We recently were in France, visiting my husband’s family and sightseeing in the French Riviera and Paris. I was nervous about traveling to France, assuming I would be able to find little to eat vegan-wise. While I did mostly eat salad, cheese-less pizzas, baguettes, and vegan croissants, we were able to explore a few gems here and there that were either vegetarian, vegan, or very veg-friendly.
Le Speakeasy was the first all-vegan establishment that I was able to visit during our trip. While the restaurant does not boast a website, I was able to find enough information online from the HappyCow reviews to determine this was the only vegan restaurant in Nice and was worth checking out.
The restaurant was very small, fitting about 12 people maximum. The proprietor and chef was a lovely woman originally from California who moved to France in the ’70s. She was a joy to talk to and provided us some interesting insights about Nice, French culture, and some of the hostility she’s received for being a vegan and owning a restaurant in that area. From what I read online and saw in her restaurant, she seems to be a strong animal rights activist. She speaks fluent French and even had to deter a local who came to intimidate her during our visit. This was one tough older woman who earned our respect by the end of the meal. I wish her all the best.
Onto the meal! While waiting for our meal to be prepared, we were given a large wooden bowl of black olives. I wasn’t sure of the variety, but they were either kalamata olives or something very similar to them. We were hungry, so ate our fair share of them. My husband (who is not a fan of olives), liked them more than most olives he’s had in the past.
We got the prix fixe menu, which included a starter, main entree, and dessert. I personally enjoyed a fresh pressed carrot juice to start, followed by potato and leek pie with a tasty salad with fresh avocados, and banana ice cream for dessert. The potato and leek pie was hearty and delicious. The avocados on the salad were some of the best avocados I’ve ever had. I’ve never seen avocados quite this large and perfect in the States. I think the whole table was impressed by them. The banana ice cream was essentially frozen bananas made into a thick custard. It was good, but nothing memorable.
My dinner mates enjoyed some of the other menu items such as miso soup, quinoa with peas and sweet potatoes, and an apple tart and marmalade tart. The sweet potatoes were roasted perfectly, but the quinoa and peas were a little simplistic (we do tend to have a bias towards red or black quinoa over conventional). Both tarts had unique brown rice crusts that the group enjoyed.
Having had many meals at some of the top notch vegan restaurants in the U.S., I can say that overall the meal we had at the Le Speakeasy was on the bland-side, taste-wise. There were several condiments on the table such as salt, apple cider vinegar, nutritional yeast (or a very similar substance), and soy sauce to add more flavor. Even with these spices, some taste was lacking. But the meal felt healthy and filling and the company of the owner (and supporting her business) made it worth the visit. If I ever return to the area, I would definitely visit again.