After 2 nights in Lyon (check out my previous post here) we departed for Paris, where I had pre-planned our food adventures.
After checking into the hotel, we headed straight to Hank Vegan Burger which was recommended by a twitter friend (thanks Jen!).
This little restaurant is in a cute, non-touristy side of town in the 3rd arrondissement. You walk in and order from the counter, where you will find 4 different vegan burger options, plus various sides and drinks to choose from. I decided on the coriander sauce and cheese burger with fries, while Andrew went for the smokey BBQ burger with coleslaw, both ordered with a beer and a chocolate chip cookie to go.
The burgers were so incredibly tasty. They are soy based, so quite meaty and filling, and the sauces really bring the flavors together. It was very cute sitting upstairs too – the low ceilings and tables, wooden benches and lighting all lend a very quaint feeling to the place. The servers were so nice too and very helpful. I can definitely see why people return to Hank again and again when visiting Paris.
After lunch we went for a little stroll and stumbled across a cat cafe! We didn’t stop in, but many pictures were had. It looks like, from their website (excusing my limited French), that the cats are all rescue cats who are given a second chance. They looked pretty happy to be there if you ask me.
Enjoying my vegan chocolate chip cookie from Hanks at the Louvre. It was so good. I haven’t had one of these in years and as a result my body was overflowing with love (or was that insulin…).
Adorable baby ducks at the Tuileries Garden.
That evening I had planned to go to the Gentle Gourmet which was another recommendation, but unfortunately it was closed the evening we wanted to go. So instead I found a vegan brasserie that was close by called Brasserie 2eme Art, so we headed off in that direction for dinner around 8:30pm.
The restaurant looks like a typical French brasserie, and you wouldn’t actually know it was a vegan restaurant unless you had looked it up online. We sat inside and ordered a bottle of pinot noir while we tried to make sense of the French menu (our French is very limited). I decided on the thai green curry soup as my starter while Andrew went for potato samosas, and we both ordered the pad thai for mains.
My soup was so lovely. It was light and creamy with chunks of mushroom and little bursts of chilli. Andrew’s dish was equally delightful – the samosas were filled with hot, spiced curried potatoes in a crispy filo pastry that was lightly fried.
The pad thai was just delicious. You really can’t go wrong with this dish. Our mains had pieces of perfectly cooked broccoli and tofu, topped with crunchy peanuts and fresh lime juice. The big, flat noodles were perfectly cooked and coated in enough sauce to make the flavors pop without being overly sauce-y or greasy.
After dinner we did the cliche tourist thing and had wine underneath the Eiffel Tower. I know we were being total stereotypes – but it was actually really special. Seeing the Eiffel Tower light up and sparkle against the stormy blue sky was so romantic. Ok, enough of that now.
The next day I booked a morning bike tour of the city which we had to be at for 10:30. We slept in, which means we had to grab some food on the go. We found a little baguette / creperie stand on the way and I ordered a baguette with just salad. They kept asking if I wanted cheese and couldn’t understand why not. Once they finally got over the horror of someone not wanting cheese (seriously – you should have seen the looks they were giving me / each other!), they were able to make me a very nice sandwich. They put lettuce, tomato, cucumber and dolmades in it, with a little olive oil on top and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. It was actually really, really good and I very nearly ate all of it (it was huge). It definitely kept me going all morning.
Halfway through our bike tour we had a quick lunch at a traditional cafe. There wasn’t much time, so we simply ordered a bowl of fries and a couple beers. Pretty good, standard vegan fare if you ask me.
After the tour we spent a few hours wandering around the city before we had to head back to the airport. I was hopeful that because Charles de Gaulle is SUCH a big airport, that the food options would be equally impressive. I was wrong. The terminal we were in had a single sit down restaurant and only a couple small fast food places that were heavy on the meat and cheese options. We decided to eat at the restaurant where I ordered fries (like I said, standard), and a veggie dish which consisted of lightly pickled veggies on a bed of pea puree. It did come with some sort of cream on the side, but the rest was vegan and so delicious. And the fries – no exaggeration here – they were some of the best I’ve ever had.
So was it difficult to be vegan in Lyon and Paris? Yes and no. They are definitely way, way behind other big cities, but hopefully they’ll start to catch up.
Here are my vegan survival guide tips for France:
- Research research research. Get on google and Happy Cow to find vegan friendly restaurants in the city you are visiting. I also found Twitter to be enormously helpful in terms of recommendations.
- Baguettes are your best friend. You can find baguettes EVERYWHERE, and they taste a million times nicer than any you would get in the UK. They are great for breakfast with a bit of jam, or as a sandwich stuffed full of salad. They are also great for snacking on during the day (bonus – you’ll look cute carrying around a baguette in your bag).
- Try non-French restaurants. French restaurants tend to be very unfriendly for vegans, but luckily there are many different cuisines that are better suited to this diet. The Italian restaurant in Lyon was a perfect example. In Paris, we passed many sushi and Mediterranean restaurants that are also good for vegan grub.
- Don’t bother explaining you’re vegan. The French hardly understand why someone would be vegetarian, let alone vegan. Unless you are fluent in French, I wouldn’t bother telling them what you can and can’t eat. Instead, research places you know have vegan items on the menu or that can easily be veganized without much explanation (for example, asking for a salad without salmon, which we did in Lyon).
- Head to a local market. If the weather’s nice, I would suggest heading to a local market or food shop and picking up your own bits and bobs for a picnic or to eat at your hotel. This is also a great option if you are trying to watch your budget.
- If all else fails, chips. Seriously though, chips are awesome. I have survived many a trip on chips and salads.
Have you been to France as a vegan? I want to hear your experiences in the comments!