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Paris for the meat free? Mais oui

Paris for the meat free? Mais oui
Paris and iconic images – the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, the Louvre. They go together like croissants and chocolat chaud. Or steak hâché and frites.
But suppose one (or both of you) is vegetarian? A city break in a country noted for its enthusiastic consumption of edible flesh in stages from almost raw to over-cooked doesn’t need to set the vegetarian pulse to panic mode, writes Barbara Hopkins
Vegetarians can eat very well in Paris; whether your break is for a romantic rendezvous or a tourism tick list, it doesn’t have to be accompanied by the unrelenting growling of an empty stomach.
Although there are markedly fewer completely vegetarian restaurants than those of the meat and fish persuasion, there are plenty of options for the vegetarian, even if one of you is vegetarian and the other a confirmed carnivore.
‘Le Credit Crunch’ has seen a change in the traditional ways that restaurants operate. Eating out has seen a rise in opting for a one course (and therefore cheaper) meal rather than the three courses previously enjoyed. Once, a request for an off-menu item may have been met with a haughty ‘non’. Now, a change in approach has seen a new and more flexible thinking emerge, which has led to a better recognition of vegetarian requirements. Alain Passard, triple starred chef at the expensive L’Arpege restaurant is credited with elevating the status of vegetarian dishes in French cuisine, in particular using seasonal vegetables grown organically. He has said that ‘to be creative with vegetables is intoxicating’.
Rusty French language skills needn’t be a problem either. Most restaurant staff speak English and the reception staff or concierge at your hotel will always phone ahead for you. If you drop in to a restaurant ‘on spec’ a ‘pas de viande, pas de poisson, merci’ (no meat or fish, thank you) will ensure that you are not served anything fleshy. A note of caution though: no meat may in some cases be interpreted as ‘no beef’ only, so it’s wise to check.
Here are some suggestions for budget, mid-price and more expensive meal options, with some further ideas for café stops to relax and soak up the Parisian atmosphere. Restaurants which are completely vegetarian and/or vegan are indicated alongside their name. The nearest metro stations are given under each listing, along with the arrondissement, or district.
Inexpensive Head for the 4th arrondissement, know as the Marais. It’s the buzzy Jewish quarter of Paris and there are plenty of vegetarian dining options available.
Chez Marianne
2 rue des Hospitaliers-Saint-Gervais 4th arrondissement
Tel: 01 42 72 18 86
Metro: Hotel de Ville
Choose a mix and match platter from such veggie goodies such as hummus, aubergine, couscous and stuffed vine leaves. Takeaway options are available or choose from the wide selection in the delicatessen, pack a picnic and head for the quiet square of Place des Vosges, just around the corner. Also open for dinner.
Rue des Rosiers, also in the Marais is known as ‘Falafel Alley’. Many restaurants here open for lunch and dinner and there’s plenty of choice for vegetarians.
For a truly budget lunch option, head to the Latin Quarter (5th arrondissement). For 3 euros you can pick up hearty portions of falafel and salad in pitta bread (with chips if you have room) 
8 rue Xavier Privas.
Eat in, or cross the road on to the Quai Montebello and find a picnic spot by the Seine; or walk along the Quai to the square in front of Notre Dame Cathedral. If you hanker for something sweet after their generous helpings, slip back into the Latin Quarter into Patisserie Sud Tunisien, 17 Rue de la Harpe. This small bakery has enough sweetmeats to satisfy the sweetest tooth.
Au Grain de Folie – Vegetarian and Vegan Restaurant
24 rue de la Vieuville
18th arrondissement
Tel: 01 42 58 15 57
Metro: Abbesses
A few blocks from Sacre Coeur in Montmartre, this tiny and homely restaurant is tucked away from the tourist area. Organic offerings include pulses, goulash and salads. Afterwards stroll the cobbled streets in the footsteps of Picasso, Van Gogh, Toulouse-Lautrec and Renoir who all spent time living and painting here. The hill gives superb views over Paris and the area was the location for the films Amélie and La Vie En Rose.
7 rue du Faubourg
9th arrondissement
Tel: 01 47 70 86 29
Metro: Grands Boulevards
Once an early 20th century workers canteen serving bouillon (a cheap meat and vegetable stew), the numbered wooden drawers where customers stored their napkins can be still be seen on the right of the entrance. Chartier has art deco mirrors and glass ceilings reminiscent of its origins; waiters still scribble the bill on paper tablecloths. The starter menu has so many vegetarian options that it’s easy to assemble a filling lunch or dinner, if nothing on the main menu appeals
Mid price
Le Relais de L’Ile Restaurant
37 rue St Louis en L’Ile
4th arrondissement
Tel: 01 46 34 72 34
Metro: Pont Marie or St-Michel
An intimate and atmospheric restaurant, with live piano music on Friday, Saturday & Sunday evenings in winter. Vegetarian options are on the menu and it’s just the place for a relaxed and unhurried meal à deux. Booking is advised for the evening. Afterwards visit the tiny jazz club Au Franc Pinot in rue des Deux Ponts. The club is downstairs in the vaulted cellars, where the natural acoustics make a terrific venue. Concerts start from 7 or 9 p.m. depending on the programme.
Le Grenier de Notre-Dame (Vegetarian and Vegan)
18, rue de la Bûcherie
5th arrondissement
Tel: 01 43 29 98 29
Metro: St-Michel or Cité
Tucked away behind the cathedral of Notre Dame, this tiny vegetarian eatery serves hearty soups, and vegetarian staples such as lentil moussaka and tofu ravioli. All food is organic and booking is recommended.
More Expensive
Maceo Restaurant
15 rue des Petits Champs
1st arrondissement
Tel: 01 42 97 53 85
Metro: Pyramides
Closed Sundays
Fine dining in a restaurant dating from the 18th century. Close to the gardens of the Palais Royal, Maceo offers a Green Menu (totally vegetarian) for €32 per person. Chef Thierry Bourbonnais uses seasonally available produce for all menus, with non-vegetarian dining options starting at €48 per person.
Le Zyriab Institut du Monde Arabe
1 rue des Fosses St Bernard
5th arrondissement
Tel: 01 55 42 55 42
Metro: Cardinal Lemoine or Jussieu
North African restaurant on the 9th floor of the Institute of the Arab World, with wonderful panoramic views of the city. Tasting menus of vegetarian mezze cost €29 per person, while the set meal of 3 courses is €26 per person. Non-vegetarian meals offer chicken and beef options with a wide variety of dishes.
16 rue du Faubourg-St Denis
10th arrondissement
Tel: 01 47 70 12 08
Metro: Strasbourg St-Denis
The opulent Art Nouveau décor and its status as a historic building makes Julien’s a very special venue. The menu may be weighted heavily towards meat and fish but don’t let this dissuade you from asking for a vegetarian meal. It’s well worth the effort for a memorable Parisian experience.
And finally……re-fuelling stops City explorations do require an occasional re-fuelling stop in the home of café culture. Here are some memorable places to do just that.
Paris Mosque and Hammam
39 rue Geoffroy St Hilaire
5th arrondissement
Tel: 01 43 31 38 20
Metro: St-Michel or Les Gobelins
Open every day. Step into the relaxing and peaceful atmosphere of the mosque tea rooms and enjoy coffee or mint tea with sticky cakes. Afterwards browse the souk. The hammam offers steam treatments for £12; however men and women must visit separately, as custom dictates. .
226 rue de Rivoli
1st arrondissement
Tel: 01 42 60 82 00
Metro: Concorde or Tuileries
Open every day
A Belle Epoque Parisian institution, Angelina’s signature thick African hot chocolate almost needs to be spooned from the cup. Add their tantalising array of cakes (the Mont Blanc Gateau is legendary and the recipe a closely guarded secret) and you may not have room for supper. The restaurant’s light meals, (quiches, salads and desserts) can be an expensive option. If the weather is fine, cross the rue de Rivoli to the Tuileries gardens and walk off the excesses.
29-31 rue St Louis en L’Ile
4th arrondissement
Tel: 01 43 54 31 61
Metro: Pont Marie, St Paul, or Cardinal Lemoine
Famous and delicious artisan ice creams and sorbets to eat in or to savour while you stroll. The tea room serves a selection of teas, coffees and pastries and is also open for breakfast. It’s closed on Mondays & Tuesdays.
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25 March 2011
By: Barbara Hopkins
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