Gentle Gourmet Café
24, boulevard de la Bastille, in the 12th Arrondissement.
01 43 43 48 49. Tues–Sat, 9 a.m.–11 p.m., Sun, brunch, 11 a.m.–3 p.m.
From the outside, Gentle Gourmet Café, near the Gare de Lyon, looks like one of many modern Paris restaurants/cafés. But if you look closely at the menu on the window, you will see some classic dishes like pain perdu, hamburgers, pumpkin soup and salade lyonnaise, with a twist: they are made with all vegetables and no animal products. Gentle Gourmet is the first 100 percent gourmet vegan restaurant in Paris. Owner Deborah Pivain doesn’t advertise or promote the restaurant as vegan, as eating vegan is the norm for her. She formerly had a successful B and B in Paris that catered to vegans, and she would cook gourmet dinners at night for her guests.
Gentle Gourmet is conveniently open six days a week for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and serves lunch all afternoon. I arrived at about 2:30, hungry for a hearty meal. The minimalist interior, with white walls, black chairs, black Formica tables and hardwood floors, was a welcome departure from the hanging plants in macramé plant holders you might expect at vegetarian restaurants.
It was hard to choose from the appealing menu, but the sampler of four appetizers was just the ticket to try a variety of dishes without going overboard. The presentation was as sophisticated as any haute cuisine restaurant, and looking at my fine white china plate, you would never have guessed that everything on it was vegan. The vichyssoise was velvety and creamy (of course without the actual cream); the phyllo around wild mushrooms was crispy but not greasy; and the Honfleur cheese beignet was warm, gooey and delicious. The only dish that left a little to be desired was the underspiced salade lyonnaise, which was bland, and I couldn’t taste the white truffles in it. The chocolate clementine tart was as good as any I have had at the top pâtisseries in Paris, and it was the definite highlight of my meal.
I was pleasantly full but not stuffed, and felt as though I had just had a satisfying meal at a good French bistro but without the guilt of too much cream, butter, meat and calories.
Surprisingly not all the vegetables are organic, but Deborah explained that she cares more about the quality and taste of the vegetables, and sometimes the organic ones are not up to her standards. Menus are changed monthly, and most of the dishes on the menu are available for takeout. In the summer months, Gentle Gourmet will have an artisanal ice cream stand outside, where yummy flavors of hazelnut/caramel, lemon, chocolate, vanilla, cinnamon and mocha will be scooped out, but you can presently enjoy them inside.
In a nutshell: Sophisticated veggie/vegan food without the guilt, in a relaxed, pretty atmosphere.
Price check: Appetizers, 8–13 euros; mains, 14–17 euros.
If you enjoyed Gentle Gourmet Café, you might also like Bob’s Kitchen. Read the review.
74, rue des Gravilliers, in the 3rd Arrondissement.
09 52 55 11 66. Mon–Fri, 8 a.m.–3 p.m.; Sat–Sun, 10 a.m.–4 p.m.
Editor’s note: For a gourmet walking tour, check out our DIY downloadable Paris tours.