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Jul 1, 2009 10:26 PM

How much do you trust the Bib Gourmand?

I will be traveling for a month throughout France by car, accompanied by my Michelin Red Guide. Only a fraction of my meals will be planned out and, as such, I will probably flip through my Michelin every single day in search of the next meal.

If I roll into a town with eight listed restaurants, one of which has been awarded a Bib Gourmand, that one restaurant will seem like the obvious first choice. Is that smart? I might have this sort of decision to make ten or fifteen times.

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  1. Yes and no, a Bib signifies a good quality meal for €29 in the provinces and €35 in Paris and on that basis they are a good bet. But they are not the next category below a 1 star, it is a very different rating.

    There may be great restaurants that are too expensive to be classified for a Bib, but not quite good enough for a star. Similarly, there may be fantastic one star which is good value and not a dissimilar price to a bib (especially outside of Paris, especially at lunch). I have seen people say "such and such lost its Bib, it must be going downhill" when all it has done is raise its prices, and thus disqualified itself; the place is still as good as it was before.

    My approach is to look at the one stars first and see if they meet my needs in terms of price/style, if they are too expensive/flash for that particular lunch/dinner I then look at the Bibs (obviously doing research on the board as well).

    1 Reply
    1. re: PhilD

      Also, there are many great places that don't even feature in the guide - I use guides sometimes, but they can mean that you miss out on the adventure of discovering a really good restaurant, so it's also good just to go on recommendations from local people or just look at menus outside a few places and follow your nose.

    2. To me, Bib Gourmand means food that approaches the one star level, but with limitations in terms of service and/or ambiance. So far I haven't had a bad experience at a Bib Gourmand, except for price. Many add supplements for their best dishes, like the ones in the 7th that we frequent.

      10 Replies
      1. re: Oakglen

        I agree with everything you said, oak, except the "approaches the one star level" These Bib Gourmand places are eons away from being a 1 star. (IMHO) But that doesn't mean that they are not very good places to have a meal...

        1. re: Oakglen

          « To me, Bib Gourmand means »

          Yeah well, not wanting to be rude, but it doesn't matter what it means to you. What it means to Michelin is all that counts, and PhilD already related what it really means.

          1. re: tmso

            I do love a good p---ing contest. So lets take two restaurants that are just a few blocks apart; Vin Sur Vin, a one star, and Clos des Gourmets, a Bib Gourmand. I think the food is comparable, ambiance about the same, but the servers at CDG seem stretched and hurried as they try for multiple turns in the evening, and cover more tables. Any views?.

            1. re: Oakglen

              I think everyone is correct. Some Bibs are pretty close to one stars, and some one stars are not far from bibs, Different individual (diner) priorities, different days, different moods from the diner, staff on top of their game or not: many factors contribute to the experience.

              But as a rule of thumb, you should expect a lot more from a one star than a bib, If you are lucky a good bib will be as enjoyable as a one star, if you are unlucky a one star may be no better than a bib.

              I would say that you go to a bib with limited expectations and are often surprised (but don't moan if you are not), and you go to a one star with pretty high expectations, which can be missed on a few occasions (and should moan like hell when this happens).

              1. re: PhilD

                I want to make sure that I'm right that a Bib is not automatically awarded to any listed restaurant under 30 Euros. It isn't just an indicator of cheapness, but also of quality.

                  1. re: PreservedFish

                    that's right. it starts at a price point, and then assess' s quality from there.

                    it is all about relative value for money, for when more modest dining is appropriate. the star system pays no mind whatsoever to price.

                  2. re: PhilD

                    I'm also quite a fan of Bib places, so long as one appreciates that pricing is the starting point.

                    I've never had a bad meal in one, although I've never had a great one either (experince is more related to the Uk, my home country, and Spain, which I visit more regularly than France.

                  3. re: Oakglen

                    your experiment is conceptually irrelevant and misguided.

                    even if your view on the qualities of both was perfectly accurate, it would not be possible to draw the inferences that you pretend are there.

                    the bottom line is you cannot substitute your personal assessment as being reflective of the underlying intent of others, when it conflicts with their stated objective. there actually isn't ambiguity here, and introducing non-sequiturs does not promote any.

                1. re: Oakglen

                  Sorry you might take it to mean approaches 1 star level, but michelin does not.

                2. To return to the original question: Does one trust them? Yes but.... As others have said they are not 100% accurate, but what is. However, I always look for them when in the country and often am rewarded.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: John Talbott

                    Thank you John. Just so you know I have been raiding the Egullet board as well as this one and thus will probably end up at half a dozen places you've recommended