A huge green metal door under the ring road in the 19th. Not the area you usually go for a Friday dinner, and yet it took me quite a while before I managed to get a table at the Freegan Pony. You have to book through a website and you have to act quickly, as the tables go fast. The moment you sit at your table, you understand why this restaurant, hosted in a old warehouse, left abandoned for years, became the place to be. It’s not because of its fanciness or its neat and designed decoration. The food there is inexpensive, as the price you pay at the end depends only on your generosity.
The premise’s head occupant, Aladdin Charni, is nothing of a beginner when it comes to squats. These past years he has run the Poney Club, an underground electro club settled in a former slaughterhouse and the Pipi Caca, in disused public toilets. Since October 2015, he officiates as master of ceremony at this non-profit freegan restaurant. Fighting food waste, every Friday the restaurant collects food about to be thrown in Rungis, the market that supplies all the restaurants and greengroceries in Paris. Bread from the day before, not fresh enough to be sold but perfectly edible, slightly damaged vegetables and so on. The chef has to invent a full menu from this material. No need to say it’s vegetarian.
From Friday night to Monday night, with an approximate capacity of 70, the volunteers serve a simple yet inventive three-course meal in a friendly atmosphere. Furniture gathered hither and yon, sofas, carpets and candles and a great musical playlist warms this grey concrete room. After dinner they turn up the volume, and you’ll go to the bar and ask Valentin for another drink. I came in with a friend to give the place a try, but before I left I made sure to book a table for ten for the next Friday.
As for any illegally occupied building, an expelling procedure is on. But the initiative is getting so much support, that they might find an agreement with the City Hall. Otherwise, we’re sure Aladdin will soon find another place to settle with his friends and their brilliant ideas.