When the Euro was first launched as the main currency in France three years ago, nearly everyone I know complained that prices had risen with the introduction of the new money. I laughed at them as cynics and cheapskates.
It turns out that they were right and I was wrong. An interesting article on the BBC site today cites a paper which found that prices did indeed rise following the introduction of the Euro, especially in the catering and supermarket areas and especially in France and Italy.
The authors of the paper used a clever method to research restaurants: they compared 2002 and 2003 Michelins for major cities. They found that the prices rose by as much as 5.5% (in Italy) compared with static or falling prices outside the Euro zone. In fact, the authors claim that their estimates were conservative and took into account cost of living increases and failed crops where appropriate.
So do I feel foolish? Well, yes a bit. It's true that when I translate restaurant prices back into Francs I am sometime surprised by how much I am spending. However, the problem for an American living in Paris is that one tends to automatically see the euro as being "about a dollar". Sadly for you Americans, this is no longer the fact. Currently, a Euro is worth $1.21 which is quite a difference!
For those Americans willing to brave the crippling exchange rates in order to enjoy the culinary delights of Paris, I list below a few of my favourite less expensive restaurants. Bon appétit!
For a copious dinner at good value in the heart of the Latin Quarter:
63 r Galande 75005 PARIS
01 43 54 35 86
Starve yourself before going and blow out on the menu "gastronomique" which includes starter, fish, meat, cheese and dessert for about 40 euros. Okay, it's not CHEAP but it's very good value!
For really good value wine (also in the Latin quarter, though he has two other locations):
Les Bouchons de François Clerc
12 r Hôtel Colbert 75005 Paris
01 43 54 15 34
The Critic and I had a New Year's Eve dinner there just over a year ago and it was a very good deal: for 100 Euros we had a six course dinner with a glass of wine with each course. It was a delicious, imaginative menu and the wine was delicious.
Cheap Middle Eastern/Jewish food (good for vegetarians):
2 r Hospitalières St Gervais 75004 PARIS
01 42 72 18 86
Choose from some 70 dishes based on the number of "elements" you want (5, 8 or 11). A popular, lively place. They don't take reservations, but you can put your name on a list and come back later when your table is ready. This restaurant is in the middle of the Jewish section of the marais, a lovely place for wandering.