Should I Order The Tasting Menu or the A La Carte?

Choosing between the a la carte and the tasting menu is a tough decision – here are our tips

Whether to go the whole 12 courses or just the three may be one of the ultimate first world dilemmas. That said, for those of us lucky enough to be in such a position to choose, a dilemma it remains.

Here we give you our thoughts on the matter so next time you’re faced with this truly terrible (!) problem, you can make the right decision!

Tasting Menu v A La Carte

Ultimately deciding what to eat is a very personal choice and there is no simple right or wrong answer. Sorry, maybe that wasn’t what you wanted to hear.

Anyway, whilst it’s a personal choice, here are somethings to consider that should help you make your mind up.

  • Is there a choice? – many top restaurants of a certain ilk don’t offer a choice. It’s the set tasting menu or nothing. Equally, of course, many restaurants don’t offer a tasting menu.
  • How hungry are you? – whilst modern, fine dining and Michelin-standard restaurants have a reputation for small portions, the reality is often different. Plates on a tasting menu will be small and perfectly formed but if you’re having 12 or more courses, plus sub-courses they can be very filling, especially given much of the food is very rich. For smaller appetites, the a la carte is often a better choice and gives you more control.
  • Money – if you’re lucky enough that money isn’t a concern, skip to the next point. For most of us, however, money and value are considerations. Often the tasting menu will cost more but may offer better value. On the other hand the a la carte gives you more control in the overall cost of the meal
  • Reputation – a bit of quick research on the internet will easily reveal if a given restaurant is particularly known for one or other of its menu options
  • Food – perhaps the biggest and most obvious starting point is which menu do you prefer? It’s also worth asking if you can swap a dish or dishes from the tasting menu as most kitchens have at least some flexibility
  • Tradition v an experience – no matter want type of food you normally go for, trying one of the great tasting menus is an experience you should try at some stage if you can. That said, if you are more of a traditionalist and just prefer three or four bigger plates of food, don’t feel pressured into having the longer menu
  • Time – having a 12, 15, 20 or even 30 course dinner takes time. You should allow four hours for this sort of experience. If you don’t have that time or don’t want to spend it eating, the a la carte should be quicker

OK, we hope that offers some help for your really tough decision in your oh-so-hard life. Next time you’re travelling to that once in a lifetime restaurant you can now choose wisely. Time for lunch for us. Now, caviar or foie gras?

We’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter too so drop us an email or get ion touch on Twitter or Facebook!