THE FRENCH justifiably have a reputation for producing the world's finest cuisine.
So it will come as a major -- but welcome -- surprise that the country's best-selling travel guide is about to give our beleaguered restaurant industry a boost by declaring the dining experience in Ireland even better than what's on offer in France.
Le Guide Du Routard, the travel bible of the French-speaking world, even goes so far as to praise Ireland's restaurants for being unmatched the world over for the combination of quality of food, value and service.
The glowing tribute to our eateries -- due to be published in Le Guide's next Irish edition in March -- couldn't have come at a better time, with reports of one restaurant a day closing down and revenue falling by 50 per cent.
The Restaurant Association of Ireland has described it as a massive endorsement that should go some way to restoring the fortunes of struggling restaurateurs.
The influential travel guide's chief editor Pierre Josse said: "Thirty years ago, when we first started the Irish edition, the food here was a disaster. It was very poor and there was no imagination.
"But now the level of food in Ireland is nothing short of tremendous. The food is gorgeous, it's now very reasonably priced and there is a very high level of service. All in all, I would say the Irish dining experience is now as good, if not better, than anywhere else in the world."
Adrian Cummins, chief executive of the Restaurant Association of Ireland, said: "This is a fantastic endorsement. Hopefully more French people will read about our restaurants."