As any well travelled vegetarian will tell you, eating well in Paris can be difficult. I remember eating out with a vegetarian friend of mine, and when she enquired as to the meat-free options, the waiter promptly suggested the chicken salad. Things have improved recently, but the situation in the French capital is still years behind many other European cities. Whilst virtually every restaurant in the UK will have several veggie options, you will frequently struggle to find a single vegetarian option in Parisian restaurants. There are a number of vegetarian restaurants in Paris, but the choice is still rather limited. It’s even more difficult for vegans,often the only option is pasta or a salad.
One of the more recent arrivals is Sol Semilla (previously called ‘Voy alimento’) just off Canal Saint Martin in the 10th arrondissement. Situated on rue des vinaigriers, this neighbourhood restaurant serves what it describes as 100% organic vegan cuisine, enriched with super-foods.
The decor is simple with the buildings original stone walls giving the place an earthy, natural feel. This is enhanced by the wooden ceiling beams, held up by antique industrial iron pillars, the floor is covered with traditional black and white tiles.
With only 22 places (of which 4 are stools at the bar), you should arrive early or be ready for a wait. Don’t be surprised to be asked to share a table with some other diners either.
Once seated, you can make your choice from the menu, or opt for the daily specials which are written on a huge blackboard on the wall. Even if you’ve been brushing up on your French dining vocabulary, you will probably discover some surprising new words amongst more recognisable dishes. Xocolatl, Maca, Nopal, amongst others, but don’t worry, everything is explained at the back of the menu.
Food is served from the kitchen, which opens onto the restaurant, behind the bar where some lonesome diners may be seated. Whilst waiting for your order to arrive, we were served with what can only be described as samples of the many super-foods available. Raw cocoa beans, were the only instantly recognisable element, although our neighbours suggested that another may have been aloe vera.
I chose the “Assiette du jour”, containing a sample of all five of the daily specials, available in a small or large serving. Today the dish consisted of a rice dish, grated beetroot salad, along with other dishes that weren’t immediately identifiable, although I was assured that all the major food groups were provided, cereals, vegetables and proteins. The variety of tastes was surprising – the crunch of unknown vegetables, the wide range of spices and the discovery of new tastes meant that this was an interesting and enjoyable lunch.
The choice of desert was somewhat more challenging. Having deduced that there would be no added sugar or sweeteners involved, and not recognising any of the options on the menu (Xoco, Bananaçai, Pastelito), I decided to go for what I thought was a safe option – le “Crème douceur”, although knowing there would be neither crème nor douceur involved, I wasn’t sure what to expect. It turned out to vaguely resemble a rice pudding with coconut and rice milk. the taste of coconut and lemon juice was very present, if not to say a little overpowering. Next time I’ll try the Pastelito, apparently a small cake with banana and açaï berries.
The restaurant attracts a mixed crowd – employees of some of the hipper companies that line Canal Saint Martin rub shoulders with local “bobos” and hardcore vegans. one one side of your table the conversation was of rich media, blogs and facebook, while on the other side south american travel and politics was being discussed. Elsewhere I heard someone showing off about some bargain antiques he had picked up at one of the flea markets in Paris.
Before leaving, you can browse the small shop in the corner, where you can buy all of the superfoods used in the dishes, although they’re not cheap. Also a small bookshop offers recipe books and leaflets proffering the benefits of raw cocoa beans.
Altogether an interesting experience, a relaxed and friendly atmosphere and a culinary voyage of discovery.
Main course : 11 – 14,50 €
Lunchtime menu : 19 – 22 €
23 rue des Vinaigriers
Telephone: 01 42 01 03 44
Metro: Jacques Bonsergent
Tuesday – Saturday 12 noon – 7pm
Sunday (Brunch) 12 noon – 6pm
Cooking lessons – learn how to prepare the dishes served in the restaurant. Every other friday