Eating in Europe - celiac filter
June 22, 2018 8:56 AM   Subscribe

I'm going to be traveling through a few Western European cities this summer, need to eat while doing so, and have celiac disease. I'm quite sensitive and a little cross-contamination will ensure that all I see of Amsterdam is a hotel toilet. I'd like to eat at restaurants and also eat pre-purchased food (cheese, crackers, fruit, salami, etc.) in parks and on trains between cities. I'm looking for your celiac-safe restaurant and grocery recommendations.

I will not have a car and have some other health issues that make trekking too far for food rather difficult. I'm looking for places in
* England
--- Oxford,
--- near Kew Gardens
--- near the St Pancras station in London
* France
--- northeastern Paris (esp in and around the 10th arr.)
--- Parisan suburbs of
----- Montreuil
----- Antony
* Amsterdam, anywhere within the Singelgracht
* Köln near Kölner Dom
* FRA Frankfurt Airport

I can afford some fancy food, but prefer smaller, less fancy restaurants.

There seem to be lots of great resources like these cards to supplement my embarrassing French and non-existent Dutch and German, local celiac groups, and endless gluten-free guides to [city]. I'm looking for specific recommendations from people with celiac disease, sensitive to cross contamination, who live in or are otherwise familiar with these places.
posted by congen to Travel & Transportation (12 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Just to let you know that every menu in Amsterdam will have printed on it "Please let your server know about any allergies". And of course everyone speaks very good english.
posted by humboldt32 at 9:36 AM on June 22, 2018 [2 favorites]

And, this resource, in case you haven't found it yet. Sorry I don't have specific places to recommend.
posted by humboldt32 at 9:42 AM on June 22, 2018

Best answer: You might want to check out this blog post by someone who doesn't eat gluten and visited Amsterdam recently as a tourist. While a Dutch card is very courteous, I wouldn't worry too much about supplementing the card by chatting with the server in English; I regularly eat at restaurants in the Netherlands with a person who doesn't speak Dutch and who has a lot of food allergies, and things always go pretty smoothly.

For pre-packaged foods, the magic word in Dutch is glutenvrij (vrij means free). Gluten-free snacks will have the green symbol shown here on them. Grocery stores like Albert Heijn typically have a "health foods" (bewuste voeding) section where you can find a lot of gluten-free stuff. Personally, I like Nak­d brand energy bars, many of which are gluten-free. And Schär is a common brand of gluten-free cookies, breads, etc.
posted by neushoorn at 9:50 AM on June 22, 2018 [2 favorites]

In Amersterdam:

Mastino V is a very good gluten free & vegan pizza place (the main branch, Mastino, is neither vegan nor gluten free but does have options for both, I believe, but also more potential for cross-contamination).

Spirit is a really great (pretty, airy, great food) buffet restaurant that labels all of its gluten free dishes.
posted by snaw at 10:07 AM on June 22, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I've been to France with my celiac husband. It's not the easiest! We got a lot of weird looks asking about "sans gluten" and "celiac." (Italy, by comparison, is pretty easy.) But the European labeling on packaged goods is GREAT and there are tons of delicious packaged foods in French supermarkets.

In Paris, definitely check out gluten-free bakery Helmut Newcake if you like fancy French pastries. So good! (I am actually drooling a little bit after visiting their website again.)
posted by mskyle at 11:08 AM on June 22, 2018

List of restaurants that are recommended by the Dutch celiac society. Search for Amsterdam.
Sadly, in the Netherlands, you have to be careful. Even restaurants that say they have gluten free options either may not know exactly what gluten free means (they will have gluten free bread, but not think about soy sauce) or aren't really careful. I just searched for gluten free Amsterdam and found some results, but even restaurants that are recommended by people with celiac disease are not always restaurants that I would recommend to people who are really sensitive. Big chain restaurants like Wagamama and Bagels and Beans are often okay, but not always, and I would not go there. As an example, one server in such a restaurant told me that "all their food was gluten free". I told them that that could not possibly be true, could they please go back and check. They looked annoyed and assured me that everything really was gluten free. Of course that was just one employee, but it's an example of cluelessness about food intolerance that is still common.

People also always say that everyone in the Netherlands speaks perfect English. It's possible that that will be your experience, but it's also possible that that's not the case. I know many Dutch people who work in restaurants who don't know the Dutch word for celiac disease, let alone the English word. People will speak English well enough to make simple conversation and understand basic concepts, but it's not a given that they will speak English well enough to understand the details of a serious food intolerance.

Many train stations have a "AH to go" mini supermarket that should have options that are labeled gluten free. Ekoplaza is a big chain of health food stores, there's probably one near the Singelgracht.
posted by blub at 12:11 PM on June 22, 2018 [1 favorite]

For London this website might be useful:
London restaurants
posted by 92_elements at 12:28 PM on June 22, 2018

In all of the main supermarket chains in Paris (Franprix, Monoprix, Carrefour, Auchan), there are aisles with gluten free snacks and ingredients.
posted by ellieBOA at 12:50 PM on June 22, 2018 [1 favorite]

In England, well, I'll start with “round St Pancras”. I've attempted to find a table on the night, but Niche in Islington needs to be booked ahead. People recommend it very highly. Beyond Bread, mentioned in 92_elements's line above, has excellent Danish pastries and sandwiches.

In general terms in the UK, for eating on the go and suchlike, I can't think of a noodle or sushi chain (Prêt, Wasabi, Itsu, Yo, Eat, etc) which doesn't do lots of gluten free things. Supermarkets all have GF pre-prepared sandwiches, and a few of them have now made their in-store sushi GF (Tesco, IIRC), as well as the fast casual chains (Nandos, Giraffe, Pizza Express (yep, edible, safe, pizza), GBK, Zizzi, Wagamama (in the UK, they've always immediately brought the shift manager over to take my order), Ask, Bill's). Or just look at Cœliac UK's list of restaurants, which has several good looking independents in London.

But you'll also be 90% guaranteed to get a good, safe, gluten free cake at an independent coffee shop (it'll be kept on a different shelf, on a GF labelled slate in nearly every trustworthy place. They'll use dedicated GF tongs to pick it up). I think you're pretty safe to walk into any non-seedy British pub and have a decent gluten free option. You'll need to check ahead to get one that will give you gluten free chips, though. But you can find one. And every pub worth its salt will have the menu up on its website or linked from TripAdvisor.

You also won't ever be far from a Tesco Express, a Sainsbury's Local or a Co-op, which will have some Schär (a Europe-wide brand) and some own brand breads and biscuits at OKish prices.

posted by ambrosen at 1:44 PM on June 22, 2018 [4 favorites]

I just saw your Kew tag. Go for pizza at The Stable. They're good, safe, pizzas.
posted by ambrosen at 1:45 PM on June 22, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Here in Oxford, our listing site Daily Info has a page on gluten free eating, including a section on eating out.
posted by garrett at 1:51 AM on June 23, 2018

Best answer: Apparently there's a gluten free store in Amsterdam. They also offer breakfast and lunch. I don't have experience with this store, but it's by people who know about celiac disease. That's also a place I would trust for recommendations, but even there you should perhaps still specifically mention that you don't want a place that has "gluten free options" but a place where people understand what it means to prepare food for people who have celiac disease.
posted by blub at 3:59 AM on June 23, 2018 [1 favorite]

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