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Restaurant speak decoded

French cooking has significantly influenced Western cuisine – even the word ‘restaurant’ is French – so very often, particularly in fine dining restaurants, you will find that the type of menu has a French name. The most common type of menu is a la carte. Directly translated, this means ‘according to the menu’ and refers to the way in which you can choose individually priced items from a list to create your own selection. The menu will feature a list of numerous choices in various categories such as starters, main courses and desserts. Each dish has it’s own price, and you can choose whatever you want from the list to create your own meal. In smarter restaurants you may be offered the choice of a degustation menu. This is usually a menu of about eight (or more) courses of small samples of the chef’s signature dishes. This menu is usually a set price, and often, though not always, wine pairings are included with each dish. On occasion there will be some flexibility within a degustation menu—for example, you may be given a choice between two dishes for one of the courses. A table d’hôte refers to a set menu, though this is not a term that is used very often in SA. Meaning ‘the host’s table’, similar to a dinner party at someone’s home, where there would not be a choice of items, the food on a table d’hôte menu is predetermined and set at a fixed price. Once you’ve decided which menu you’re ordering from, there’s one thing left to say… Bon appetite!