With alternative diets becoming more and more mainstream, I am asked more frequently for recommendations in Paris that cater to such diets. Paris is infamous for not catering to the vegetarians and vegans that live or visit Paris, thus it can be somewhat frustrating to find a decent place to eat at beyond the standard falafel places you can find around le Marais (which don’t get me wrong are very good but do not fit the bill for a sit down meal). In the spirit of this I decided to check out Saveurs Végét’Halles. Centrally located, a short walk from Chatelet-Les Halles and the Centre Pompidou, it makes for an opportune place to refuel after a day exploring Paris for the non-meat eating inclined.
The décor of the place is nothing extraordinary, though it does have a very chilled out vibe that was very much appreciated after a long day walking around Paris. The menu is bilingual, and the staff could help us out if we needed it, though given that the menu came with a translation we did not have any problems deciding.
Though the menu appears to be quite big, there are quite a lot of similarities between the dishes, however this meant that they are able to cater to many different diets, gluten free, vegan, vegetarian etc. and they even asked us to inform them if we had any other needs. I opted for the three course meal, just under €20 and chose terrine de champignons et sa confiture d’oignon (mushroom terrine with onion jam) for the starter, poulet Végét’Halles avec sa sauce échalotte (soya “chicken” with shallot sauce) for the main and crème chocolat et noisette for dessert (chocolate and hazelnut cream). My companion opted for aubergine basilic au lait du coco et protéines de soja (aubergine/eggplant with a coconut milk and basil sauce and tofu, €11.80). My vegetarian friend also recommended that I try the lassi which is a typical Indian drink, traditionally made with mango and white yoghurt and similar to a smoothie. So I ordered one of those too (€5.80).
I chose the terrine because I was intrigued to see how it would compare to the traditional French meat based terrines. It had a very different texture, it was much lighter than the traditional meat based equivalent and had it been smoother I would liken it more to a paté than a terrine. It did not taste too strongly of mushrooms and went with the very sweet onion jam well. There was quite a lot and I ended up sharing with my friend, who enjoyed it thoroughly.
Both the mains arrived with red rice (which due to the presentation from a distance resembled a steak tartare) and spiced lentils, alongside their respective dishes. I was genuinely surprised by how much my “chicken” tasted like chicken, I am not totally sure I would have realized it was not really chicken had I not been told. The sauce was alright, it tasted too similar to the onion jam for my liking, though this could have been down to my ill-planned decision making, but it did complement the fried “chicken” and spiced lentils.
The mango lassi was not really what I expected, normally they are not vegan however this one was and I think this was not executed as well as it could have been. For me the sign of good vegetarian or vegan food is when it does not taste like something is missing, I have eaten plenty of vegan food that tasted this way to me and I felt this way about the food here. But not the lassi. The lassi lacked depth of flavour, very much tasted vegan and was probably made from frozen mango not fresh. My companion said it was much less creamy than the lassis she has tasted in the past and was not impressed by it, nor really was I. However, once I accepted its lack of creaminess, it got a little better.
I actually preferred my friend’s main, the aubergine had on the whole a melt in the mouth type texture, though it was cooked a little unevenly. The sauce oddly reminded me of thai green curry more than anything else, though this could have been down to the coconut milk, and the tofu soaked the sauce up well. Combined with the lassi, by the end of the main we were really quite full.
We did manage to sample a desert though which more than made up for the lassi disappointment. The chocolate and hazelnut cream was also vegan but was just as rich and creamy as any non-vegan chocolate cream I have had. It wasn’t too sweet and went down a treat.
Though Saveurs Végét’Halles is certainly not the best vegetarian in Paris, or I am sure even close, we did greatly enjoy our meal. It was great value, plenty of choice and ideally located. Most of all as a meat eater I did not feel I was missing out on anything. Furthermore, with the thoroughly convincing “chicken” I think it would satisfy many other non-vegetarians who are eating out with friends who require a place that cater better to greener diets and provide a nice break from the very meat heavy traditional French fare.
Address: 75001, 41 Rue des Bourdonnais, 75001 Paris
Metro/RER: Chatelet/Les Halles RER A, B, D. M1, 4, 7, 11 and 14
Phone: 01 40 41 93 95
Open: Monday to Saturday, for lunch 12:00 to 15:00
for dinner 19:00 to 23:00