French Menu: What to Expect? [From Appetizer To Main Course And Dessert]



In France, a menu is a contract between you and the restaurant. When you sit down at a table in France, you'll be presented with a "menu." This is not a list of items you can choose from, but rather a list of everything the restaurant has to offer that day. Menus generally include three courses: an appetizer (one entrée), the main course (Un plat principal), and dessert (un dessert). However, in some restaurants, significantly higher-end ones or those serving fixed-price meals, you may have several options for each course.

When the waiter sets your menu on the table, he usually brings bread and water. Water is free unless you ask for something else; it may be served in a carafe or bottle rather than individual glasses. Be aware that if there isn't already bottled water on your table when you sit down, there probably won't be any unless you ask for it — Parisians tend to drink wine or beer with their meals.


Typical French Menu

A typical French menu will have a series of courses, each with its dishes.

  • Aperitifs, drinks, and aperitif foods are served before the meal, usually in the dining room.
  • The next course is usually soup (potage).
  • Then comes the fish course (Poisson), followed by meat (viande) - chicken or game (e.g., veal, beef, pork).
  • This is then followed by a salad (salade), cheese (fromage), and dessert (dessert).


French set menu

French set menu is a menu of dishes served together as a meal. If you want to know the French set menu, this article will explain it.

There are many types of menus in France. The most common types are a la carte and table d'hote. They both have their pros and cons.

  • A la carte menus give you the freedom to choose exactly what you want. However, each item on the menu comes with its price, so you can end up paying more than you expected.

Table d'hote is a fixed-price menu where all courses are included for one set price. You don't have to pay extra for extra dishes, but sometimes it's hard to choose from such a limited number of words.


What is a set menu?

The French set menu (menu fixe) is just that: a fixed selection of different dishes that you can order in a specific order. Often, these menus are designed for value and will include some drink and dessert and an appetizer, main course, and cheese. The best deals are usually lunchtime menus intended to entice people into restaurants during what would otherwise be a slow period in France.


Types of French menu

The typical French restaurant menu might seem daunting at first, but it's pretty simple. So let's break it down.

  • The Menu

The word "menu" comes from French and means "small menu," or what we would call the dessert menu. Most people who have eaten in France will be familiar with the concept of a carte du jour, or 'menu of the day. These are typically available at most lunchtimes in bars and cafes and sometimes in restaurants. The menu will usually comprise several courses - usually three - and a choice of the main dish.

  • A la Carte

This phrase is perhaps the most commonly used on a menu; it refers to ordering individual items. The term was initially used to distinguish premium wines often sold by the glass rather than the bottle. These days, you more often see the opposite, with higher-end restaurants offering fixed menus (aka set menus) instead of a la carte options.

  • Le Menu Fixe – The Set Menu

If you order à la carte, you will have to pay for each item and any additional services like coffee or tea. Most restaurants offer some form of the set menu that bundles all of these other items together at a significantly lower cost per item than if you ordered them individually. Typically this will mean an appetizer, main dish, and dessert for one fixed price. For example, a waiter might ask you if you would like "le café.

The main course highlights any meal, especially a restaurant meal. If you're going to order a steak, you want it to be perfect, and the same goes for fish or chicken. But how can you tell what the chef thinks are their best dishes without asking?

You might think that the most expensive items are the ones most likely to be great, but that's not always true. For example, the priciest dishes aren't worth their prices in some restaurants.


Drink Menu in French

There are lots of places to go for a drink in France.

The wine list can be found under 'la carte des vins.' You can order a glass of wine or 'un pichet' (a jug) of wine. You can also request 'une bouteille' (a bottle) of wine, and if you want to share it with friends, you can order it by the 'demi' (half) or the 'carafe' (jug).

  • If you want beer, there is nothing more traditional than to order a pint of beer by saying: une petite bière, s'il Vous plait.
  • If you like cocktails, there are lots to choose from, and here are some typical French ones: un kir au vin Blanc, un pastis (with water), un Ricard (aniseed based spirit), un sirop de grenadine (grenadine syrup mixed with lemonade or soda water), un sirop de Menthe (mint syrup mixed with lemonade or soda water).
French menu Classic French food



What French restaurants serve?

Most restaurants in France have daily specials and seasonal offers. In addition, many of them offer a prix fixe menu (fixed price menu) at lunchtime or dinner time. Usually, this includes an entrée (appetizer), plat principal (main course), and dessert. The prix fixe menus are generally cheaper than ordering à la carte (separate dishes). If you order à la carte, you will have much more choice, but each word will be more expensive.

  • It is important to note that each item on the menu does not necessarily represent a separate course; Menu items on a French menu are grouped. In France, the menus are often divided into three sections: starter (entrée), main course (plat principal), and dessert (dessert).
  • Because of this, it is possible to order your courses separately. For example, you can request an entrée and then a plat principal without ordering dessert. Or you may choose only to order an appetizer and dessert but skip the main course altogether.

This is always a great way to eat if you sample different dishes, you can try several without feeling stuffed or guilty!


The Menu

The first thing to note about menus in France is that they tend to be written in French only. That's not always true, but it's usually a bad sign if you see English on the menu. The menu is usually printed on a large card or folded paper, presented flat or rolled up like a newspaper.


What is a typical French dinner menu?

The typical French dinner menu is salade verte (green salad) followed by viande avec garniture (meat with vegetables), fromage, and dessert. You may also see potage (soup) and hors d'oeuvres (appetizers) as a first course.

The most common meat choice is beef, often cooked a la bourgeoise in the oven, with potatoes and carrots. If you eat lunch, the meal could be an omelet or a quiche.

  • The vegetables will probably be some potato dish:
  • Gratin dauphinois (creamy scalloped potatoes)
  • Grenaille (boiled potatoes)
  • Pommes de Terre sautee (fried potatoes)
  • They can also be haricots verts or green beans.
  • If you have cheese, it will sometimes be served before dessert but often after it.


Typical Desserts

Dessert can be simply fruit, or Tarte aux fruits rouges (red fruit pie); or ice cream; or tarte au citron (lemon pie); or Tarte au Chocolat (chocolate pie); or Clafoutis (cherry pudding cake); or flan.

The French do not typically eat their meals at specific times as Americans do; instead, they eat when hungry, much like many Latin American countries do. Often, there will be a more extensive meal eaten in the middle of the afternoon and a smaller one taken in the evening hours before bedtime.


What is entrée French?

In contemporary English, entrée usually refers to the main course. However, in French and classical culinary arts, an entrée is an additional dish, which may be served before or after the main course.

In France and other countries where French cuisine is famous (such as Belgium), there are five typical courses in a formal meal:

  • Amuse-bouche
  • Hors d'oeuvre
  • Entrée
  • Plat principal (main course)
  • Dessert

The only hard-and-fast rule is that you start with the dish farthest to the left and move right — so amuse-bouches are always served before hors d'oeuvres. Some of those dishes may not be offered at all or combined into one (for example, in some restaurants, the amuse-bouche is also served as a hors d'oeuvre). There might be several versions of each course in other cases — you might have three appetizers followed by three entrees.

In French cooking, entrees are usually smaller than mains and include soups, salads, or fish dishes. The main course is usually meat or poultry served with vegetables and potatoes (or rice).


French service

The French service is a type of restaurant service used in finer dining restaurants. The food is brought to the table by multiple waiters working in tandem. The diner is expected to be very familiar with the workings of the meal and how it unfolds, and they are expected to know which utensils to use at what time.

  • The French service is a throwback to the old days of fine dining, and it is not seen nearly as often as it used to be. It differs from American or Russian style service in that there are no carts or trays brought out for each course; the wait staff brings out each plate individually, on a tray if necessary.

French-style service may also differ from other methods. For example, specific waiters may be assigned to certain tables throughout the evening, rather than having a "captain" who oversees the entire operation.


5-course French menu

Here we are introducing you with the most common 5 course French menu;

- Master your Mise en Place - The first step to being a good cook is getting organized.

- Start with an Appetizer - A one-bite appetizer will build anticipation for the coming courses.

- Serve a Classic French Salad - The perfect way to cleanse your palate in between courses.

- Plate the Main Course - The meat and potatoes of your meal, literally!

- Finish it all off with Dessert and Coffee - Complete your meal with a sweet treat and some good conversation.


Speciality of French menu

In the past, French menus were a lot longer. Guests would be presented with many different dishes, and they could pick what they wanted to eat. These days, menus are shorter as a general rule. But one type of menu still uses the extended format – the prix fixe or set menu.

  • One of the reasons for the prix fixe menu is to give guests an idea about how much their meal will cost. So, first, the price will be shown at the top of the page, and then there will be three or four choices for each course, before and after the main.
  • Many restaurants offer this type of menu because they want to bring in more money per table, which means they can give better service. It also means that they can plan their ingredients which help them order less food wastefully. So it’s a good business sense all around.
  • For diners, it can also make life easier because you know how much your meal will cost before you order anything!


So we can say that French menu is concise and easy to read. Everything is listed in the same order. The dish's name is not in a weird long form, just the name of the word, so it is easy to remember. It’s easy to recognize what kind of meat you can find in each dish because they are written clearly. You can also find a description of the dishes at the end of each sentence, so you may better understand what you are ordering.


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