Whilst Randi and family were still en route to the city of light Nick & I met up with Joanna for dinner at Brasserie 2eme Art. Both this spot and sister restaurant Brasserie Lola are new additions to the Parisian vegan dining scene since my last visit way back in 2011 and what great additions they are. It's not often that you find the vegan spots situated on main streets and bustling corners, blending into the local area, and tempting people with their mood lighting and cosy patio heaters but here we are.
The menus at both Brasserie 2eme Art and Brasserie Lola are very similar and whilst I enjoyed the food at both places the risotto I ordered at Brasserie 2eme Art was miles better than the croque monsieur I tried at Brasserie Lola. Brasserie 2eme Art also had a specials board which included waffles with a range of toppings and wow, that waffle was definitely one of the best things I ate in Paris.
My must-eat list was of course pretty long and I managed to squeeze in a surprising number of stops! Las Vegans quickly became a favourite, they sell the best vegan hot chocolate I've had in years and their doughnut selection is truly excellent, I went for a chocolate doughnut covered in chocolate and dipped in nuts but they also had Speculoos and caramel banana. If you're in the market for something savoury they make kebabs and bowls that can be eaten hot or cold which, although I don't try them myself, I am reliably informed are great options.
The area around Las Vegans is well worth an explore, from pavement cafe Delaville where you can enjoy an expresso, a soy milk cappuccino, or a glass of biodynamic wine whilst taking advantage of their wonderful setting and free wifi, to quirky homewares store Bibi Idea Shop located on rue de Bretagne, theres something for everyone. You're also within walking distance of both Un Monde Vegan and Ara Chocolat where you can stock up on a multitude of fun French treats. You'll have to excuse the terrible picture of my Un Monde Vegan haul, I was hungry when I took it!
Nick and I picked up some peppery tofu spread, a tin of Faux Gras which I am yet to open but totally excited about, a couple of our favourite iChoc bars (I love the white vanilla bar and Nick's super into choice cookie flavour), a shaker of parmesan, and a jar of nutella style spread.
We also put together a selection of pralines and other chocolaty treats at tiny award winning artisan chocolate shop Ara Chocolat. The guy working there, who I assume was the owner, was lovely and happily talked us through the chocolate making process and how using different beans gives even the most simple bars completely different flavours - kinda like with coffee or wine - I'm a total chocolate fanatic so I knew that already but Nick kinda had his mind blown by that news! I was happy to play along and try a few samples to work out which was my favourite. We also tried some pralines and some of the more out-there flavours including greengage, a type of sweet European plum, and peppercorn both of which we enjoyed enough to pop one of each into our selection box. The pralines were the real stand out for me though so if you visit make sure to at least pick up the almond and peanut variations. Apparently online store Vegan Town stocks Ara's pralines in the run up to Christmas so I'll be keeping an eye out & I'll let you know if / when they hit the virtual shelves.
Food aside I fitted in some great touristy spots and activities over the weekend; I visited The Orangerie, Sacre Cour, Notre Dame, and the Eiffel Tower. Walked along the Seine, sat in cafes drinking decaf espresso, and ate a helluva lot of between meal baguettes. I believe that this is what they call doing Paris right!
Now, back to the food! I've been wanting to eat at Gentle Gourmet ever since I heard about it opening in 2012. Nick and I stayed at their B&B back in 2011 and whilst we only ate breakfast there we had fond memories of their food and wonderful hospitality. Unfortunately our dining experience was, if I'm completely honest, a little hit and miss. I will admit that we weren't the easiest of guests, with one of our party arriving a full hour and a half late and ordering her main just after we'd finished eating our starters, but it also didn't get off to a great start as, upon arrival, we discovered that they'd lost our reservation. After a lot of back and forth, some awkward hanging around, and a phone call to the manager we were eventually seated outside and despite the need to immediately pop our jumpers, jackets, and scarves back on we were fine with the seating sitch'. Service was slow though and, to start with, a little on the chilly side, but toward the end of our meal I was being given free stuff left, right, and centre which was both very much appreciated and a little confusing. I think that the relaxed speed with which our dishes were coming out of the kitchen had something to do with the French weekend dining experience and a little to do with the fact that the kitchen was probably struggling with the "surprise" party of seven but when half of your group has to leave before the dessert menu has even been offered because you've already been there for two and a half hours then something's not quite right.
Food wise I was impressed for the most part, the arancini was nothing to write home about (I've had better at supper clubs and cafes in Brighton) but the sea-inspired tofu-stuffed giant ravioli served with sautéed salicorina, which I was pleased to discover is essentially samphire, one of my favourite sea veggies, and giant nori chips was excellent. I've never eaten a dish quite like it! Out of the wide range of starters our group chose the standout was the French style savoury shortbread topped with heaps of homemade cream cheese and crisp veggies, I loved this petite dish and would definitely order it again.
The saddest thing about my meal at Gentle Gourmet was that by the time our dessert order was taken they were sold out of the sweet that I'd had my eye on since this trip to Paris first came up in conversation many months ago. This time around Gentle Gourmet's giant macaron was flavoured with vine ripened peaches and filled with a white peach and champagne-syrup coulis and I think that the look on my face must have accurately conveyed my dismay at them being out because both the dessert I ended up with, a plate of six smaller macarons, and the hot chocolate I ordered along side it, were free.
The macarons themselves were a delight and eating macarons in Paris was certainly not something I'd ever dreamt possible back when I went vegan 10+ years ago. Vegan gastronomy has come so far y'all. As you can see from the picture above Nick ordered the most amazing looking dessert which consisted of a vanilla crumble, vanilla mousse, a strawberry coulis and a perfect cone of candyfloss. So fun! I was lucky enough to have a nibble and it tasted just as good as it looked. Joanna ordered a trio of vegan cheeses for dessert which was a genius idea and I can confirm that the two I tried, basil and mint, and sun-dried fig, were most excellent.
Overall I would recommend a meal a Gentle Gourmet but I would perhaps suggest calling to confirm your reservation and making sure that you don't have any post-lunch plans, partly because long lunches with friends are a delight but also because you're going to eat so much that you won't want to move for the rest of the day.
Food wise my final recommendation is Cloud Cakes, this is the place to get a vegan croissant in the city so you're gonna want to check their opening hours and get their early in the day, every day, for the duration of your stay. I kid. Kinda. These croissants really are the real deal and I actually had to pause to check Happy Cow after one bite because I got scared that we weren't really at a totally vegan place. You can scope out a pic on my insta if you don't believe me! Cloud Cakes also make a fantastic black forest cake so if you have any space left after inhaling all of the croissants then I would recommend a slice.
As we were only in Paris from Friday night through to early Monday morning, we left at 6am to squeeze in a half day volunteering at the Help Refugees warehouse in Calais before catching our ferry home, we missed some spots that I'd been dying to try; Hank Burger, Hank Pizza and Le Tricycle, were all on my to-try list and almost vegan Chinese spot Tien Hiang and world renowned vegan friendly falafel spot L'as Du Falafel were both on my re-visit list. We didn't have time for most of them and sadly when we arrived at L'as Du Falafel early on the Sunday evening there was a little sign letting people know that they were closed that day. We ended up eating decent, but not the best ever, falafel sandwiches at a spot a little way down the street but these things happen and Paris is close enough that I know I'll go back one day.
Have you visited Paris recently? What were your favourite spots?