Gluten-Free Comes to Paris

abbatoir 1 - 1
abbatoir 2 - 1In the baguette capital of the world, it is hard to find places that sell gluten-free food. But there are a few, mainly in the Marais, catering to tourists and people in the glamour trades. The helpful site GlutenFreeinParis lists just one gluten-free spot in the entire 18th arrondissement. So a gluten-intolerant friend and I (personally, I’m an omnivore) dropped into L’Abattoir Vegetale for lunch, excited and not quite sure what to expect.

The restaurant is immediately appealing, one of the many in town on the pale-wood-and-white-paint bandwagon. In a sign of the times, the space is a former butcher shop. It is is triangle-shaped, light filled, dotted with green plants. The sparse furniture, on the CB2 tip, feels modern.

My friend and I were waited on by a few different people, including a child who looked to be about 11 years old. “Feeneesh?” she asked, taking away an empty cappuccino cup (we were speaking English, obvi). The menu was small, usually a good sign. My friend ordered the Assiette Complete du Jour and I ordered the Blanquette de Seitan. (Ironically, seitan is concentrated gluten, and I think the restaurant would do well to notate that for diners who aren’t aware. The restaurant doesn’t claim to be exclusively gluten free, but still).

pink flower - 1Fewer than half the tables were occupied at mid-day today, but after 20 minutes of waiting after ordering, our food had not arrived. Bear in mind, this was for food that does not get cooked on a stove. Our waitress arrived, however, to tell us they were out of seitan, so I had to choose another main course out of the three on offer. I ordered the same Assiette as my friend had, and after another 10 or 15 minutes, it was delivered. It was a pretty plate, with quinoa, crunchy fried kale, thin slivers of courgettes, a ball of thick guacamole, and a flavorful dressing that tied it all together.

Though the staff didn’t seem to be in the weeds—it was clearly the kitchen that couldn’t keep up—we were not offered bread or water. (The little girl took a load off to draw in a notebook.) My hope is that l’Abattoir won’t become too self-satisfied with its trendy press (the actor Fabrice Luchini eats there!) and will focus on ironing out its kinks. If France experiences even a small percentage of the gluten-free mania the US has, it could do very well.

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