Good food - what's it worth to you?

This is something that has cropped up in conversation quite frequently lately: what's a good meal really worth? Ciara touched on it the other day, after her visit to Source in Sligo - is a dessert ever worth €7? Is €20 good value for a set menu? And really, how can we tell, when wages vary so wildly from one person to the next. Presumably, someone on minimum wage working 20 hours a week in their local Spar won't be falling over themselves at Carluccio's amazingly "good value" set menu; I, on the other hand, frequently do (fall over myself for it, that is). I remember, a couple of months back, reading an article by Kieran Murphy in The Irish Times' Saturday magazine about the value of farming; specifically, he was talking about how difficult it is to make a living as a farmer, and about how - and this part struck me - the price of milk is now less than the price of water, which is, let's face it, a free natural resource, in most of the western world.

Today I went for lunch in Plan B, a local Italian restaurant in Stoneybatter, with a friend of mine, where the question of food value cropped up again. She had the eggs Florentine; I went for the tagliatelli with prawns, chilli and garlic. Both meals were delicious, but when we left we decided they were somehow not worth the prices paid: €13.50 and €17, respectively. The eggs Florentine looked delicious: two perfectly poached eggs on toasted bread, with some baby roasted potatoes, spinach and Hollandaise. My pasta was perfectly cooked (and, I think, fresh), with slices of hot chilli, courgette and hints of garlic, along with around seven juicy, fat prawns. So why the complaining?

I don't know in what instance I would think a pasta dish is worth €17, or a basic egg dish €13.50 - and the point was raised that the eggs Benedict, which substitute parma ham for spinach, are the same price. But then, what am I really talking about? A delicious meal, cooked on the premises, from scratch, on a Sunday afternoon in a small restaurant in a Dublin borough (not a suburb, surely) - what price would I think is acceptable? And what else would I get for my €17?

Three copies of Vogue, maybe; two packets of cigarettes; four pints in a Dublin pub (if I was lucky); a dress in Penneys; a nail polish at the Chanel counter; approximately seven Ladurée macaroons; almost a week's worth of newspapers (including one Sunday) . . . is it up to the individual to decide how much he / she wants to spend on eating out, or should there be a standard of some sort?

This is a genuine question I'm asking, though: what value do you put on eating out? How much is too much? For lunch, say, or for dinner? And if it depends, then I ask you: on what?