As part of my job, I’m regularly invited to gourmet dinners and culinary extravaganzas, but I’ve never experienced anything like Les Grands Buffets — and if you’ve ever thought that you don’t like buffets in hotels or restaurants, then this could be a real eye-opener!
Founded in 1989 by former accountant, entrepreneur and art lover Louis Privat, Les GrandBuffets was the ﬁrst restaurant in France to offer high-quality buffets. Today you’re invited to experience the revival of a dyintradition: the classic feast à la française, in the form of all-youcan-eat buffet tables ﬁlled with an array of exceptional dishes, combined with spectacular quality and staging in an warm, elegant setting.
The "French service" buffet concept dates from the Middle Ages, when French monarchs and the aristocracy held banquets. Differing from the English or Russian style of service, all the dishes were served at the same time in the form of a buffet, enabling guests to choose their menu according to their taste and preferences.
Displaying the Rabelaisian motto Fay ce que vouldras (do as thou wilt) over the tables, this gargantuan spread is unlike any other buffet you’ll ever experience — it’s truly a feast fit for an emperor. Unique in France, Les Grand Buffets' formula brings together the treasures of French gastronomic heritage — a dizzying choice of dishes combining traditional French culinary classics with popular regional dishes, all utilising local organic ingredients.
The difﬁculty is being strategicand planning so that you get a taste of it all before bursting!
You can sample foie gras (cooked six ways), lobster (plain, grilled, or à l’américaine), different types of ham, seafood, cassoulet, old fashioned veal blanquette, bone marrow with ﬂeur de sel, cuttleﬁsh à la sétoise and more — much more!
The rotisserie grill is the largest in France, offering ﬁllet steak, grilled lobster, tuna, whole roasted turbot, andouillette, suckling pig, tournedos Rossini and so on, while a spectacular seven- metre-long cheese counter showcases over 50 cheeses. Meanwhile for those with a sweet tooth, an entire room is dedicated to desserts, including countless home- made cakes, pastries, ice creams, and a chocolate fountain overﬂowing with 6kg of molten chocolate. I particularly recommend the orange givrée ice cream!
Not forgetting France’s rich oenological heritage, the wine list offers over 70 different wines offered by the glass or bottle, sold at cost price.
However Les Grands Buffets’ revival of the classic French feast isn’t only about the food, but also pays tribute to the traditional arts of ﬁne dining. Celebrating the ceremony of a classic French meal, tables are laid with crisp linen, embroidered napkins and doilies, gleaming stem glasses and the appropriate cutlery for each course of your meal, while wines are decanted.
The mahogany-panelled dining room, carefully planted alcoves, landscaped garden, subtle lighting and art pieces by Alain Bellanger and Hervé di Rosa add to the warm and elegant atmosphere. On a ﬁne day I recommend dining in the garden with its pretty wisteria-covered trellis and sculptures.
The staff are very pleasant, attentive and professional, and on your ﬁrst visit, they’ll show you around and tell you how the system works. There’s a kids’ play area for junior guests too.
With an average of 1000 customers per day (rising to 1400 each day in the summer), Les Grands Buffets serves the largest number of meals of any restaurant in France outside Paris. With 110 employees year-round (and 140 in the summer), founder Louis Privat has always been an innovator in terms of human resources — he was the ﬁrst employer in France to adopt the 35-hour work week in 1999, and today it’s his teams that decide on new employees. As he says, “It’s not for me to say if an applicant is a good pastry chef, for example, it’s up to his future colleagues!” Thus it’s the waiters who recruit a new server, or the kitchen team that interviews a future cook. Once on board, kitchen staff work in an ultra-modern kitchen utilising cutting-edge culinary technology. They listen to their favourite music at work, while a collection of stunning stainless-steel art works specially commissioned from local artist Patrick Chappert- Gaujal adorns the kitchen walls.
Les Grands Buffets’ all-you-can-eat concept costs €35.90 per person. Children under 5 accompanied by a paying adult eat for free, while children from 6 to 10 years old pay half price, ie €17.90
Served by the glass or bottle, the 70 wines on the wine list are sold at cost price. The restaurant is open 365 days a year. Advance booking is essential.
LES GRANDS BUFFETS
04 68 42 20 01
Rond Point de la Liberté, 11100 Narbonne
Book online: www.lesgrandsbuffets.com