Vegetarian in Spain and France

I’m going to be traveling with a young relation of mine in a few weeks to Barcelona/San Sebastian/Bordeaux/and Paris. He is vegetarian (not vegan) and other than that, not a picky eater. He doesn’t make a big deal about his choices when eating out at home, and is happy to make a meal out of whatever the restaurant has that doesn’t include meat, fowl, or seafood.

I’ve downloaded an app called HappyCow that gives suggestions for vegetarian friendly places in any town, I think that will be helpful. From past trips I’m pretty sure he could eat well in Asian or Middle Eastern places in Paris. I’m a pretty voracious carnivore though and I’m going to want to eat a lot of seafood in Spain!

Do any of you have any overall suggestions or experience with a vegetarian’s experience traveling to these places?

Spain has a wide vegetarian cuisine - probably the best in Europe. So, I’ve always been surprised how little you come across on restaurant menus. Often there is not even the token vegetarian item, such as you’d pretty much always find on a UK menu. I remember once my partner (not a vegetarian) ordering a vegetable soup - only to find it was not only a meat stock that had formed the base of the soup, but there was bits of meat in it as well as the veg. I asked the Spanish family members about this and got a reply to the effect that vegetarian dishes have their cultural basis in the past times of poverty. So, when you’re eating out, you’re obviously not poor and therefore would want to be eating meat/fish. How true that is could be anyone’s guess.

You’re travelling to major cities so the opportunities are greater for finding menus with vegetarian food. I would still suggest that a better route might be to look at basing the meal around having two starters, rather than a starter and a main course. My feeling is that a starter menu is more likely to have something of a range of vegetarian items.

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Around 10 years ago, I have some overseas vegetarian friends coming to Paris, it was quite difficult to find good restaurants or bistrots to accommodate them. They ended up eating in a lot of Asian and Middle East restaurants. We brought friends to Rose Bakery, that has a lot of organic vegetables dishes. I don’t know if they are still good nowadays.

2 years ago, we had a vegetarian guest, when we were making the reservation at a French bistrot (basque cuisine) Pottoka, we tried to make sure that a vegetarian meal would be possible, while the others could still have their normal meal. We ordered tasting menu, and the vegetarian ate nearly the same thing as us, but meat or fish dishes were replaced by cheese, egg, raviolis, or mushrooms.

Of course you can try to book vegetarian restaurants, but it seems the most talented chefs are not doing vegetarian restaurants. When calling for reservation, just ask they if they accept vegetarians.

Michelin guide book (with vegetarian search)
Paris:
https://restaurant.michelin.fr/restaurants/paris/vegetarien
Bordeaux:
https://restaurant.michelin.fr/restaurants/bordeaux/vegetarien

Le Fooding food guide can be helpful too, just click “vegetarian” in your search.

Actually when you talk about Bordeaux, I don’t know if it is only limited to the city or the surrounding. Some nearby cities do not have the postal code 33, but they can be reached by tram or bus within 30 minutes.

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Totally agree. These days most good restaurants are very comfortable cooking a vegetarian menu and will be happy to accomodate especially if they have some notice when the table is booked. I have heard of HappyCow but always suspect it will be more for the purist vegetarian rather than the

I note the OP’s companion is happy to make do and with that sort of open attitude I am certain he will be rewarded. I have heard of HappyCow but always suspect it will be more for the purist vegetarian and so overall food quality maybe secondary.

In Paris Maceo used to be one of the few top notch places that always had a set vegetarian menu, but I suspect its is less special now as that is far more common.

One tip in France is that traditional composed salads may contain meat that isn’t detailed on the menu particularly if the meat is a traditional ingredient so wise to specify vegetarian even when ordering salad.

“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold