Postcard from... Paris


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The Independent Online

Culinary pride is one of Paris's longest-standing and justifiable traditions. Derision of its British equivalent has proved slightly more perishable. Despite black pudding's failure to make an impact, British meats, Stilton, Cheddar and whisky have become rather popular.

The latest success story is Marks and Spencer, having opened two stores in a year. Its Champs-Élysées store has seen the second-highest sales of Jubilee-themed food and highest of chicken tikkas at any M&S store. At the recent opening of a much larger one just outside the city boundary at Levallois-Perret, a great crowd – mostly French, not expats – awaited the ribbon-cutting. Customers flocked in and headed straight for the food hall. Steak-and-ale pies and BLTs flew off the shelves as models sporting the newest clothing lines were practically ignored.

Mocking British food, Jacques Chirac once said: "One cannot trust people whose cuisine is so bad." Perhaps his stomach will turn when he sees the rise in British exports to France, creating competition in a field once believed infallibly French – cheese. In the last 10 years cheese exports have more than tripled, totalling £68m.

At the Global Food Marketplace, being held in Paris this week, finely produced Stilton and Cheddars were converting even the most patriotic cheese-eaters. At a makeshift pub, tables were strewn with empty pints of ale and devoured dishes of Britain's finest beef. Acceptance of international cuisine seems to have expanded beyond crass stereotypes and quips.