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Aug 19, 2009 11:13 PM


Ok, this question may be a little odd, but here it goes...I am wondering what the situation is with ordering and drinking tap water in Paris. I drink a lot of water, usually one large bottle or even more with a meal. The water must also have ice. Not very French of me, but that is what I like. I am not a fan of Evian, which seems to be the choice of 90% of restaurants (I am a Volvic fan). In a couple of weeks, I will be enjoying a few three star places in Paris, as well as some bistros (chosen in large part thanks to recommendations from Chowhounders).

I have two issues with the water: one is cost, the other is taste. When I ate at L'Arnsbourg last year, I literally spent over $50 on water; something about that just didn't seem right. Water is expensive at three-stars. So my question is: is it ok to order tap water in Paris? How does it taste? Is this considered a faux pas? Will the restaurant be offended? Is there a different answer to this question depending on wether I am at, say, Guy Savoy or at L'Ami Jean? As I said, I am not a fan of Evian, and if tap water is equal to or better than Evian, shouldn't I drink that instead?

Thank you.

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  1. Tap water in France is fine. It is safe and tastes fine, you may get ice with you may not, I am certain a 3* will be happy to add it. There is no stigma in asking for tap instead of bottled. many French people will do this, in both lowly and high end places. We always do.

    A few years ago the Paris city council distributed "branded" carafes for their tap water to cafes and restaurants because they were so proud of the water quality, I doubt many of these still exist but it is a good sign the water is fine.

    3 Replies
    1. re: PhilD

      I don't think tap water in Paris tastes fine, at least not everywhere. It may have to do with whether you are on the right or left bank, as, if I'm not mistaken, their tap water is not provided by the same company.
      Or maybe it depends on something else, or it's just me.
      [Oops, didn't see souphie's reply before posting, sorry about that]

      Another thing: being charged 50$ for water is insane... unless you drank many bottles. We usually drink one and a half to two bottles, and only one is charged...

      1. re: olivierb

        That's my biggest beef against Ledoyen -- they charge you for every single bottle and that is pretty inelegant. But indeed more classy places like Savoy, Le Cinq and many others just charge you one and refill without question or charge.

        1. re: souphie

          So young to have ones memory shot. It just happened again, wish l read this thread yesterday, 3 people, 32 € for water, then 8€ for coffee each.

    2. I never order bottled water in France, except in Paris I generally do because I find the taste of Paris water horrible, and I am really not a picky person when it comes to water. In a high-end restaurant, I definitely would get bottled because despite the cost I would prefer to enjoy the water. Of course, if you have it with ice, the ice will be made from Paris water.

      2 Replies
      1. re: rrems

        There are major taste differences in Paris water from one neighbourhood to the other. Also sometimes from one buidling to the other. French tap water is technically of the highest technical level. I agree that it is sometimes disgusting. It's also often excellent.

        1. re: souphie

          We love Badoit, too bad we can't get it out here in the high desert. BTW, we only drink bottled H2O here; the local stuff is vile.

      2. I only drink tap water (unless I'm trying to impress friends I've invited up for an apero) except in towns where they say "you don't want to". I guess I live in a water-blessed quartier.

        1. Ask for "un carafe d'eau"... I've never had a waiter blink. (Supposedly you can also ask for "l'eau gabinette" (literally cabinet water), but I'm never sure enough of that phrase to use it, and the other seems to work. I love having the carafe at the table so I can pour my own... in America, I have to keep flagging down someone to get more.


          13 Replies
          1. re: waldrons

            Did you misspell eau du robinet - tap water.

            1. re: John Talbott

              I'm pretty sure I read "cabinette" or "gabinette" somewhere, but I'm glad I've never used the phrase. Do I even want to know what it translates as?


                1. re: souphie

                  Some time in the dim, dark past, I was told that "eau de cabinet" was a euphamism for tap water (although "closet water" is uncomfortably close to "water closet", so perhaps not the best phrase!!)


            2. re: waldrons

              yeah, forget "Gabinette". It is funny, though.

              1. re: souphie

                I always get a laugh by ordering "Chateau la Pompe" or "Chateau Robinet" and they always bring me tap water. If they ask what year, say 2009.

                1. re: CJT

                  Jacques Pepin refers to "Chateau Faucette."

                  1. re: CJT

                    Chateau Delanoë, formerly Chat Chirac.

                    1. re: John Talbott

                      Or, more precisely Château Santini, but I'm not sure many will get it.

                      1. re: olivierb

                        Or be drawned to it. I wouldn't drink Chateau Santini...

                        1. re: souphie

                          It's best to avoid using expressions which refer to political events or personnages, as they go out of date fairly fast and no one can remember why water was called Chateau Delanoe. Back in the mid-1950s, Pierre Mendes-France was Prime Minister of France and he tried to promote greater consumption of milk by the French people, who were very attached to their wine at most meals. As a result of his efforts, those who wanted to make a joke would order "un mendes" (glass of milk) as a joke, not having the least desire to drink milk rather than wine. I have tried on several occasions to get a laugh out of French people by ordering "un mendes" but the joke is totally lost because few Francais under the age of 60 ever heard of this (and the older ones don't remember it anyway). It's not funny when you have to explain the history of an expression to a Frenchman. Best to stay with Chateau la Pompe or Chateau Robinet, as everyone gets that joke.

                          1. re: CJT

                            I'm sure it's my charming accent, but I've managed to remember our mayors' names over 50 years and always had a smile and the correct delivery .
                            As for milk and the Prime Minister who promoted it, some of us recall.....

                            1. re: John Talbott

                              We often order a large Badoit or Chateldon (gazeuse) – we like the almost creamy texture of each. San Pelegrino, which for some reason is offered in many Paris restaurants (why?), is much too aggressively bubbly for me. But when only that’s available, we also order “un carafe d'eau," and I make my own assemblage. (We also order tap water toward the end of dinner when the water bottle is empty.)

                              But after reading these posts, now I’ll order instead “Chateau la Pompe" or "Chateau Robinet" – I like that! This is similar to what we often do closer to home, in San Francisco – we will order “Hetch Hetchy” (the name of the reservoir near in the Sierra, near Yosemite, from which San Francisco gets its water). The waiter’s reaction, or lack of it, is a quick way of discerning whether he or she is new to the area.

                              Jake Dear

              2. Funny, up until about 20 years ago, tap water at a restuarant in France was just about unthinkable. A big look of disbelief would appear on a waiter's face if you had the temerity to ask for "robinet". We've come a long way, it seems that the way the tap water is served, the style of the bottle is an indication of the style skills of the restaurateur. Some use wine bottles, some carafes, (never with ice) and mostly it's barely below room temperature, but it is nice not to have to get bottled water anymore.

                Are doggie bags next? (I hope not!)

                2 Replies
                1. re: menton1

                  Oh Menton, living in the South has kept you in the dark ages - doggie bags have been in for wine since the Loi Evin.

                  Also a footnote to all the above; hip places (most recently KGB) are bottling their own fizzy and flat water and not charging for it - shades of Jean-Louis Borloo.

                  1. re: John Talbott

                    Legally, according to decree number 25-268 of 8 june 1967, French restauranteurs must supply when asked, and cannot charge for tap water (nor bread). Cafés and bars can charge for water if they want.

                    From an ecological point of view, bottled water is a big no-no. Never went there, but I was told by one of his advisors that when at he was still the Ritz, the environmetally minded Jean François Piege encouraged the consumpition of tap "Adam's Ale".

                    So from a legal point of view you can drink tap water in restaurants in France, and from a green perspective you should. If waiters make you feel uncomfortable about it, or cheap, then leave.