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A guide to fine dining in Europe for foodies of all budgets

french food

Michelin star restaurants, tasting menus, and exotic dining experiences are on many travellers’ wish lists – as they should be! Eating is fun, and there’s a world of professionals who have made it even more fun, magical, and decadent. But it can be a little expensive…

Worry not, we have gathered some expert tips on how to enjoy fine dining on a budget! Next time you’re planning a trip and all your mouth-watering eats, make sure you refer back to this article because everyone deserves to experience fine dining at least once in their lives.

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1. Book ahead

Not so much a budget tip, but generally if you want to get yourself a table at a fine dining restaurant, you’re going to want to plan ahead. Many of these places are in very high demand, and many of them don’t take walk-ins, so tables are hard to come by. Be prepared! If there’s a restaurant you desperately want to go to, call ahead and secure that table.

2. Go for lunch

Okay, the fine dining on a budget tips begin now. Lunch services tend to be a lot cheaper, and this is a general rule for any restaurant, Michelin star or not, so it’s a great time to go if you want to have good food without breaking the bank. Plus, lunch dates are so cute! So it’s a win win.

3. Go on a weeknight

If you really want to go for a dinner meal though, then embrace the weeknights and book then. Some restaurants bump prices up just slightly on the weekends, as these might be the evenings when more people show up, so weeknights tend to be just slightly cheapers! Plus, you’ll have the advantage of the restaurant being slightly less busy as well, so you can enjoy your experience even more.

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4. Share dishes

A great way to do fine dining on a budget is sharing the love. If you’re dining with friends, the best thing you can do is order lots of little dishes that you can each sample, or make sure each of you orders something different so everyone can have a bite! This is great as well, seeing as you’ll probably be drawn to more than one dish and faced with an impossible choice – now you don’t have to choose. You can all split the bill at the end to help out even more. 

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5. No to cocktails

Ugh, I know, a fruity little drink goes perfect with every meal! But this is how they get you – alcohol prices seem to skyrocket with every Michelin star awarded, so if you’re trying to save money, opt for a non-alcoholic drink, and save the party for a smaller local spot. If you’re really wanting to try a restaurant’s iconic and original drink, then only order one or two to keep your tab as low as possible.

Alternatively, more and more restaurants allow BYOB and will only charge you on the corkage. Just make sure it’s allowed before cracking open a bottle of your favourite beverage in plain sight.

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6. Research the menu beforehand

If you’re anything like me, you’re going to obsessively check the menu of every single potential restaurant before booking a table. Well, turns out this is actually a great tip for fine dining on a budget! If you check the menu then you’ll be able to figure out if this is actually a restaurant you want to eat at (you can even choose what you want to eat ahead of time and avoid awkwardly asking the waiter for more time). There’s nothing worse than booking a table months ahead, rocking up at a restaurant, and realising that nothing on the menu looks appetising…

Additionally, some restaurants offer different menus like tasting menus or early bird specials which can make your dining experience more or less expensive, so make sure to check those out!

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7. Look them up on social media

More research, look the restaurant up on social media, but don’t look at their own page, rather check out photos they’ve been tagged in. You can find out loads of information this way like figuring out a restaurant’s overall atmosphere as well as ‘dress code’, but more importantly, you can suss out the portion sizes! This way, you can find out if you’re happy paying fine dining prices for the amount of food you’re getting, or whether you’d like to hit some place more lowkey.

french food, plate of cheese

8. Redefine what ‘fine dining’ means to you

This is the deepest fine dining on a budget tip you’ll ever receive, so get ready: you have to decide what fine dining means to you. Is it restaurants that have been awarded Michelin stars, or simply restaurants with really delicious and unique foods? If it’s the latter, you should 100% consider asking around with the locals to find out what restaurants they prefer – this way, you’ll really be getting an authentic taste of your holiday destinations!

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