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Jon Sopel In Paris
British food is faring badly in France
 real 56k

Tuesday, 6 February, 2001, 12:39 GMT
Is British cuisine inadequate?

The only restaurant in Paris serving traditional British cuisine is shutting its doors, because the French can't be tempted to eat the food.

Traditional British tuck such as fish and chips, steak and kidney pie and spotted dick and custard are not living up to the French standards of cuisine.

But is any surprise that in the gastronomic capital of the world such food is seen as undesirable?

Can Britain compete in the cuisine stakes? Which do you prefer - L'escargot or egg and chips?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

Well if British food is bland compared to the rest of Europe - at least its safe to eat. The French for example have an extremely bad reputation for hygiene.
Brunton, Scotland

I've just come back from France and have to say that some of the restaurant food was every bit as bad as anything you might find in the UK. British food is not up to much, but then what great culinary contributions have most countries around the world made? Germany? sauerkraut and sausages! Holland? herrings! Spain? paella and tapas, like wow? Eastern Europe? Boiled meat and potatoes! Scandinavia - ? The only truly great and diverse cuisine comes from Italy which benefits from its regional culture. Real Italian food kicks French and Asian food right into touch.
Alex B, UK

We don't promote our local cuisine so nobody knows about it

Jez, UK
As is usual with any prejudice it is all based on ignorance. People like Volker (Germany), who assume that all British food is fried something and chips, basically have no idea what British food is. You very rarely get a cheap meal anywhere in Europe that does not come with chips, especially France. But here we don't promote our local cuisine so nobody knows about it. Also the British seem to be much more adventurous when it comes to food - that's why we have one of the most varied selection of international restaurants anywhere. Even my local pub here in East London is now a Columbian tapas bar!
Jez, UK

Whilst driving around many different parts of France I have found that no matter where you stop to eat you are almost guaranteed good food. Even the more basic meals, steak-au-poivre, chips and salad are almost always great. The same can not be said of the UK. It is normally a surprise if any cheap(ish) meal in this country is decent. You can still find places that have fruit juice listed as a starter - unbelievable.
Graeme, England

I wake up, have a full "English" breakfast, have a slice of "Italian" pizza at lunchtime, "Indian" curry for dinner and a "'Turkish" kebab on the way home from the club. The people in the UK who are of Italian, Indian and Turkish descent are British to me, and so is their food!
Richard N, UK

English cuisine has improved tremendously from what it was when I went to England as a student in 1963

Bob, USA
English cuisine has improved tremendously from what it was when I went to England as a student in 1963. I remember that roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, toad in the hole and Brussels sprouts. It took some getting used to food that had no spices. One had to dress it with black pepper and salt that was set before you on the table. The fish and chips, or savaloy and chips wrapped in the newspaper were other interesting presentations. However I grew to love the fish and chips and Welsh rarebit with beans that kept me alive and healthy during my days as a student. When I began to earn money the Wiltshire duckling and good steaks covered with French mustard was enjoyable and delicious especially at the restaurants and pubs around Godalming Surrey.
Bob, USA

In general I think the British have fairly bland tastes. My girlfriend's mum has never tried anything spicier than a Pot Noodle. Although I enjoy things such as pie and mash it does not really inspire creativity.
Adam, UK

I like snails!
Peter Bolton, UK in USA

Uhhhh....we are talking snails here - that's molluscs. No siree, no thanks - I'll just stick to my black pudding, thank you very much.
Darryl Moistner, Tain, Scotland

I was brought up on traditional British cooking

Cora Ellis, UK
I was brought up on traditional British cooking. It did not include fish and chips, tripe, steak and kidney pudding, spotted dick, or any of the other fat-saturated stodge that seems to be associated with this island. Good, nourishing soups and stews were essential elements, and I have never tasted better in any of the many countries I have visited. Certainly there was a lack of flavoursome spices, but the quality of the basic ingredients was unsurpassed. I believe that British cooking has a lot to offer if only it would be presented in its traditional form, that of the good home cooking that was once present in every region.
Cora Ellis, UK

I spent a couple of weeks touring provincial France by car thirty years ago, sampling their fare at a variety of local restaurants as I went. I was never so glad to get back to England to eat some REAL food. I have never seen any foreign restaurant yet that could beat the excellent food I have encountered while on holiday in Great Britain.
David Baynes, Canada

Having just finished a lunch of Scottish meat pies and "real" HP sauce that I have shipped in from a shop in Maine, I can honestly say that I enjoy British food. Oh French cuisine is fine. I just find it difficult to hold my nose that far in the air for any length of time...
Krow, USA

Nothing we have here can come close to the fresh food available on the continent

Steve, UK
The UK has become a nation of microwavable-food eaters, with absolutely no passion for cooking (except perhaps Jamie Oliver). Nothing we have here can come close to the fresh food available on the continent. Bread straight from the oven and fruit straight from the tree are de rigeur in France, Spain and Italy. Of all the European countries, Italian food has to be the best. Those who have only have sampled food from an Italian restaurant have no idea what real Italian food is. If you ever have a chance to eat with a native family you are in for a rare treat! Bon appetit!
Steve, UK

To Nick Bell - the best chocolate is not made in the UK but in either Belgium or Switzerland. Most British chocolate is far too weak in taste and it's also too sweet.
I. Turzanski, Netherlands

British food is good and underestimated. The myriad pies, roasts, puddings, pastries and cakes are a treat. Pub grub has its own flavour. I had the pleasure of trying these out on my trip to the UK in '97. May Brit food continue to prosper.
Vinay, USA

Surely it is quite possible to enjoy both bangers and mash and boudin

Peter, Netherlands
The "French" kitchen is as varied as any - there is a huge diversity between the culinary traditions of, say, Alsace and the Roussillon, or Normandy and the Savoye. It is unlikely that anyone will find all French cooking to their taste. Anyway, why should anyone have to choose? Surely it is quite possible to enjoy both bangers and mash and boudin, both bubble and squeak and Strasbourg choucroute, both beans on toast and cassoulet, both roast beef and Yorkshire pudding and poule au pot, both Lancashire hotpot and bouillabaisse. And incidentally, I have never eaten better porridge -- with salt -- than in Russia.
Peter, Netherlands

I have enjoyed wonderful food in Britain, but always of international style. Traditional British food gives me indigestion. Modern food, widely available in Britain, is as good as anywhere. American food may be hearty, but you can go weeks in the US without seeing a vegetable. Italian cuisine is superb, but they are mean with the portions served in restaurants, lots of pasta, a dribble of sauce, but where's the meat? Seldom get to try the food in France other than to fill up on the free bread whilst waiting to be served.
Tom, Australia

It is my conviction that the richest food culture and tradition is in Asia

Tridiv, Germany/India
I can't resist a comment on food as a "food fan". I think French food is quite pretentious. They do have some good dishes but French food as a whole is highly over-estimated. British food - I would not comment. It is my conviction that the richest food culture and tradition is in Asia.
Tridiv, Germany/India

I've been amused while living in Hong Kong by the eating habits of some of our European cousins. A couple of times I've been on holiday with Swiss and German expats to other Asian destinations. I'm always game for trying a local dish or two, especially a good "British" curry - our cosmopolitan Europeans? They always head for the nearest dreary, tiresome Wiener Schnitzel, Sauerkraut and dumplings - all the while deploring British food! They really haven't a clue about traditional British dishes, best just to ignore them, I find!
Angus, Hong Kong SAR

Thanks to the average Briton now being one of the most travelled on earth I think the food in recent years has improved markedly. Much of the problems in the past was due in part to the terrible war and the few years after when food rationing of two lamb chops per week was the ration per person. I was stationed there during those sad years and have since seen improvements. I asked a head waiter in Frankfurt in 1956 what he thought of British cooking as he had apprenticed there for a year in one of the finest London hotels, "Shocking." Your tech schools and travel are changing this for the better.
Steve B, US

English products are without any taste

Elena, Russia
I don't want to hurt anyone but the English food is boring if you compare it with the French food. There is a real lack of imagination and creativity. And snails could be delicious with a good sauce. I've been to England for some 3 months and I found that English products are without any taste. All foreigners complain about English food. It's famous ¿
Elena, Russia

When asked to comment on the Heinz plan to withdraw Salad Cream from their product range, who was it that said: "I have never understood Salad Cream"?
Chris, London, UK

The quality of the cook itself is far more important than the cuisine. It doesn't matter from which cuisine the meal is if it isn't cooked properly. But that doesn't state anything about the expectations of the guests. I made lots of visits to France, and I found that the French appreciate cuisines that are more like theirs, like the Italian cuisine and the Algerian. The British cuisine is apparently too different from the French.
John, the Netherlands

Why go to Paris and eat English food?

Claire, Canada
Why go to Paris and eat English food? I love Marmite, Toad in the Hole etc but wait until I go home to England to eat them.
Claire, Canada

I'm a big fan of world cuisine but I don't think French food would even make my top ten. Some of their exports are nice enough (cheese and wine) but the rest of their fayre is pretty dire.
Rob Docherty, England

What the Brits lack in some of their main dishes, they make up for in their chocolate.
Nick Bell, USA

Other than the British people, the best thing about visiting the UK is traditional British food

Peter C. Kohler, USA
Oh please, let's not drag out the old nonsense about the British being lousy cooks serving up sloppy food. Twaddle! Other than the British people, the best thing about visiting the UK is traditional British food. What I wouldn't give on any morning to tuck into that most sublime of culinary pleasures: the full English breakfast. I have travelled the world and British cooking, both native and foreign, is among the best in the world. And not just the fancy restaurants. The best English breakfast I've had is served at a tiny place at the bus station in Exmouth for £3.75. So to blazes with the French and pass the brown sauce please.
Peter C. Kohler, USA

I would have thought that the decision by Mcdonalds to buy into Pret a Manger indicates that English cuisine is good. There are many restaurants in the US which try to emulate British cooking and fail miserably. Stuck in a restaurant in Niagra falls where they had failed to parboil the potatoes before making chips, I was accosted by a Canadian woman who wanted to know how I could make her Yorkshire puddings rise.
Nic Holc, California/ Ex UK

British food is terrible! I have been to many countries and every one has much better food than we do. Better taste, variety and proportions.
Chris, UK

Why is every one assuming that traditional British cooking is fish and chips or unhealthy? I admit traditional British canteen food can be unappetising, however a homemade meal made with fresh ingredients can be both healthy and enjoyable. For example roast gammon in cider and fresh vegetables followed by baked apples.
Carol, England

Personally I have cravings while away from home, usually for a nice hot Cornish Pasty

Alan, UK (in USA)
Who really gives a damn what the French, or anybody else, think of our cooking! Personally I have cravings while away from home, usually for a nice hot Cornish Pasty!
Alan, UK (in USA)

Living here in Kansas is good, but as a young man born and bred in England I really miss such things as Bangers and Mash, Cornish Pasties, Trifle etc. Wish there was a quote "British" cafe here in Kansas City.
Ray, USA

There is still nothing as wonderful as a ploughmans' (extra brannie, and two pints!)
Robert Levin, USA

Any food can be prepared badly. I get the shivers when I see what the rest of America thinks is Pizza (New York having what is generally considered to be the best pizza). But I bet if you went to someone's house in Italy you'd be blown away by their Pizza. What you are served in a restaurant as typical regional food bears little resemblance to the "real thing" (if that exists at all). British cuisine is doing well here in New York. "Tea & Sympathy" have just opened a fish and chip shop on Greenwich Street which is going down very well with the natives.
Catherine Penfold, UK in USA

British ingredients are first rate, British chefs are some of the best, our traditional recipes can be fantastic. The problem lies in our lack of care in how we cook and present food and our desire to take short cuts in preparing food.
Duncan, UK

We can't compete with the French on food. Our whole attitude has to change first, not least to service

Richard Phillips, UK
We can't compete with the French on food. Our whole attitude has to change first, not least to service. A waiter in France has to know about the food and wine as well as understanding service. In the UK, service is generally appalling at all but the very best restaurant. You can eat for £20 in France and have a meal that would probably cost three or four times that in London.
Richard Phillips, UK

Actually, Britain doesn't necessarily lose out by having boring, bland, or unhealthy 'cuisine'. I have found that the choice of foreign, and ethnic restaurants in the UK to be far greater and of far better quality than anywhere else in the world, probably as a result of this.
Puss, UK/France

I will agree. It's not as good as it was thirty years ago or so. That is because of all the foreign food that Europe is making us take on our shelves. Why can't this once great and good nation take its place amongst the master of good food and wine again?
Harry Wentworth, Torquay, Devonshire, England

I am a vegetarian. Recently I went to Paris for a conference in a high quality hotel and the attempt at a vegetarian meal (i.e. a plateful of vegetables) was quite appalling, and showed a total lack of imagination. There again, what do you expect from a nation who eat horses?
Robert C, UK

The worst meal I ever had was chicken - burnt on the outside, raw in the middle - near Nice, France!
Clive Mitchell, UK

British food has a bad reputation in Germany, but I'm afraid I don't think this is justified. They - all 81 million Germans - certainly don't know how to make a decent cuppa. Generalisations are always dangerous, but the amount of fat used in German cooking far outweighs that in Britain as they fry everything. No, you just can't beat a full English breakfast, and I think the whole world knows that really by instinct.
Ken Beach, Germany

There is not a lot of difference between everyday French food and everyday British food

Jim Hutton, UK and France
As a Scot, married to a French lady from Normandy I can honestly say that there is not a lot of difference between everyday French food and everyday British food. Admittedly the French eat more fresh fruit and vegetables than we do, but in Normandy at least vegetables are normally served smothered in crème fraiche. A traditional Sunday dinner is more or less the same too. Roast animal of some kind, with vegetables and potatoes. Restaurants are different, and not just 'high class' ones. Most motorway service stations in France serve better food than is served in restaurants here! Oh and a quick word to Jenny from Scotland. Cassoulet made with an old scrag-end of mutton is tres bon and boiled tripe is the speciality of Caen, my wife's home town. I prefer escargots to just about any other food!
Jim Hutton, UK and France

British food is adequate for the majority of British people. A bit like the pound.
Mark, Austria

British cuisine may not be the best but I challenge anyone to find a breakfast anywhere in the world that beats a 'Full English' - croissants, pah!
Nick, England

Although I enjoy SOME English food, I am not a huge fan. I find that dishes do not have enough flavour and are often too bland. Of all the restaurants I could choose, it certainly would not be one with English cuisine. Saying that, I can't resist a Sunday roast at the pub!
Natalie, Australian (in UK)

I think we have some wonderful restaurants around England. We also have the opportunity to pop into the local pub and have a meal at a reasonable prices. Snails and frogs legs, no thanks! My perception is that the French don't favour anything from England, even our singing - nil point!!!!!!!
Sharon, UK

Maybe if the relationship between the UK and France was a little more amicable this restaurant may have flourished.
Ian Bailey, England

This is probably a reflection of the average, unimaginative British taste

Chris Klein, UK
I travel extensively overseas and have many opportunities to sample and enjoy the local cuisine. Traditional British cooking, I hesitate to use the word cuisine, is invariably unappealing, unimaginative and unappetising by comparison, with perhaps the exception of Belarus. However, this is probably a reflection of the average, unimaginative British taste, which, at its worst, is manifest in those ghastly ersatz traditional British restaurants and cafes that infest popular holiday resorts in Spain. As has been said before: "The French live to eat; the British eat to live".
Chris Klein, UK

The answer is no, it is not inadequate. British food is good, wholesome food. The problem is that it is not served in the same fashion that the continentals like, so they say it is rubbish. I have worked in Germany for nearly 2½ years now, I have also worked in the Netherlands and had several holidays in France. I have to say that in most cases, wherever I have been the food is good. What the UK needs is not so much a lesson in cooking but in serving!
John C, Warwick, England/ Mainz, Germany

Britain's regional food is perhaps our best-kept secret

Jen, UK
As a student I shared a house with many foreign students who were of the same impression, so one day I took it upon myself to make a 16 course meal which would include Welsh, Scottish and English food. We had stew, dumplings, cowl, black pudding, Yorkshire pudding, haggis, bread and butter pudding. The list was endless. Having eaten their fill, they all agreed that Britain's regional food is perhaps our best-kept secret. I stay in contact with them all and I am still sending them recipes.
Jen, UK

Did the restaurant have HP Sauce? That would have made it truly authentic!

The days when British cooking meant stodgy, fatty, tasteless gunk are long gone. If you really enjoy that kind of food you can still find it, but the best British cooking is to be found in country pubs, using fresh local produce.
Michael, UK

How can anyone who eats snails complain???
Benny, UK

Egg and chips? Sausages and mash? Hardly any competition for anyone who is in search of healthy food with a bit of flavour

Volker, England
It's a bit of a problem as soon somebody is a bit health conscious. English meals are very high in fat and are usually not nice to look at. Egg and chips? Sausages and mash? Cooking books that teach how to boil an egg? Hardly any competition for anyone who is in search of healthy food with a bit of flavour. The English 'cuisine' is very simple and therefore has no appeal to any restaurant goers who are out for a treat.
Volker, England (ex-Germany)

Talking of British Cuisine is like talking about German humour; French generosity; Italian self-control; Belgian usefulness; or American modesty.
Mark M. Newdick, USA/UK

As a whole, the French people appear to reject anything that is not French. Hence I am not surprised that a 'British' restaurant did not appeal to them. My husband has eaten at Berties in Paris and found it to be an elitist interpretation of British cuisine: where else would you find deep fried battered salmon served as fish and chips! Bring back the traditional Sunday roast lunch!
Caron, England

Where we cannot hold a candle to the other countries is the service that is provided in our restaurants and cafes.

Lee, UK
Yes I think in a lot of cases we can match up to other countries when it comes to cuisine. Where we cannot hold a candle to the other countries is the service that is provided in our restaurants and cafes. We must be the worlds worst.
Lee, UK

I think that British cuisine can be far superior to French, and vice-versa: it all depends on the quality of products used, and the chef doing the cooking. British fish, fruit and vegetables can be wonderful, but an old scrag-end of mutton, or boiled tripe are hardly going to fire up the palate!
Jenny, Scotland

The French have an inherent parochialism and accordingly non-French items will always struggle to sell in France.
Gerry, Scotland

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