Apr 4th, 2018, 01:00 PM

Biologique in Faubourg Saint-Germain

By Leonardo Tow
Le Pain Quotidien Image credit: Leonardo Tow
A review of three organic cafés and restaurants near the AUP campus.

Bio coops and bakeries are abundant in Paris, including around the AUP neighborhood. For instance, there is the Artisan Boulanger just across the street from the Bio c’Bon, an all organic coop, on Saint-Dominique, both of which are lovely. What I hadn’t come across in my first semester at AUP were bio cafés or restaurants where I could sit down for a meal. So, on an impulse, I decided to see what was available. I found three organic restaurants near campus with vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options.

1. Le Pain Quotidien – Varenne


Le Pain Quotidien. Image credit: Leonardo Tow
 

Le Pain Quotidien is a charming restaurant with several locations across the city. The outside of the café is made of natural wood with a black awning and a glass storefront with white lettering, proudly announcing their seasonal, organic menu. There is a small section for outdoor seating to the left of the front door. The restaurant was very busy, but one of the first things my friend Lauren and I noticed is that it didn’t feel crowded. The high ceilings and natural light open the space up, making it feel much larger than it is. The interior features two rooms. The first is cozy with the smell of baking bread and simmering soup wafting from the adjacent kitchen, and contains the grocery counter where patrons can purchase bread, coffee or specialty foods. The second, just to the left, features a long community table with a few smaller tables scattered around the edges and a wide window at the front.


Pot-Au-Feu. Image credit: Leonardo Tow
 

The menu can be overwhelming at first, as there is a wide variety of food and dishes change from season to season. They serve breakfast dishes, such as croissants, eggs, porridge or frittatas as well as sandwiches, soups and salads. They also serve brunch platters, although they can be a bit pricey. I ordered the Pot-Au-Feu, a soup or “pot of fire” with root vegetables, quinoa, chickpeas served with a Tunisian chili sauce called harissa on the side and bread, which can be ordered gluten-free. The dish was warm and hearty, suitable for the rainy weather in Paris. Lauren had the Breakfast Bowl along with a dragon fruit and raspberry tonic. She said the flavors in her dish were “good because they aren’t overwhelming. The food is just great as is.” They also offer dessert, although we did not try any. When I asked Lauren about the service, she said, "I never felt ignored,” and “they didn’t even mind that we weren’t fluent in French.”


Breakfast Bowl Image credit: Leonardo Tow
 

Food: Creative and appetizing
Menu: Breakfast, soups, salads and sandwiches
Service: Helpful, considerate and responsive as well as willing to work with English speakers
Atmosphere: Light, casual and lively
Decor: Not overwhelming and compliments the atmosphere nicely
Cost: $$$
Payment options: Cash or credit
Address: 25 rue de Varenne, Paris 75007
Hours: Every day 8AM–8PM

2. La Verrière – Ecole Militaire


La Verrière. Image credit: Leonardo Tow
 

This all vegetarian, organic restaurant is tucked between Zia Café and Tour Food, just off Ecole Militaire at 24 avenue de Tourville. La Verrière is a buffet style, self-service restaurant with limited options. You pay at the counter after making up your plate. The decorum is exuberant, with white tables and chairs topped with primary and secondary colored cushions. Sofas and large chairs are positioned around a small coffee table in the back with magazines scattered around the area, and there's even animal-shaped furniture. A coffee station sits on the left wall. The ceiling is glass, allowing for natural light to enter even at the back of the restaurant.


La Verrière buffet platter. Image credit: Leonardo Tow
 

The menu changes daily but centers around salad, cooked vegetables, plates of cheese, vegetable soup and a few other dishes. The food is plain and unfortunately, they don’t regulate the temperature of the buffet, which does not help the flavor. I tried some of the grilled vegetables, some steamed spinach with tomatoes and made a salad with lettuce, shredded carrot and tomatoes. While they had made some effort with the cooked vegetables, having seasoned them with salt, pepper and thyme, most of the food was disappointing. The atmosphere, while not unpleasant, felt contradictory as they had clearly put a great deal of effort into establishing the ambiance, yet no one seemed to be around to enjoy it. The food does not invite repeat visits.


La Verrière. Image credit: Leonardo Tow
 

Food: Bland and unimaginative
Menu: Changes daily, always features soup and salad
Service: Friendly.
Atmosphere: Interesting but unfulfilled
Decor: Elaborate, one might even say lavish, but somewhat uncoordinated
Cost: $$
Payment options: Cash or credit
Address: 24 avenue de Tourville, Paris 75007
Hours: Monday–Friday 12–9:30PM (closed weekends)

3. Noglu – Grenelle


Noglu. Image credit: Leonardo Tow
 

Noglu is a sit-down or take-out restaurant and épicerie with three locations across Paris, one just down the street from Esplanade des Invalides at 69 rue de Grenelle (not far from Le Pain Quotidien). The baby blue painted exterior is lovely and inviting with a glass storefront, covered in gold and black lettering. As the name suggests, this restaurant is entirely gluten-free and of course, all organic with vegan and vegetarian options. The interior is dimly lit, but not unpleasantly so and is rather small, but cozy. The seating consists of one long sofa running along the right wall with tables and chairs placed in front, with two counters, one small near the front and one large near the back, for additional seating. Rather than in a kitchen, the food is prepared behind the grocery and take-out counter, similar to a sandwich place in the States.


Bun Vegan. Image credit: Leonardo Tow
 

Raspberry pound cakes, muffins of all varieties, bread, cookies and other goodies are displayed at the grocery counter, making the entire restaurant smell like frosting and chocolate. The bakery is clearly a major attraction while the menu also features soups, salads, sandwiches, quiche and other breakfast and lunch dishes. While the interior is somewhat plain, the ambiance is still casual and comfortable- what Noglu lacks in flair they make up for with the food. I ordered the Vegan Bun, a dish of parsnips and other root veggies with guacamole, pesto and sprouts, all on a delicious gluten-free bun with sesame and poppy seeds. Initially, I wasn’t sure how to go about eating it because the bun was overflowing, but quickly, I became so engrossed in the food that I didn’t notice anything else in the restaurant. This was by far the best meal I have had in Paris and one of the best meals I have had at any restaurant on either side of the Atlantic.


Noglu. Image credit: Leonardo Tow
 

Food: Excellent and imaginative
Menu: Breakfast, baked goods, soups, salads and sandwiches
Service: Helpful and considerate as well as willing to work with English speakers
Atmosphere: Cozy, quiet and casual
Decor: Minimal, but flows nicely with the rest of the restaurant
Cost: $$$
Payment options: Cash or credit, although they prefer credit
Address: 69 rue de Grenelle, Paris 75007
Hours: Monday–Friday 8:30AM–7PM, Saturday 9AM–7PM, Sunday 10AM–6PM