Maintaining veganism in Biarritz.
Over the summer period I stayed in Biarritz, which is in the south of France. None of my family are vegan or vegetarian and it seems that a lot of France isn't either. In fact, Green peace have released a report regarding school meals, which says that French pupils will typically be offered meat at every meal time, bringing their recommended protein intake to way above the average amount that is needed. However, despite France being a meat-ridden country, it wasn't actually too difficult to find a restaurant or cafe in Biarritz that suited my eating requirements. However, not every place advertised the sort of deep-fried vegan junk food that you can get in London and to be honest that was probably a good thing as it meant that I ate a lot of salads. Moreover, despite the abundance of greenery that was almost always on my plate, I did not get bored of salads as I never had to eat a plain, green leafy one once. I also managed to find other vegan options such as; buddha bowls, smoothies, sorbets and burgers. 10 years ago it probably would have been impossible to find this much variety. However, today the worlds eating habits are changing, even in countries with strongly ingrained ideas and traditions surrounding food. The picture below is of a vegan buddha bowl that I had in a restaurant called La Tandem. The staff there were very friendly and the menu clearly labelled it's vegan options. The bowl had carrots, raisins, chickpeas, sweet potato, quinoa, salad leaves, hummus and a dressing, so in no way did I have to starve myself by eating salad options all the time.
Even though I loved La Tandem, it was a bit pricey and for that reason my favourite place was actually La Cantine . La Cantine is described as being a 'healthy bistro' and you can go there for breakfast or lunch. Vegan items on the breakfast menu include; smoothie bowls, avocado toast and a range of vegan pastries and cakes. When I went there for breakfast they only had carrot cake, so I ordered that and the avocado toast. Both were very nice and light and La Cantine was one of the few places that offered both vegan, vegetarian and gluten free items that were clearly labelled on the menu.
Salads and buddha bowls
The salads I ate in France were absolutely amazing and very filling. When I went to places that had no vegan options I spoke to the waiter and asked for a salad (without the egg) and with plain balsamic dressing. Then I ate (a lot of) bread on the side. Whilst a lot of restaurants advertised salads or meals that seemed vegan, a lot of cafes and lunch places didn't offer anything vegan with regards to sandwiches, so a salad was always my option for lunch.
Burgers and pasta
Even though I love salads my favourite meals usually involve pasta or burgers. In France there are always good quality Italian restaurants around and usually they'll have a pasta dish that is just tomato sauce and pasta. Though, to some, this may seem boring, Italian dishes are always about the fresh ingredients rather than anything fancy or complicated and the penne l'arribata at Ristorante Al Dente was really tasty. In terms of burgers, I managed to find two places that offered vegan ones. The first one was called Le 12 Burger house and I found this place whilst out shopping. It's menu board had a sign on it that said 100% vegan burgers so I knew I had to go there. The burger was not like something i'd ever had before as it contained hash browns as well as lettuce, cucumbers, peppers and a balsamic glaze. If you've never had hash browns in a burger, try it out, it's amazing. The other place that offered a vegan option was called California Kitchen. At this restaurant/bar you get given a card where you can write down what ingredients you want in either; a salad, taco or a burger. If you're vegan get the veggie steak, but be careful because the chipotle sauce isn't vegan.
Top tips for eating vegan in France
No.1 - Know your french. Not every waiter speak perfect English and you shouldn't expect them too. If you're not sure about the menu say; 'avez-vous des plats végétaliennes?'
No.2 Be understanding of the culture. French cuisine traditionally contains a lot of meat and dairy in it and tradition and culture mean a lot to people.
No.3 Make sure you get enough energy. If you're in a town that only has salad as a vegan option ask for a basket of bread too. Sometimes it's free and they usually top it up when you're finished.