From time to time I spend a pleasant couple of hours at Bistro Beaumartin – a Burgundian-style French restaurant in Glasgow’s Hope Street. In the manner of French bistros, it’s relaxed and friendly while providing wonderful food at moderate prices. So I was pleased to be invited to go along and meet a party of teachers and S5-6 pupils who were visiting the restaurant by way of a curriculum-enriching cultural experience.
Lots of school kids don’t get to eat in French restaurants. Most of them don’t get to go to France on holiday. They know their subject will be useful some day but they don’t often get to experience the actual speaking and listening, except in class. So going to a restaurant is like a rather lovely form of field trip.
The day I was there, they were serving up a little starter of snails and frogs’ legs and it was great to see Scottish kids (let’s face it, we’re not always adventurous in matters of the palate) giving them a try. I asked some of them what they thought. ‘Lovely’, was the consensus, as they licked the garlic butter from their fingers. ‘Tastes like poulet’. No surprises there!
This was followed by Coq au Vin and a nice wee chocolate mousse. And lots of French conversation, assisted by some students from Strathclyde University who are acting as ‘ambassadeurs‘ for the learning of modern languages, and came to speak with pupils about their experiences at University.
The teachers spoke about the value of the visit as being pretty unique for the pupils, and the way in which it raised interest and performance in class, and helped pupils make career choices. Generally speaking, they have to do a bit of fund-raising to make the trip possible; but they reckon it’s well worth the effort.
Andrew Stott, the chef-owner, trained in Burgundy and loves his job. It’s not always easy, he says, getting Glaswegians into a mid-range French restaurant – we tend to equate ‘French’ with ‘posh’ and ‘top-end’, i.e. expensive. But that’s not how they do it in France. So these school visits help to change old-fashioned perceptions; give him a chance to practice his fluent French; and fill his restaurant up with satisfied customers on many a weekday lunch hour. What’s not to like?