Tuesday 5 April 2016

Paris vegan cafes: Le Grenier de Notre Dame, Brasserie Lola, Potager de Marais

On previous visits to Paris (before the internet took over our lives) I have loved the baguettes, croissants and cheese but struggled to find an impressive meal at a cafe.  This visit I was determined to find a good French vegan meal.  Until last night it seemed an impossible dream.  Fortunately I was very impressed by Le Grenier de Notre Dame.

But let us backtrack to Brasserie Lola.  I love cheese but there is only so much of the creamy cheesy French meals I can stomach.  So vegan meals appealed.  A big thanks to Faye of Veganopoulous for helping me doing some online searching.  It was through Faye that I discovered this highly regarded vegan cafe.

The menu for Brasserie Lola was quite overwhelming.  Especially when my French is rudimentary at best.  The waitress was helpful in translating but there are only so many questions I could ask.  Lots of interesting dishes and yet I was drawn to the cheeseburgers with fries and salad.  E ordered the Croque Monsieur and I thought Sylvia would like the hotdog in a bun without salad.

When the meals came it was not a total success.  Sylvia's dinner came with salad and there is no reasoning with a 7 year old who does not want salad anywhere near her plate.  She took umbrage at her meal and barely managed to make her peace with the chips.  Which is a shame as her hotdog was a very nice vegetarian sausage and looked great topped with purple coleslaw.

Unlike E's croque monsieur (a traditional French snack where the ham is in the sandwich and cheese melted on top) which looked underwhelming compared to his gooey dairy cheese version earlier in the trip.  I had hoped for a more melty vegan cheese but he said it was nice.

Meanwhile my burger and chips were great.  I really loved the burger - it was quite soft (I think it had tofu and grains and maybe some seitan) which was served on a bun with impressive melty cheese, lettuce, mustard and my own addition of tomato sauce.  The chips were fresh and chunky.  Possibly hand cut.  And I enjoyed the salad though I would have preferred more vegetables than lettuce.

My main problem with my meal was that it wasn't a particularly French meal.  Which is perhaps unfair as I think they do a mix of different cultural dishes (pad thai, pasta etc) and do not purport to be a French cafe.  Sylvia had some berry sorbet for dessert and loved it.  (E said it was served with vegan cream because it was tasteless which I found odd as I have always found dairy cream tasteless!)  She also had a hot chocolate was was lovely.

So overall Brasserie Lola did a great job and our quibbles were mainly due to our quirks rather than the cafe's.

My next outing in cafe meals was a solo visit to Le Potager du Marais.  I found it on Happy Cow.  It is a cute little vegan cafe that was rather busy.  The menu was extensive and I wished for company to share a few dishes.  In the end I passed by the French onion soup and cassoulet and ordered a Crepe de Sarrasin garnie (buckwheat pancake with mushrooms and leek fondue).  No complaints about finding French food.  In fact it seemed quite an old fashioned vegan menu.

The crepe was a starter but when it came it was huge and had a huge salad accompanying it.  It was ok but not great.  The crepe was nice but the filling was a bit of a mystery.  I had expected a creamy sauce but it was more like well cooked vegies and a little lacking in flavour.  The salad was nice but had an intense spicy mustard sauce that was a bit much.  It took me a while to work out that they worked well together.  And the bread on the side was dry.  Which is a crime in Paris the city of marvellous bread.

Part of me really wanted to try other meals at this cafe to see if others were good enough to explain the popularity of the place.  And part of me did not want to go back there in fear I would continue to feel disappointed.  Despite this, I was glad to try it.  The room was so cosy and I enjoyed a meal out alone while Sylvia and E rode around Paris in the open top tourist bus.

Lastly I chanced across Le Grenier de Notre Dame on Google.  It is actually the same street as Shakespeare and Company (an amazing English language bookshop that I hope to rave about another time).  It was late and we were tired when we arrived.  The place looked cute and the menu was promising.  It was really busy but we got one of the last free tables upstairs.

Our waiter was very patient and friendly.  He cheerfully plugged the light back in when Sylvia unplugged it and was happy for us to order plain spaghetti for her.

E and I both chose the L'Assiette Macrobiotique.  This vegan and gluten free meal consisted of brown rice, boiled vegetables, fried tofu, adzuki beans, seaweed, smoked tempeh, salad, and tomato dressing with herbs.  It sounded old school vegetarian in line with the style of the menu. Yet it was one of the nicest meals and one that I really needed.  Everything worked well together and was really tasty without being highly flavoured.

It is the sort of meal you order when you want to treat your body as a temple.  I don't eat so well when I travel so I welcome temple food.  However of all the places I ate out in Paris I think this is the one I feel I would want to go back to again and again.  I can see why Moby names it as one of his top 5 vegan restaurants in the world.  And it was good to leave Paris on a high.

[We are back in Edinburgh and leave in a couple of days so our holiday eating will come to a halt soon though I will continue to post about the holiday when I am home.]

Le Grenier de Notre-Dame
18, Rue de la Bûcherie •75005 Paris
Tel: 01 43 29 98 29
Metro: Saint Michel

Le Potager du Marais
24 rue Rambuteau • 75003 Paris
Tel: 01 57 40 98 57
Metro: Rambuteau

Brasserie Lola
99 Rue du Théâtre •75015 Paris
Tel: 01 45 78 22 35
Metro: Emile Zola
Facebook and photos here


  1. Thanks for the memories! :) We visited Paris in 2012 and really enjoyed Grenier and Potager as well. I think I had the same dish you had at the former! Shakespeare and Company is also one of my favourite bookstores in the world, so I look forward to reading your future post on that.

  2. Some hits and misses! I would definitely love French style foods if I went to France, I went back in 2002 pre-vegan so was able to do the whole 'classic French food' thing but often from blergh places close to tourist attractions (my husband had an undercooked omelette with raw egg running off it). I really want to see a French vegan place here in Melbourne and that may be a possibility thanks to a couple on Facebook who were planning something along those lines but are apparently trying to sort out visas or something (I don't recall exactly). The 'temple' meal looks great and the sort of thing I would crave on a holiday where intake of veg and 'healthy' food is sometimes low! I'm excited to see what you bring back from your travels-- sure I'll see things on the blog!

  3. Oh wow, it's clearly been too long since I've popped by your blog Johanna, I had no idea you have been travelling! I'm going to keep looking through your recent blog posts now - I've always wanted to go to France, and it's very comforting to know there are at least a few vegan dining options there!

  4. I've also been to Le Grenier de Notre Dame and liked it a lot. The food was nice and so was the atmosphere. I'm glad you got to go there too! Enjoy the rest of your time in Europe!

  5. Those two vegetarian restaurants are real survivors - would you believe that Michael and I visited them 10 years ago?! (Here's the evidence on our old travel blog for Le Potager du Marais and Le Grenier de Notre-Dame). It was great to read about them all this time later, it seems that Le Grenier may have aged better...

  6. I find French food very rich. It's nice to have every now and then but when we were there it was a bit overwhelming. Granted we didn't eat like most French and we were trying lots of pastries and rich pates but sometimes I would just yearn for a big salad.

  7. I always enjoy when you go on food outings, Johanna. It affords me a "taste" of such an assortment of food that I would never have an opportunity to enjoy here in PA.

    It sounds like your family had some great meals and some so so...Thank you so much for sharing, Johanna...

  8. Whilst I know vegan options are available in most large cities now, I still find it hard to associate Paris with vegan choices. You did well finding these meals! I'm glad there were some hits along with the (somewhat) misses.

  9. Vegan restaurants! Yay =)
    It's too bad about the crêpe as it sounds very interesting and good.
    Although, it looks like the L'Assiette Macrobiotique is the star of the show. I'm with you - I don't always eat the healthiest while on vacation, but I would love to eat this over and over again =)

  10. Glad you got to find some quality vegan scran in Paris, it's one of the places that I always think could definitely do better for the plant-eaters, so I'm always glad to hear of new places and old favourites. Grenier de Notre-Dame definitely sounds like it's improved in recent years!


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