live in greater detail - what is likely to yeild good food and what is not. Certainly the whole purpose of this site is to alert others to our findings and to be helpful in pointing people to them.

                    1. re: Hallie
                      p
                      Pan Aug 8, 2001 06:50 PM

                      Well, I don't agree that you "really do get what you pay for in most cases." That depends on the city. In Nice, at least in 1993 and 1994, it was quite easy to eat well inexpensively (c. 40-75 FF) all over the place. In Siena, probably an even better chowhounding city than Nice, I found that it was difficult to eat less than very passably well anywhere at any price. Going back further in my travels (1987), I found that every single meal or snack I had in Hangzhou was at least good, if not great. In Paris, by contrast, I found that it was easy to eat at pricey restaurants and have mediocre food - much as is true in New York. In addition, there were local cafes that served reasonably-priced food and were perfectly passable, but arguably not much better than a solid diner in the U.S. (in other words, fine, but not great). And that's not mentioning the time when a Parisian Vietnamese restaurant served me a squid dish (seiche) that was inedibly tough. But it also bears noting that boulangeries are generally fantastic in both Paris and Nice (probably all over France, but I've only been to the Midi, Provence, and the Paris area), and a croissant, some juice, and perhaps a chausson aux pommes is a dependably great value and by no stretch of the imagination an expensive meal. Ditto bar food in Italy: Oftentimes, the best thing to do for lunch in Italy is get a drink and a panino at a bar. It'll cost you a lot less than getting a plate of pasta at a trattoria, but the difference in price does not equal a difference in the quality and freshness of the ingredients.

                      1. re: Pan
                        h
                        Hallie Aug 9, 2001 06:11 AM

                        Yes, you have made a good case. It is just as easy to get bad food at a high price as it is to get it relatively inexpensively. I am speaking from several recent experiences in France, Belgium and Spain. Each time we sought out non-touristy restaurants that offered set menus at varying prices. Each time we ordered the least expensive option and were disappointed by tiny portions of food that ranged from alright to pretty good. We noticed a distinct two tier system in these restaurants where those who ordered the more expensive options ended up with meals that looked considerably better. Since then we have been careful to order the slightly more expensive set menu option and have never looked back. Although this is a fairly broad generalisation, this seems to be our experience when dealing with set menus.

                        And yes, those wonderful things purchased from bakeries and eaten on park benches or on Parisian streets can't be topped! I am now dreamily remembering a tart au salmon fume I scarfed down while sitting in the shadow of the Sacre Coeur. Pure bliss!

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