The Best All-You-Can-Eat Buffet Experience
I’ve been to a lot of countries and I’ve dined in a lot of gastronomic establishments… but nothing could even closely compare to the impressive Les Grands Buffets that is found in France’s southern town of Narbonne!
Much like what the name implies, this “Grand Buffet” is as glorious and luxurious as it can be. With over 300 dishes, one might think that it would just be a slapdash mix of selections, but every single plate is rather well thought of. In fact, the whole buffet is akin to a fine dining experience and the most surprising part is that it comes at a price that won’t burn a hole in your wallet.
While I write these phrases, I know it’s starting to sound too good to be true (much like when I first heard about it from my friend) but I’m here to show you that it’s all real and true. I even guarantee you that it is the MOST delectable dining affair that you will ever feast upon!
…The only downside to Les Grands Buffets that I have seen so far? It is often booked several months in advance, so it’s best that you start planning your visit as early as now!
Les Grands Buffets
» About Les Grands Buffets
Les Grands Buffet was first opened in 1989 by the visionary, Louis Privat, to serve as a “window into the world of French cuisine” as well as a revival of the age-old “French service” ceremony in which great banquets were beautifully presented to royals and aristocrats back in the 19th century.
More to this, the restaurant is also a reflection of his passion to bring back the French ‘local bistro*’ — not in every town, however, but only in one monumental venue which is in Narbonne, his home. That being said, Les Grands Buffets is only one of its kind!
*TRIVIA: French communities historally had the ‘local bistro’ at the heart of their lives and an array of traditional dishes were often served. One buffet style that was known is the service ‘en famille’ in which large stainless steel or silver chafing sihes would fill up the back of the bistro and served all the same time.
Over time, the emergence of fast food led to the disappearance of most local bistros — and along with it, the much-loved classic dishes. As such, this is the kind of dining experience that Les Grands Buffets wishes to revive and in a more opulent manner.
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» Ambiance & Interiors
The restaurant is located in Narbonne’s Piscines Espace De Liberté — but do NOT let the exterior fool you because though it is found within an entertainment complex (that includes a skating rink, bowling alley, and pools), once you are through the doors of Les Grands Buffets, you will be instantly transported into a whole other world that is actually quite reminiscent of a French chateau!
TRIVIA: Les Grands Buffets actually holds the title of being the largest restaurant in France with over 600 seating capacity.
With enormous chandeliers, lavish tapestries, and exquisite woodwork, it was quite hard to believe that I stepped into an all-you-can-eat buffet — a place that is often set in a simple setting.
According to Louis Privat, “I have always thought that art should be shared and celebrated not only in museums. This is why I am attached to the fact that art in all its forms should live and be a part of the whole Les Grands Buffets experience.”
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Photos by Les Grands Buffets
As a tribute to classical fine dining, you will find that all rooms will have impeccably laid tables: from table cloths, napkins, wine glasses, and utensils among many others.
There are also several dining sections within the restaurant and upon reservation, you can choose which area you would like to be seated.
Salon Doré Jean de La Fontaine: The latest dining room that is made by top-notch craftsmen who have worked in places like Château de Versailles, Château de Chambord and Palais de l’Elysee. As grand as it is, you will find that it is decorated with over 18,000 gold leaves, handmade paintings of Jean de La Fontaine’s fables plus portraits, and a collection of fine porcelain from Limoges, France.
.Tente d’Apparat Jean-Baptiste Nolin: Dine as if you are inside the gardens of Versailles in this richly-decorated Baroque-style tent! You will definitely feel like you’re in an olden festive banquet with this particular section. (Most of the time, bigger groups of people are seated here).
.Salle à manger Ann Carrington: An original work by Ann Carrington sits in the central display case of this dining room which is similar to the one shown at the British Museum. The creations of this English artist are, in fact, collected by many personalities such as Elton John and Issey Miyake.
.Salle à manger Max le Verrier: Displayes statues from the art deco period of the 1920s by sculptor Max le Verrier.You will also find here the 2 private rooms that can occupied by 10 and 20 people respectively.
.Jardin Hervé di Rosa: An outdoor garden with a fountain that is decorated by international landscaper, André Gayraud. And amidst the greenery and flowers, you will find Foumban tribal sculptures of Hervé di Rosa here and there.Unfortunately, your reservation in the gardens may be canceled in the event of bad weather and it cannot be transferred indoors due to lack of availability.
.Restaurant Bar: A place to extend the evening as you get a sip of some cocktails, beers, digestif, and whiskeys! There are also 16 kidns of wine by the glass that you can choose from and it is open until midnight. (On Thursdays, a rock or blues concert is held here).
Health & Safety
To meet certain health safety requirements and protect its guests from the threat of COVID, Les Grands Buffets has implemented the following measures:
Most buffet areas such as the foie gras, cheese, ice cream, and ham sections will have gloved and masked restaurant staff who will slice and serve the food to everyone.Disinfection cabin and temperature checks will be done at the entrance, as well as compulsory hand disinfection for all adults and children.32 alcohol gel disinfectants are scattered around the premises for everyone to use.It is required to wear a mask inside but only when moving around. As such, you can only remove your mask once you’re seated at your table.Parents are asked not to let children under 11 years old to move around the restaurant by themselves.Every table linen is changed between each service. Menus are also disinfected and stored for a week before they are distributed to customers.
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» Buffet Layout (Food & Drinks)
As you can see from the photo above, the Les Grands Buffets’ restaurant layout is filled with a dizzying number of delectable offerings! To date, they offer around 300 dishes including 111 types of cheese, 50 homemade desserts, 9 foie gras, 9 premium hams, a lobster fountain, and more!
Every dish has been carefully selected and prepared for everyone to enjoy — in fact, you will discover during your stay that even a single serving will already be worth more than the cheap price that you will be paying for your whole stay at the buffet!
Yes, it is that amazing here and you can enjoy to your heart’s content the following selections!
NOTE: All signs at the restaurant are in French, so for non-French speakers, I hope my guide here will be of help to you! After all, later in this section, I will show you a sample of their rotisserie menu so that you can figure out what you will order once you’re in line for it.
Meanwhile, take note that waiters will clear your empty plates everytime at your table. If you or your companion is celebrating their birthday, kindly inform the staff and they will come over to serve cake and sing along with a gramophone accompaniment.
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The hors d’oeuvres (appetizers/starters) area has the following items:
9 different types of premium-graded charcuterie hams (serrano, de Bayonne, etc.) Other charcuterie board pieces9 different foie gras (plain, with salt, pepper, Basque pepper, Rivesaltes muscat or crème brûlée, etc.)Organic salad barAssorted bread…and more!
One of the top highlights in Les Grands Buffets is its cheese selection which is actually the largest in the world.
Since December 2018, they have set a new Guinness World Record for the largest cheese platter in the world that’s found in a restaurant (it is one of the 8 approved French world records so far). Every day, they feature 111 types of cheeses and it spans for about 32 meters long!
Wheels and wheels of Camembert, Cantal, Comté, Roquefort, St-Nectaire — the list goes on and on! It’s surely an overwhelming array of fromage that you must try at least once in your lifetime.
Photo by Les Grands Buffets
This lobster fountain is to die for! All the seafood selections here at the hors d’oeuvres section are cold. If you want hot ones, you can check out the rotisserie section that can serve you American-style lobsters, for instance.
Other than this, you can choose from clams, crabs, mussels, salmon (in all its forms: smoked, marinated, etc.), oysters, and so much more!
You’ll be impressed with the fact that is one of the largest open roasting sections in all of Europe and it offers more than 20 traditional dishes that are prepared in front of the customers by a team of highly-trained chefs.
Just take note that you can only order one dish for every time that you line up at the rotisserie — rest assured, you can come back multiple times! The service here stops at 3:30PM during lunch and 11:00PM during dinner time.
There is usually a menu leaflet provided at the start of the line, but it’s usually in French. Don’t fret though because I have below a sample translation — simply click the symbol “+” to expand the section.
Homard au naturel ou à l’Américaine: Natural or American-Style Lobster
Turbot entier cuit au four: Roasted Turbot
Filet de Dorade Royale à l’Anis étoilé: King Seabream Filet with Star Anise
Saumon à l’Oseille: Salmon with Sorrel
Aile de Raie au beurre et aux Càpres: Stingray Wing with Capers
Huitres chaudes au sabayon de muscat de Rivesaltes: Hot Oysters with “sabayon” (light sauce) in Sweet Muscat from Rivelsaltes Wine Sauce
Quenelles de Brochet Nantua: Homemade Pike Quenelle with Nantua sauce
Coquilles Saint-Jacques à la Nantaise: Nantes-Style Scallops
MEAT & POULTRY
Le lièvre à la Royale: Hare with Foie Gras
Cailles farcies au foie gras: Quail Stuffed with Foie Gras
Tournedos Rossini Daube de Bœuf: Beef Stew Rossini-Style
Foie Gras Poché à la crème de Cèpes: Poached Foie Gras with Mushroom Cream
Magret de Canard aux Cèpes: Duck Breast with Mushrooms
Rognons de Veau rôtis: Roasted Veal Kidneys
Gros Escargots de Bourgogne: Huge Snails of Burgundy
Vol au Vent de Ris de Veau aux Morilles: ‘Voul au vent’ (Puff Pastry) with Veal and Mushrooms
Cassoulet: Slow-Cooked Meat Casserole with Beans
Andouillette de tradition 5A et sa sauce moutarde: Authentic Andouillette 5A (Sausage) with Mustard Sauce
Os à Moëlle à la Fleur de sel de Guérande: Bone Marrow with Guérande salt
Œuf bio poché crème de Champignons parfumé à la Truffe: Poached Egg with Truffle
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IMPORTANT NOTE: These are NOT all the dishes available as they may be subject to change or more additions.
“Duck Press” & Other Meat
TOUR D’ARGENT “DUCK PRESS”. Just recently, the restaurant acquired at an auction the prestigious item called ‘duck press’ that has been used by the Tour d’Argent (an exclusive restaurant that serves only the heads of state around the world such as that of JF Kennedy, the Queen of England and the Emperor of Japan).
This duck press is especially used for making a classic and rich 19th-century French cuisine dish called ‘canard au sang‘ or duck cooked in its blood. It has a very intricate and unchanging ritual and if you time your visit at the rotisserie section, you can watch a trained staff under the order of “Canardiers de Rouen” demonstrate how to make this amazing dish. Of course, don’t forget to give it a taste!
OTHER MEAT. On its own dedicated table just beside the ‘Duck Press’ are other roasted selections namely suckling pig, suckling lamb from the Pyrenean, and gigantic matured beef rib!
Local Bistro Meals
Opposite to the duck press area is a myriad of more traditional French dishes that are worth a try — after all, most of them are seldom found in restaurants around France so this is the perfect place to explore such tastes.
Cuisses de Grenouilles: Frog LegsTête de Veau Gribiche: Veal HeadCivet de Sanglier: Wild Boar StewCrevettes sauvages au Pastis: Wild Shrimps with pastisEncornets Persillade: Squid with ParsleyMoules Gratinées Aïoli: Grilled Mussles with GarlicDaube de Bæuf: Beef Stew…and many others!
Wine & Champagne
For perfectly complimenting all the different types of food in Les Grands Buffets, they offer over 70 wine choices that can be enjoyed by the glass or by the bottle — and at an affordable price as if it was bought straight from the vineyards. Because of this wide selection, the restaurant has even won the Special Jury Prize in 2018 for having the best wine list in France!
TIP: If you buy a box of 6 wines, your lunch or dinner is instantly FREE!
Though if you want to have a drink that best pairs with cheese, champagne is a better choice because unlike wine, it won’t modify your tastebuds thus making you taste the cheeses even better!
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End your meal in a sweet note at the dessert section that has over 50 handmade cakes, pastries, sweets, macarons, puddings, etc. made by the restaurant’s confectioners. There is even a giant chocolate fountain to indulge yourself with! Don’t miss out on the following things as well…
CREPES SUZETTE. This is a typical French crêpes dessert that is drizzled with beurre Suzette or an orange liquer sauce that is flambéed tableside! A staff will whip this up in front of you; otherwise, you can also choose to get a banana flambé.
ICE CREAM. An old-fashioned ice cream parlor that is designed with marvelous marble is tucked just beside the desserts section and here, you can try several items: frozen fruits, Peach Melba, Poire Belle-Hélène, Colonel Cup, Chocolate Profiteroles, Irish Coffee served with whipped cream, and many more!
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I’m not a French local, but the restaurant staff still tried their very best to accommodate and communicate with me in English. Of course, it helped that I was with my friend who is a local, but even if that was the case, everyone still tried to put their best foot forward in order to talk to me.
Not to mention, each and every person at the buffet was warm and friendly and these are traits that I rarely see in most European restaurants. If I think about it, I realized that since they’re working at such a fabulous place, that positivity might have just simply emanated from each and every one. That being said, they all looked happy to be there — the same way that I was happy to be there as well!
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» Price, Address, & Booking
By now, you might be thinking: “Why does she keep saying that it comes at a cheap price!? These all look so luxurious!”
— oh boy, I know… I totally know what you’re feeling but here’s the thing, for all of these cheeses, foie gras, premium hams, roasted meats, traditional dishes, and desserts, you’ll only be paying €42.90 (or $50) per person!
Ain’t that a steal?!
Children up to 5 years old can get to eat for FREE
Children from 6 to 10 years old pay half the price (€21.40)
ADDRESS: Espace de Liberté, Rdpt de la Liberté, 11100 Narbonne, France
If coming by car, you just take the A9 motorway and take exit 38 “Narbonne Sud”
If by train, ride the RENFE SNCF, or if from France ride the Intercité or SNCF (the Narbonne SNCF train station is a 30-minute walk to Les Grands Buffets, 15-minute ride away by bus, or 10-minute ride away by taxi).
Open daily / For lunch, from 12:00PM to 4:15PM / For dinner, from 7:15PM to 12:00AM
Now, as I’ve previously mentioned, due to the huge popularity of the buffet restaurant, it is a must to book way in advance! Case in point, just last September 2021, the Les Grands Buffets already had over 110,000 reservations!!
So if you’re planning to make this trip happen, simply click the link below to book! (Upon reservation, you will have to pay in advance).
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Les Grands Buffets is like nothing else in the whole world — as you can see, it’s a spectacular dining experience that exudes luxury and excellence not only in its food but also in its service and ambiance.
The best part? It comes at a price that won’t burn a hole in your wallet!
…so what are you waiting for? Come to Narbonne and indulge in this restaurant’s gastronomic wonders!
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