Vegan-friendly restaurant ‘Le Pain Quotidien’: A Review
Le Pain Quotidien is a Belgian bakery and restaurant located in the recently opened Victoria Gate Arcade in the heart of Leeds. There are only 3 locations in the UK, but there are many others around Europe and even in the United States. The first was opened in Brussels in 1990 by founder Alain Coumont, whose passion for baking stems from his childhood and family background. Le Pain Quotidien means the daily bread and since bread is such an important part of a meal in many cultures, including Belgium, the rustic bread served here is definitely not something to miss. It rivals the authentic hand-made bread I would buy from the local bakery when I lived in France – great for tearing and sharing. Le Pain Quotidien is also a carbon-neutral business serving organic, seasonal food, which is great news all round.
I was kindly invited to Le Pain Quotidien for a lunch-time meal, and I was accompanied by my best friend Jassimran. The variety of vegan options is fantastic and everything is clearly labelled as such – with a cute little orange carrot rather than the traditional V /Ve/Vg. Even the alcohol is marked as to whether it is vegan or not. I was even pleased to see that the organic breads are vegan, as well as the blueberry muffin and the organic hazelnut flute. So, even a quick stop off at Le Pain Quotidien for a coffee is good news for vegans, unlike many popular coffee shops with little or no vegan cake selection. They also offer soy or almond milk at no extra charge. As for dining, the restaurant upstairs has 20+ vegan options to choose from. With a selection of breakfasts and brunch, soups, tartines, salads, hot dishes, platters and small plates, as well as desserts, vegans are spoilt for choice here.
Jassimran chose the set menu with three choices for each course, one being vegan in each section. This was an olives starter, Chilli sin carne main (vegan chilli), and a cocoa and pear cake slice for dessert. I chose the guacamole starter served with bread, the vegan ragu main, and the organic chia seed & coconut milk pudding (with a choice of either chocolate or vanilla). The starters came out at the same time as the main dishes, which was a little strange, so I guess they were more of a side dish than a starter. However, we were both more than impressed with the food presentation and the portion sizes. You will not leave this place hungry! Each dish was absolutely delicious, I think I lost all sense of etiquette and table manners as I couldn’t eat this food fast enough. The chilli is served with a soya sour cream which is great news and the dish was very nice, but I particularly enjoyed the vegan ragu for its delicious flavours and wholesome hearty textures.
Our server was primarily a lovely lady called Eva who was so welcoming and helpful, never without a smile on her face. She introduced the philosophy of the restaurant to us, explaining their signature style of serving coffee in bowls rather than mugs. They use bowls because founder Alain Coumont’s grandmother served hot chocolate to him like that as a child, and so it invokes memories of childhood delight and warmth – a Belgian hand warmer! Eva was extremely attentive and was able to answer any questions we asked. She really turned a good dining experience into a great one and it is nice to know that when dining at Le Pain Quotidien, you will be well looked after.
I was just here for lunch with the day ahead of me, and so I didn’t get round to trying the vegan alcohol selection, but I will definitely be back for an afternoon or evening drink with a choice of 20 different clearly labelled vegan alcoholic beverages. I may even take advantage at breakfast time one day with a vegan friendly bucks fizz. At around £10 per dish, Le Pain Quotidien is not a particularly cheap outing and they add a 12.5% service tip to your bill (you can ask for this to be removed) but they do offer a 15% student discount! With service this good, a vegan selection that wide, and portions so large and delicious, it is definitely worth popping into Le Pain Quotidien at least once to get the experience. I will be returning to Le Pain Quotidien for sure, whether to dine again or just to pop in for a loaf of bread.