Resto etiquette - splitting plates
My husband, 7-year-old daughter, and I will be coming to Europe for the first time this summer and spending a week in Paris in late June. I'm, of course, in a bit of sticker shock over restaurant prices b/c of the weak dollar.
I'm trying to research ways to eat out without having to get my daughter a whole meal, but I don't want to do something really gauche. Is it ok to ask for an extra plate for her so she can have parts of mine and my husband's meal or to ask to have dishes split? She is a good eater and likes many things, but of course, just can't eat as much as an adult. She loves to sample whatever I or her dad are eating. I think another alternative would be to get her just an appetizer instead of main dish.
Any other suggestions for reducing our costs with her without looking like boors? (Starving her probably not a good idea :-).) We'll be doing the usual picnic things, but I'd like to eat out a few times.
No fears -every restaurant in France, from the highest to the lowest, has a child's menu. Usually they are not gastronomically challenging - beefsteak hache with fries, grilled ham with scalloped potates, spaghetti Bolognese, followed by dessert. Even French children don't start out as little gourmets! But if your daughter is adventurous, the staff will be thrilled. She can share a dish with you, or you can ask for a smaller
version, if it looks like the regular one would be too copious. The idea of appetizers is a good one too. That way she can look grown up. But as to sharing - anyone of any age can share whatever course- even all of them! The French don't blink an eye (and there are no add-on charges) How do you think those stylish Parisian madams and madamoiselles keep their famous figures?
Is this correct? I can't recall ever seeing a childrens menu in the many restaurants I have eaten in (I lived in France) - I think it is quite uncommon, unless it is a restaurant specifically aimed at families like the "Hippopotamus" chain.
Most of the French children I have seen in restaurants have been eating dishes from the standard menu and/or shareing their parent food - for example I sat next to a five year old tucking into a few oysters, or a plate full of snails.
It is perfectly acceptable to order a just a starter, or a single dish for your daughter. Some restaurants may even be happy to do half portions. I am certain they will be happy for you to share some food with your daughter. Obviously the may get annoyed if the three of you share a single portion and make it last the night...!
Souphie - there is a subtle but important difference between a restaurant that "has a childrens menu" and one that will "make a childs menu". I suspect it is to do with how the English and French speakers use the word "menu" to meab different things.
In the former you would expect to be given a seperate "carte" with food designed for children that is quite different to the normal menu. In the latter the restaurant will be happy to produce a portion/dish that is suitable for a child - usually a simpler version of an adult dish, or a meal (menu) created for the individual child.
I agree that restaurants in France welcome children and will accomodate them very well. My observation is that in France children are socialised to restaurants at an early age and thus are expected to know how to behave. As a result they participate in meals rather than getting bored.
Many cafes in Paris can be a truly upscale experience; they are happy to provide small dishes for children etc. Two that I like are Cafe Constant and Le Castiglione. It is true that small bistros generally don't have childrens menus, however many larger restaurants, like Chez Flottes, do, and you can access them on their web sites. In my experience, the French tend to go out of the way to treat children kindly and with respect. You will be pleasantly surprised.
As an addition to my original reply, re the comments by PhilD, I would not recommend ordering one menu (i.e. usually a meal comprising three/four courses) to share between three - or even two of you. But if you went a la carte, for instance, and ordered two first courses, a separate appetiser for your daughter, and then one main course (to share between the two of you) and then one or two desserts (with three spoons), that would be perfectly acceptable in any French restaurant, of whatever standing. You often "ladies who lunch" splitting every course! In the more everyday restaurants and brasseries a child's two-three course menu is often printed at the bottom of the page(s) listing the daily menus and carte offerings. This would leave the adults free to indulge in the menu of the day, which is usually a less expensive option than going straight a la carte for three full courses.