In rural France there are bars in most villages. Usually the domain of men drinking, at lunchtime many bars offer a fixed menu to cater for workers. It is common place in France for employers to provide lunch vouchers for their employees, this is particularly the case with manual workers and drivers. Bars offer a low cost but huge lunch for these workers to enjoy. However, these menus are not solely for workers, anyone can walk in off the street and pig out on the cheap. As long as you’re not scared of a few curious looks you too can enjoy a 4 or 5 course meal for about €12 – sometimes this even includes drinks! This is perfect for when you’re on a budget.
The first place we ate was the Auberge du Lie in La Cheze. This is a small village in central Brittany close to where my parents live. It’s a pretty town with a lake and a couple of little shops. It’s normal in France for lunch only to be served between 12 and 2pm. As their lunches tend to be on the longer side these bars fill up pretty quickly so you need to be seated shortly after 12. When we got to this auberge there were only about 2 other tables in use at the restaurant, about 1 o’clock nearly every table was full. The menus don’t offer much choice but that is how the owners are able to offer the food so cheaply. Think of it as posh (and yummy!) school dinners.
At the Auberge du Lie we could have either crudities or duck pate to start. I chose crudities because I’m not a pate fan. What I got was a plate of lovely fresh salad: definitely a good choice. Next up was a slice of hot quiche lorraine before our main course of sautéed veal and pasta. The meat was a little fatty but very tender. The sauce was delicious. Before desert we were given a plate of cheese to help ourselves to. Of course, all of this food is accompanied by a big basket of fresh bread!
|Veal and macaroni|
During our stay we ate out twice more. The second time was at a big place just outside of Pontivy, which is one of the bigger towns in the area. The restaurant was called “Le 1703” and was the French version of a greasy spoon cafe. There was a big car park with work vans, trucks and lorries. The menu here included drinks and was 4 courses. There was a buffet for the starter with all sorts of salad and cold cuts. We then had meat and chips, followed by cheese, desert and then coffee. My parents drank a carafe of red wine and our bread basket was replenished twice! This massive and very filling lunch was just €11 each and in these establishments you’re not expected to tip so it really is cheap. We went to McDonald’s and it cost us nearly €8 each for just an extra value meal.
|One packed restaurant! Photo taken using the self-portrait mode on my phone!|
Our final lunch out was in a tiny little village called L’Hermitage Lorge at “Chez Marylene”. Once again and unassuming bar with a restaurant out back. This place was packed and many tables were reserved so we were sat on a little table next to the loo unfortunately. This was another 4 course jobby again with drinks included. There was a bottle of water and red wine on the table and soft drinks to help yourself to. It was a bit random just picking up a 1.5l bottle of Fanta and taking it back to the table but I was told by the waitress to do so! The tarte aux pommes was so yummy here.
|Lamb and chips. Nom nom nom!|
While the food available on these budget menus may not be haute cuisine it is fresh and tasty. Just like home cooking. It’s also a little scary going in to these places that are busy with mostly male workers and the staff generally don’t speak any English. I’m not sure I would have done it on my own but with my parents who have been to these places before it was ok! My fiancé wasn’t sure about the food because he’s a bit of a burger man but generally it was good. If you’re in France and on a budget why not try these places? You won’t need any dinner so that will save you even more money!
Read about driving in France in my previous post.