18 Rue de la Bûcherie, 75005 Paris, France
Having had some negative vegetarian eating experiences in France – being served fish on a school trip in the Loire Valley and utter rudeness from a waiter in Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne on ordering a cheese-less pizza – I was keen to try Le Grenier de Notre-Dame, the oldest vegetarian restaurant in Paris, whilst in the city for a few days.
Established in 1978 and situated just a stone’s throw from the Notre Dame, the restaurant is spaced over two small floors with a thin spiral staircase reaching to the upper one. With soft table lamps, colourful artwork and an assortment of plants, the restaurant has a warm feel to it.
On arrival, the waiter handed my partner and me an illustrated menu, in both French and English, displaying an impressive number of vegan options. We both chose a brown lentil soup to start, which turned out to be delicious, while for our mains I chose the Cassoulet (white beans, tofu, seitan, tofu croquette, soy sauce, tomato sauce olive oil) and he chose L’Assiette Royale (brown rice, whole wheat, Emmental cheese, gratin of seasonal vegetables, poached egg, avocado, tomato sauce). My dish had an array of vegetable proteins but the individual flavours of these were lost within the overpowering tomato sauce.
The dishes were large and we didn’t have dessert, but it was disappointing to discover that only one of the eight available was vegan – a slightly unimaginative-looking Fruit Pie at that.
We had a nice, relaxed evening but, with all the taxes added to what already seemed to be overpriced food, we had expected something a bit more out-of-the-box. That said, it is always great to find a restaurant in France where, if you’re vegan, your choices stretch further than a plate of pommes frites and a salade verte. Le Grenier de Notre-Dame certainly delivers on that front. Creative and modern it isn’t. But if you’re looking for homely, hearty vegetarian food and a cosy atmosphere, you’ll find it here.
Review by Suzanne Barnard