The one price the French won’t pay

Prix fixe menu image My French Life - Ma Vie Françaisefrom high rental rates to exorbitant tax charges and inflated hotel room prices, Paris is an expensive city.

But when it comes to eating well for less, Paris has the market cornered.

Just last week in Melbourne I found myself blithely handing over $13.50 for a chicken and salad sandwich at the local shop. The bread was home brand, the tomatoes were floury and I needed a microscope to find the chicken.

A month earlier in Paris, I was presented with a freshly baked baguette, lovingly spread with artisanal butter and filled with thick slices of ham off the bone and a generous wedge of Emmental cheese. A bottle of Orangina and an éclair au chocolat later, my total bill added up to just eight euros.

Prix-fixe menus in French restaurants a bargain

Going out for dinner isn’t a mere popular pastime in Paris, it’s practically a national sport. And one look at the 38 euro prix-fixe menu at Alain Ducasse’s Michelin-starred Benoit restaurant makes it’s easy to see why.

Meanwhile in Australia…

By contrast, dining at feted Australian chef Matt Moran’s Sydney two-hatted restaurant Aria will set you back a minimum of eighty-nine dollars. And that’s on a weekday.

I’ve always thought that the litmus test for assessing any city’s food affordability is to take a look at its students.

It’s a rare Australian university student who doesn’t count mi goreng noodles amongst their five food groups, or who would disagree that cereal is a perfectly acceptable meal at any time of the day. And as for alcohol, the nectar of choice for many a struggling Aussie academic is that certain kind of white wine that comes in shiny silver bags with a guaranteed hangover as part of the bargain.

Cheese - by K.G. Hawes -

On the other side of the globe, French students exist on a diet of freshly baked baguettes and generous rounds of Camembert. And with a six-pack of Belgium beer retailing for just five euros, and bottles of spirits as low as ten, the humble Aussie ‘goon bag’ doesn’t even come close to comparing.

The French unwilling to relinquish good food

So I suppose the moral of the story is that living in Paris calls for sacrifice of the highest order: like surrendering wardrobe space, and forfeiting cooking gadgets.

But giving up good food that doesn’t break the bank?


Do you think the French have their priorities in order? What have been your experiences? Join the conversation by commenting in the box below.

Image credits:
1. Menu à 18.50, by Jean-Francois Phillips via Flickr
2. Outdoor food market in Annecy, by K.G.Hawes via Flickr.

About the Contributor

Alison Eastaway

“I am Australian-born but Parisienne at heart. I've spent 8 years in Paris, and can usually be found sipping coffee on café terraces or snuggling up with my cat and a book. Follow me on Twitter, or find me on LinkedIn."

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  1. Sandra E Brown Oct 14, 2013 at 7:37 PM - Reply

    Oui, oui, oui and oui! Yes the French have their priorities correct. Good food is the soul of life. Every close friend I have is my friend because of our love of good food. I love that Paris devotes single shops to one food group. Your litmus test was spot on lol Thanks for the article.

    • Alison Eastaway Oct 14, 2013 at 7:51 PM - Reply

      Thanks Sandra! You’re exactly right, in my street alone there is a dedicated cheese shop, chocolate shop and three butchers (all with different specialities of course!) Thanks for reading!

  2. Alex Mottershead Oct 16, 2013 at 6:56 PM - Reply

    Completely agree!
    I’ve noticed a big contrast with the UK – you wouldn’t catch a French person grabbing a sandwich and swiftly eating it on the way back to the office.
    This kind of thing would be met with sarcastic looks and overly enthusiastic comments such as ‘bon app!’. To be fair, why would you want to rush such delicious food? Maybe Brits have a valid excuse after all…

    • Alison Eastaway Oct 16, 2013 at 10:45 PM - Reply

      Hi Alex, you are totally right. I work as an English Teacher in Paris at the moment and am often obligated to inhale my ‘Paul’ baguette sandwich on the RER between classes. I attract more than a few stares and comments for sure!

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