Nestled on a very quiet street on the outskirts of the Marais, is a popular vegetarian-friendly eaterie called Candelaria. Be warned, this place is no ordinary resto! It has a secret! And once revealed, it completely changes your experience and expectations, for the better.
Paris is not renowned for its vegetarian restaurants and this can sometimes be a problem for non-meat eaters in this town. MLP wasn’t completely convinced that this was true – given the international status on the world food stage of Paris! Surely vegans and vegetarians were catered for – so we decided to make a dinner date with a vegetarian friend of ours, and told her we would find the perfect venue serving vegetarian food in Paris.
We struggled with solely vegan/vegetarian places that would be open for dinner at 9pm, but there seemed to be a wider selection of “vegetarian friendly” options that would potentially suit our needs for this particular occasion.
One such place was Candelaria. We read that it was a favourite amongst vegetarians in search of delicious flavoursome food, which was in no doubt, given that this resto was actually Mexican! Mmmmmmm, why not? We hadn’t eaten any South American cuisine since we got here, it sounded like a winning idea!
Malheuresment (Unfortunately), we were not able to book a table as Candelaria works on a ‘first come first served’ basis, but we decided to go for it anyway.
We were pretty excited about introducing our friend, to a new vegetarian friendly option in the city and we were also happy, to be discovering something new ourselves!
It was raining! We contemplated the bus but decided against it and jumped on the metro. We were heading to the 3rd! We got the train to Filles de Calvaire and battled the elements on the five-minute walk to the venue.
When we got there – it wasn’t exactly what we had in mind! So admittedly we were a little shocked. It didn’t look like a traditional restaurant that we had unconsciously conjured up in our mind – It looked like a café. There was no clear sign that we could see, so we thought that perhaps we were at the wrong place – but we checked and double-checked and we were definitely at the right spot!
From the outside looking in, through the brightly lit café window, framed with green paint, we could see a thin long space, split only by a white bar! The décor looked a little rough around the edges a bit urban and street-style. On one side were customers on stools munching happily, on the other a young girl pacing about serving and taking orders while a guy happily cooked vegetables and made fresh tacos over a hot stove, visible to his hungry onlookers.
By the window, behind a flashing neon sign, that screamed all things Mexican, a bunch of people were sat around a low coffee table, as though they were in their living room at home.
It was casual, relaxed, laid-back! This was our restaurant?
Still convinced we might be in the wrong place, we wandered around the corner of the same building. After 20 steps or so we saw a dark-filled room. Through the dim lighting, we could see silhouettes of people drinking and chatting at tables and standing by a bar, it looked cool. We stepped back for a moment to take it in when we saw the sign strewn across the window – Canderlaria! This was it! But there was no door!! So how do we get in?
Confused, we headed back around the corner to the café to ask. Attentively the girl asked if she could help and we explained our dilemma. She nodded and said yes we had arrived at the right place and told us that access to the bar we had seen was through the secret door!
Secret door? She pointed to the end of the bar and we squeezed our way past all the people and came face to face with a white wall – we looked back at her and encouragingly she said “yes, just push, it’s a door!” We gingerly wandered through and she was right – we were now in a dark, happening speakeasy style bar – with a different energy, a bit more swanky, plush and a lot more luxurious compared to the café! We were super excited!
Having not really seen anything like this before we wanted to know more but decided to order food and a drink first. The barman explained that only bar snacks were available there, and if we wanted proper food we had to go to the café at the front! But only Mexican beers were available there so they would bring the drinks to us if we could get a table! We hurried back through the door and luckily two people were just about to leave, so we managed to get a seat, at the bar we had observed from the street only moments earlier.
Admittedly, the food looked amazing and the empty plates scattered around indicated that it would indeed be delicious. But we were still reeling from the idea that these two very different spaces were in fact connected! They were extremities of each other and in true MLP style, the quest to know more was on our mind.
We discovered that the idea was based on café/bars in Brooklyn in the USA where there were many eateries of this style. Giving the customers a chance to enjoy two different settings in the same space, a kinda before and after experience. Come and get some quick tasty food then go and relax and have a drink! Owned by three girls, including one from the US, Candelaria had launched within the last two years and was an instant hit with the Parisian hipster crowd. Offering predominantly veggie tacos and fresh nachos with guacamole of the highest standard (there was one meat dish on the menu). This place was actually a sort after place to come eat and hang-out in Paris!
Loving the idea – we couldn’t wait to eat, and we were so NOT disappointed. The food was so good! Our vegetarian friend and super mama [wb_fb_f name=”anu vydehi” id=””]could not stop smiling as she devoured their culinary creations. We were super-happy.
Reminded of the old adage that one should ‘never judge a book by its cover’. We stayed and enjoyed a great experience; in two different spaces both with great energy, awesome food, friendly staff and a cool clientele. We had a night to remember and we loved it.
For great vegetarian food in Paris head to Candelaria, 52 Rue de Saintonge, 75003 Paris. Open from midday to midnight most days and yes you could take your more grown up offspring in the day. But arrive early to get a space. Good for children in the day!
“Live by the Sun, Love by the Moon” Canderlaria