Enjoying a long lazy lunch in a shady square on a warm summer day is a quintessential French experience. A chilled glass of rosé, a seemingly bottomless basket of crusty baguette slices and a carefully crafted plate of local ingredients. Does this all stop when you become vegan?
Questions that crop up frequently on vegan social media groups centres around eating out. “We’re visiting x department or city, can anyone recommend a vegan restaurant?” or “ A vegan relative is visiting us this week, where can we go to eat?” These are common queries. Here are a few suggestions:
Happy Cow comes as both a searchable website and an app. Download the free app to your smartphone, and it will find the nearest vegan or vegetarian restaurant, café, food shop or business. You can search nearby, based on your geolocation, or search options in a location you are planning to visit. Read the reviews too, to help make your decision.
Billed as the French alternative to Happy Cow, Vegoresto has a greater focus on vegan. It’s both a searchable website and an app, and whilst all in French it’s fairly intuitive and easy to follow. It’s backed by the L214 group and aims to not only identify 100% vegan restaurants and cafes, but also encourage all restaurants and chefs to add vegan options to their regular menus. Interestingly, VegOresto brings up more results for my local large town (Limoges) than Happy Cow, although both list a venue that to my knowledge has been closed for over a year, so best check if you’re planning a long journey.
VegOresto has special ‘thank you’ cards that you can leave at a restaurant where you have enjoyed a vegan meal
With its wealth of travel information, Tripadvisor is often the first place people search for information about food and accommodation. It’s possible to search the restaurant section of a chosen location using the vegan filter option, and there’s useful reviews from visitors too, just as with the other two sites.
Social media – Facebook
You can always post a question in one of the English-speaking vegan groups on Facebook. There are a couple of groups covering the whole country, plus a few in more specific locations like Paris, Toulouse and Lyon. I’ll cover these in a future post. You’re bound to get some great local recommendations – or at worst, advice about where not to go.
Ask a local restaurant to cook vegan
Many people follow this option, and with varying degrees of success. Call ahead, speak to the chef, and ask whether they either have a vegan option on the menu, or whether they can accommodate your culinary preferences. There are a few risks with this – your chosen chef may have no clue what comprises a vegan meal and you may end up with something unsuitable that you feel obliged to eat, or at least pay for, because you ordered it. I have seen reports of lardons in salad, plates of cold or tinned vegetables, and a meal composed of green salad, bread and chips. It also removes the element of spontaneity, choice and normality, but maybe you can persuade a local restaurant to offer a regular vegan option.
These are just a few ideas. I’ll have a look at how some of France’s well-known restaurant chains treat vegans in a future post.