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portion size and sharing a meal in France

My wife and I hope to travel to France this year. At least in the US portions if not prices cause us to almost always split a meal. Will this land us in trouble as a request in France? Obviously the request would NOt be uttered in a 4 star , but what about other types of restaurants? Thanks

Posted by
3313 posts

It varies from style and size of restaurant or cafe. Restaurants, by the way, tend to be more formal and less accepting of splitting.

In cafes, I'd be comfortable splitting a meat course and a salad. I wouldn't ask for a second plate.

Posted by
22613 posts

Keep in mind that portions are much smaller in Europe so splitting might be inadequate for two.

Posted by
56 posts

The previous poster is right, portion sizes are much smaller in Europe.

Also, the French are less accommodating with special requests in a restaurant - unless you speak some French. That goes a long way with getting special service there when they know you're a tourist.

If you decide the portions are large enough to split, never ask the restaurant to split it for you, and don't ask for an extra plate. If you're ordering an appetizer (entrée in French) and a main dish (plat), have each person order 1 thing and then just trade your plates back and forth.

Posted by
1158 posts

Jim,

You might not need to do so. Usually sides are priced extra and in general portions are much smaller than here.
We splited a dish of claims in Nice, but didn't ask for an extra plate.

Posted by
264 posts

Show some good manners and don't do this! Sharing at the table may be tolerated in the US, but it will be considered pretty crass in France.

Always order A La Carte and you won't have to pay for more food than you want to eat!

Bon Appétit!

Posted by
12040 posts

In France, you often pay more for quality, rather than quantity. Classic example of Ugly Americanism I observed: in a brasserie in Paris, an oversized couple, probably from Texas judging by the accents, each ordered a pepper steak (I know because I could clearly hear every word they spoke in their Texas-volumed voices from across the room). The waiter delivers their meal, and after he turns around, I (and probably everyone else in the restaurant) hear: "They call this tiny thing a steak?" Funny, I ordered the same meal, and I found the juicy piece of meat delicious, and I was happy to leave the restaurant feeling well-fed, but not feeling that my stomach was about to burst.

Posted by
689 posts

Portion sizes are the same as what you find in GOOD US restaurants. They may be small by chain restaurant or diner standards, or by Texas standards (given the story told above), but I don't think they are small--they are the same as what you'd find in a good restaurant in San Francisco or Seattle or New York. Try ordering a "plat" (main course) each and see how that goes--you might find that it's perfect. I am a small person but dining is the reason I visit France so I always get an entree (appetizer) AND a plat.

If even a plat each seems to much, I'd only try to share in cafes, which are casual. You could also just try ordering an "entree" salad, soup, appetizer each in a cafe. (It's perfectly okay to order a sparkling water or glass of wine and sit for an hour in a cafe).

Posted by
1358 posts

Seems funny to me that you can ask this question of a dozen travelers and get a dozen different answers. Take your pick.

My wife and I split plates and never have a problem. And we always ask for another plate; no problem.

Posted by
3313 posts

I agree with the post about portion sizes. I think portion sizes in France are plenty big. They don't compare to the Olive Garden or Chili's but I would have a hard time finishing a full three course meal in most places. And I'm a decent sized guy.

Posted by
4 posts

For Tom, from Washington, DC.

Tom, having lived in Washington, DC, Texas and having traveled all over France, I can assure you that most people I know in Texas (and even Paris) are far more polite than you.

Please try to use this board without insulting entire US states. We all just want to help each other enjoy travel.

And Jim, yes, sharing is frowned upon in French restaurants. We learned this when we asked if our small children could share a huge pizza and were told by the waiter with a dirty look and a shrug "Well I suppose that would be less expensive"!

Posted by
22613 posts

Kimberley, who are you to come on this board, make four posting, and can determine that Tom has insulted the entire US and is less polite than all of Texas and France. Tom is one of the most knowledgeable and helpful people on this board. You should try to be like him. We can all relate to the situation he describes. Maybe the mistake is relating it to Texas but I am sure it was accurate.

Posted by
12040 posts

For the record... the couple in question were prominently wearing Texas A&M clothing, so as to leave no doubt on their origin and collegiate loyalties. My wife, who is Belgian, asked me "Why do they keep talking about Texas when they're in Paris?" No intent to defame the sacred name of Texas or Texans as a whole, but this episode just illustrated the differences in perceptions of serving sizes between parts of Europe and the US. Also, it's a timely reminder that what might be considered an acceptable speaking volume in the US is often considered rude in Europe. If I really wanted to get inflammatory, I could have used terms like "Texas-sized", but I'll save that for a more tongue-in-cheek response...

Posted by
196 posts

Food and the serving of food is an art and considered sacred in France. I would not split plates of food just as I would never ask to take the remaining portion that is on your plate home. This just not the custom. Most people order the fixe prix menu at dining places. This is a multi-course meal and a fairly good value considering what you get. If you find this too much food simply order a la carte as a previous poster suggested (I bet it will not be too much for you) I think part of traveling with light footsteps is respecting the customs of the country you visit. This particular area (food), even in a family run brasserie, is very formal compared to the US.

Posted by
13131 posts

Tom, you need to lighten up on that couple from Texas. It's not their fault. When they went to their travel agent and said they "wanted to go to Paris," the agent assumed Paris, France. They meant Paris, Texas. :)

Posted by
416 posts

Just had to chime that frequency of posting doesn't necessarily make one more knowledgeable or better than another. It can also indicate someone who feels the need to express their opinion a lot. Just sayin'... ;-) Yes, some of my fellow Aggies/Texans can be loud and rude, but it isn't something Aggies or Texans have a lock on. You could turn around and say the same of some folks from New York and New Jersey or Chicago. Another comment I must make is that Jim came and asked an innocent question and there were a couple of reponses that came off sounding very condescending and rude. That may not have been the intent of the posters, but just the result of the old inability to indicate tone in an email. Going off on yet another tangent, I find it somewhat ironic that so many folks ARE unable to indicate tone of voice in an email when there was a time that the written word was such an art form that tone and intent were unmistakeable. Consider the poetry of Emily Dickinson...

Posted by
2349 posts

"Oh, we're not the jet set. We're the old Chevrolet set."

Posted by
9 posts

Thank you all for all the advice; you have have given me a lot to digest .

Posted by
619 posts

I speak about Britain, rather than other European countries, although my experience is that the same generally applies.

You would have to know a restaurant well, and to have eaten there before, to know if the portion sizes were such that splitting was appropriate. In most cases, it is not. Portions are for one person. Separate courses are designed to be eaten as part of a meal, so will normally be quite small individually, even if the whole meal is a substantial amount. Going into a restaurant in the expectation of splitting a meal would be a mistake.

Tasting the food on one another's plates is normal, and sharing a desert from an a la carte menu would be unexceptional, but it might be worth looking at the portions served on other tables before making a decision.

Posted by
582 posts

Nancy says...
"Jim came and asked an innocent question and there were a couple of responses that came off sounding very condescending and rude."

And, the people that were posting rude replies, are NOT from Texas!! There are rude people everyplace!!!
I'm not oversized, and I'm soft spoken and educated.
I don't have pick up trucks parked in my lawn, and go barefoot and I didn't marry my cousin! Lol!
I wouldn't share a meal in France either.