Restaurateur Pascal Mousset has a new menu he hopes will persuade his patrons to change the habit of a lifetime in response to Paris’s coronavirus curfew, by – perish the thought – eating dinner as early as the English.
They can order his 19-euro “After Work” offering of foie gras, boar pate and calamari until 8:00 p.m., an hour before the lockdown takes effect in the capital and eight other cities – and just when they might normally be contemplating their starters.
Mousset, whose restaurant Chez Francoise is popular with lawmakers, throws in two glasses of beer or wine to help wash the food down.
“We said to ourselves we have two options: close in the evenings and turn off the lights or do something positive,” he said, after last week’s announcement of the new curbs gave the trade just 48 hours to adapt.
The French have long considered themselves more culinarily sophisticated than their British neighbours.
They tend to baulk at the prospect of having to eat their evening meal too early or rush their wine and, for some, the jury’s still out on whether such behaviour might now be permissible.
“We’ll see if we can get used to the Anglo-Saxon habit of eating out at 7.30 p.m.,” said self-employed Denis Alexandre, 53, lunching with a friend in a favourite restaurant in the affluent 16th arrondissement.
Others like Xavier Denamur, who owns five bars and restaurants, are turning to takeout deliveries – permitted post-curfew – to make ends meet during the six weeks for which the night-time shutdown is scheduled to last.
He says his staff are struggling to adjust. “My barmen have become delivery-boys. Logistically, it’s a bit of a mess.”
But they still have at least one resolutely un-British touch of refinement to fall back on – delivering the meals on porcelain plates.