Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Missing food

Our trip to the UK this last weekend was hugely enjoyable.  Visits to friends, family, with the special extra of celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary.  The wedding itself was organised in a bit of a rush, since we realised fairly late in the day that we were going to have been together for 25 years, and to hit the right date, we had to get our skates on.  So the centrepiece of the trip was a 3-star Michelin dinner and overnight stay at the Roux brothers' Waterside Inn at Bray, where we got married.

We commented that of the things we thought we might miss in moving to France, good food was not on the list.  And yet the impression whilst we were back in England was that we hadn't eaten so well since, well, the last time we were in England.  We ate fish 'n chips, a curry, a burger (Burger King, char-grilled), Chinese, Thai, as well as French.  Had we had any room left on the way to the ferry on Sunday night, there is also an excellent pizza take-away right near the Portsmouth ferry terminal.

OK, France doesn't do fish 'n chips, you wouldn't expect it.  And they do do burgers (Mac's and Quick are in Laval, but not Burger King, the best of the lot in my view), and if you want more American options, KFC have recently installed themselves, and there is a Buffalo Grill American-style steak/beef restaurant chain too.   And if you fancy Italian there is a perfectly acceptable Pizza Del Arte chain in Laval.  I should also mention chinese-style places too, often of Vietnamese origins.  They are all fine, and if you want French, there are all levels, including Michelin stars to be found.

Pictures: The chippie where we bought the fish & chips, and the seafront at Warsash where we ate them.

And yet.....

The fish 'n chips was perfect; freshly cooked in crisp seasoned batter, the Chinese take-away organised by our friends was not only delicious but delivered to their house.  The Thai, in an invisible Harry-Potter style space between two pubs, was beautifully spiced and presented (and available at 2:45 on a Sunday afternoon too).   Even the French food in England was better than anything we have eaten anywhere in France (though to be fair, more expensive too).

I accept that this comparison doesn't hold for Paris, and probably other big cities too, where you can get superb cuisine of all kinds.  Perhaps no small part of the difference is because we are, of our own choosing, out in the sticks.   Well, fair enough.  If you can find sticks to be out in in England these days, perhaps the choice and quality is limited there too. And perhaps I'm simply missing the spicy flavours, but I don't think it's just that.

But one thing I will say for sure.  The idea that the food available every day to the average person in England is in any way inferior to that available to the French isn't just outdated; it's just plain wrong.  If anything, it's the other way round.


James Higham said...

OK, France doesn't do fish 'n chips,

Belgium does. Have you considered decamping just the other side of the Belgian border? The rich and famous do.

Mark In Mayenne said...

Belgium does? I didn't know that.

As for decamping, I'm neither rich nor famous, so I don't know what it would buy me.

The bike shed said...

And we Brits have many other excellent - and often underrated - fare too. Stilton cheese for example can mix it with the best in the world. And stotty cakes in the north east; haggis north of the border- all fab!

the fly in the web said...

Hear Hear!
Just returned after visiting mother in England...we have had superb food of all types from pub lunches to Italian via Balti...with good service and sensible prices.

Nothing in my area of rural France could match it.

Mark In Mayenne said...

Yes, Mr Bike shed. I remember steak & kidney pie, Irish stew with dumplings (gran's specialty), lardy cakes, black pudding (the English kind, different from the French) and Stilton too. Eccles cakes and Christmas pudding (gran's recipie again), mince pies. There are English cures of ham, some of which were lost during the war too, and I'm sure there are some I've missed.

Mark In Mayenne said...

Spotted dick

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