Food February: A Vegetarian In Paris

Vegetarian? Planning on going to Paris soon ? Oh, là, là ! Be prepared, vegetarians are not that common in France. As a matter of fact, only about 3 percent of the population of France is vegetarian, and vegans are even rarer. This may sound barbaric to some but, in France, only a few restaurants announce that they offer a vegetarian menu. And beware, there are horror stories about vegetarian menus being a mix of vegetables fresh out of a tin with a few leaves of lettuce!

However, you don’t have to starve in Paris . You can still go to most restaurants. Here are a few suggestions:

If you are brave enough to try your French over the phone, why not call the restaurants you are interested in and ask what they suggest for vegetarians? For example, at the trendy trattoria ‘Daroco’ (6 Rue Vivienne), only a few minutes away from the Louvre museum, you could have fresh pasta with gorgonzola cheese or linguini with truffle.

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Daroco’s trendy interior (credit: Le Figaro)

For those who don’t dare try the phone-calling experience, be aware that many restaurants have a website, and you can often examine their menu before even stepping outside. Let’s try the very French ‘Bistrot des Vosges’ (31 Boulevard Beaumarchais), close to the beautiful Place des Vosges. One of the first items on their menu (‘la carte’) is a vegetarian or vegan salad. You could also try their Galette au Chèvre, a buckwheat pancake with goat cheese, or their Omelette des Burons, an omelette with Buron cheese and potatoes. But sorry, they do use beef broth to make their tempting Soupe à l’Oignon.

Speaking of buckwheat pancakes, galettes de sarrasin are the main courses of Crêperie restaurants, where you can also have all sort of crêpes for dessert. You must take a look at the amazing décor of ‘Crêperie Josselin‘ ( 67 Rue du Montparnasse), near the Gare Montparnasse. Some of their buckwheat pancakes are served with vegetables only. Should you want to try any other pancake on the menu, just ask the waiter to make a meatless version of it – that will not be a problem.

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Fancy a French crêpe?

But you may be craving a more wholesome vegetarian or vegan meal. In this case, here are some places you should try:

You might want to know what ‘shrimp kebab (soy protein) with pineapple & lemon grass’ or ‘mushroom loaf with a blackberry-ginger sauce’ tastes like. If so, try ‘VegetHalles‘ (41 Rue des Bourdonnais), a restaurant dedicated to vegetarians and vegans. You can start by exploring their surprising menu online. It is advised to make a reservation as the restaurant is quite popular as well as being situated in the busy area of Les Halles.

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Soya protein kebab (credit: VegetHalles)

Tien Hiang‘(14 Rue Bichat) is a fairly original restaurant close to Canal Saint Martin. It specialises in Asian food that is also vegetarian and vegan. Whenever a dish traditionally requires meat, the meat is replaced with soya protein. Look at the pictures on their online menu, the result is truly amazing. Vegans, the only dish that is not for you is Marmite Tien Hiang, which uses cheese.

Le Grenier de Notre Dame‘(18 Rue de la Bûcherie), as you may have guessed, is only a few minutes away from Notre Dame Cathedral. It was the first vegetarian restaurant to open in Paris, in 1978. For decades, it has successfully persuaded Parisians to try vegetarian food. Unfortunately, they are currently closed for renovation. Good news is they are expected to re-open anytime around mid-March.

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Fresh, local produce (credit: Le Grenier de Notre Dame)

Now, as the French would say, ‘Bon Appétit’!

Food February: Elegant Afternoon Tea In London

While the English have been enjoying the luxury of tea drinking for over 350 years, it was only 170 years ago that the ritual of afternoon tea (a light meal of dainty sandwiches, cakes and pastries alongside the tea) developed alongside it. Originally the invention of Anna Russell, 7th Duchess of Bedford, the habit was soon taken up by fashionable ladies across the country and is now a mainstay on menus in London’s most elegant hotels and tearooms.

For a classic approach and superb attention to detail, book well in advance for a table at one of Claridge’s afternoon tea sittings. Served in the hotel’s elegant Art Deco foyer, their version will delight tea connoisseurs and anyone with impeccable taste (they took home the ‘Best Traditional Afternoon Tea’ award at the Afternoon Tea Awards last year).

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Award-winning service (credit: Claridges)

Claridge’s have close competition from other iconic hotels, of course. The Ritz sets an equally sky-high standard with its focus on immaculate traditional fare (with an opulent setting at the hotel’s Palm Court salon to boot), while the Dorchester delivers their finest Dalreoch teas and exquisite treats in the beautifully plush surroundings of the Promenade lobby. Perhaps a lesser-known name but a royal favourite nonetheless, the Goring near Buckingham Palace has been perfecting its afternoon tea since it opened in 1910, and the string of awards from the British Tea Council attest that the proof is indeed in the pudding (or, at least, in the pastry!).

Outside of the famed London hotels there are still plenty of decadent and traditional servings. Fortnum & Mason’s Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon offers an eminently stylish option that exudes old world glamour and provides a huge variety of tea accompaniments. The sketch Gallery in Mayfair brings a similar dose of luxury to its tea, but this time the fluffy scones  are served up against the unusual yet delightful backdrop of retro powder pink velvet upholstery and framed cartoons.

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Retro edge (credit: sketch.london)

If you’re less of a traditionalist, never fear. There are a whole host of more innovative varieties to choose from in the capital. Elevate the afternoon tea experience to new heights (quite literally) by dining at Ting at the Shangri-La Hotel, located at the 35th floor of the Shard. Usually split between traditional and Asian versions of afternoon tea, it’s not just the view that’s top notch.

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High tea (credit: Ting, Shangri-La Hotel)

For a meal with a dash of whimsy and magic, the Sanderson’s Mad Hatter’s Afternoon Tea might be just the ticket. This rendering puts colourful twists on afternoon tea staples and adds delightfully themed accessories into the mix (think ‘drink me’ labels, pocket-watch macaroons, and playful crockery) to transform a classic experience to something truly extraordinary.

P.S. Don’t forget to check dress codes! Most establishments simply ask for smart casual attire, but some do prohibit specific types of clothing as well – ripped jeans, flip-flops and the like are usually a no-no.