Dining à la française: a French night out in Melbourne with Dîner en Blanc

MyFrenchLife™ - Diner en blanc - tablesHave you heard of the Dîner en Blanc phénomène ? Non ?

Well you’re forgiven, Melbourne, because here at MyFrenchLife™, we pull apart the super secretive event that is turning the spotlight on Melbourne diners, à la française.

Started in France by François Pasquier over 26 years ago, Dîner en Blanc’s formula was simple: gather friends together in a secretive location revealed to les invités at the last moment, abide by an all-white dress code, and, most importantly, revel in good food and great company.

The results have certainly been eye-catching, where a flash mob-style, chic pique-nique soirée that literally stops traffic (picnic in the middle of a street anyone?) overflows into a sea of white guests and impromptu foldout tables.

The exclusive worldwide event has seen tens of thousands register, especially in parts of Paris, such as les Invalides, les Champs Elysées and la Place de la Concorde. Now the idea has reached our shores, with last year’s 4000 guests flocking to Sydney’s Dîner en Blanc.

With Melbourne making its Dîner en Blanc début in March, what does it mean for us Francophiles? We took it upon ourselves to explore French dining traditions and how they might just hold up nicely in a couple of months’ time…

MyFrenchLife™ - Diner en blanc - sydney

1. The French arrive on time

In Australia, we are notorious for round-about judgements of time, given our laidback and ‘no worries’ demeanour. In France, le déjeuner would start roughly 12:30pm, however it would be unacceptable to arrive ‘around 2ish’ like we do at home. Mais faites attention, there is no point in rocking up late to the Dîner en Blanc. You may miss out on all the fun of the oh-so secretive set up!

2. The French dress appropriately

If you are abiding by French dining etiquette, your safest bet is to dress in more conservative attire. According to MyFrenchLife™ expat Cyndie’s experiences, aim for dressier clothing than what you perhaps would normally in Australia.

C’est la même chose for Dîner en Blanc: sticking to that head-to-toe white may make you fear stains more than the passé simple, but rest assured you will not stand out!

3. The French eat in courses

MyFrenchLife™ - diner en blanc - cheese

While the usual Aussie picnic might see guests gnawing on Tim Tams or guzzling on VB, who says you have to dine à l’Australienne every night? Fill your Dîner en Blanc picnic basket with the best French produce Melbourne’s got to give and adopt an à la carte approach for the evening. The French often eat several courses, including an apéro, les légumes, le plat principal, la salade, et le fromage. Eat slowly to savour the flavour and company!

4. The French take their time

While the location of Dîner en Blanc may remain a secret, the fact the French practise the art of moderation isn’t. A great way for Melburnians to exercise restraint in going for second helpings is by pacing themselves. Cutting down on serving sizes, putting down the fork after a bite to join in on conversation and taking smaller sips of wine are simple ways to avoid woofing down morsels of food by accident. After all, French women don’t get fat, n’est-ce pas ?!

What etiquette tips do you have for us diners? And will we be seeing you at Dîner en Blanc Melbourne?

All images © Dîner en Blanc via Dîner en Blanc Facebook page. 

About the Contributor

Julia Greenhalf

I'm a Melbourne based intern, editor, blogger and language lover. I indulge in too much social networking, often finding myself behind a camera lens. During my studies I have been lucky enough to combine my craving for all things French with a desire to let it all unfold out into the online world. Find me on Twitter and Google+!

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  1. Ellen Burns Jan 28, 2015 at 2:43 PM - Reply

    This sounds absolutely amazing Julia! How do they choose the lucky guests??

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