Table Talk: French halal restaurants try gourmet cuisine

Tue Dec 15, 2009 6:06am EST
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By Vicky Buffery and Laurent Hamida

PARIS (Reuters Life!) - In a stylishly decorated restaurant in the heart of Paris, tucked between Bastille and Place de la Nation, Sophia Tabet is perusing a typical French menu, including foie gras, beef fillet and duck confit.

But unlike other French eateries, this one offers no wine list, and all food is prepared strictly in accordance with the principles of Islamic sharia law.

"We all eat halal food. It's nice to have a change, to be able to eat French gastronomy that's halal," said Tabet, 29, a customer adviser at a large financial services company.

Tabet is on a girls' night out with work colleagues at Les Enfants Terribles, one of a new breed of up-market halal restaurants that have sprung up in and around Paris, catering to a growing population of young Muslim professionals.

Born and educated in France, they have similar culinary tastes and social lives to their non-Muslim counterparts, but eating out can be a disappointing experience, restricted to cheap fast food outlets, or the vegetarian option on the menu.

"Before, eating halal in Paris, you were pretty much limited to pizzerias or kebab shops," said Kamel Saidi, 32, who opened Les Enfants Terribles two years ago with his brother.

"I was born in France, I grew up in France and I was frustrated because I wasn't able to enjoy good traditional French food," he said.

Literally translated, halal means "permissible," and defines foods that Muslims are allowed to eat under Islamic law.   Continued...