My family and I just came back from a wonderful two-week trip to London, England and Paris. We did so much walking and saw so many touristy attractions, it was great! When we first decided we were going, I was hesitant to whether there would be many gluten free options, or if I would just have to eat grilled chicken, veggies and salad for two weeks. However, once I started researching, I found so many restaurants that were either strictly gluten free, or that had gluten free alternatives. It relieved my stress that I had about finding gluten free friendly food.
I had read a lot of different gluten free travel sites to get ideas on where to eat here and there, however I found a lot of places on my own, and discovered new and helpful tips on how to travel abroad with a gluten allergy.
Gluten free on the plane: We flew with Air Canada, and when we purchased our tickets we were able to specify whether we had any allergies. Fortunately I was able to check off ‘Gluten-Free’! To be honest though, I do not get hungry the slightest bit when I fly, so I didn’t really have an appetite once my gluten free meal arrived. I was impressed though. It was chicken chimichurri with herb roasted potatoes, a cookie and bun from Patsy Pie and a little thing of coleslaw. I tucked the Patsy Pie cookie and bun for later as a snack, it was delicious. Once we got across the Atlantic Ocean, and it was now breakfast time in London, they came around and gave us all muffins, carrot for the non-gluten-free’ers and an Apple Cinnamon Patsy Pie muffin. It was actually very delicious and so moist! It didn’t even really taste gluten free. On our way back to Canada, the meal was pretty similar, but the bun was a no-name gluten free brand that tasted like saw dust…I wasn’t too impressed.
Gluten free on the go: Lots of walking and sightseeing definitely makes you hungry, and it wasn’t very easy to find an easy gluten free snack everywhere we went. So, I had packed Enerjive Skinny crackers in my suitcase to bring with me from Toronto. They are healthy quinoa crackers with a low glycemic index and filled with good seeds and grains (they are also free of refined sugars and low in sodium)!. I found that eating a couple (with a cup of tea) mid morning and mid afternoon helped me stay satiated until lunch or dinner came around. I would just stick a couple in a plastic baggy and tuck them away in my purse. They are flat, so they take up the least bit of room.
Gluten free lunches: In both London and Paris, it was pretty easy to eat a gluten free lunch, as a protein packed salad is almost always gluten free and on most menus. In London I had a Cobb salad once, with olive oil as the dressing, and in Paris I had a lot of Parisian Salads, which consists of country ham (prociutto), emmetnal or swiss cheese, tomato, onion and the odd cucumber (with lettuce of course). In Paris there was one exclusively gluten free restaurant, called NoGlu. It was really cool to be able to pick anything off the menu without any hesitation. The restauarant has only been in operation for 7 months, and there were many delicious meals on the menu, including items such as a quinoa salad, salmon with a potato dish, and a Parisian club sandwich – which consisted of procuitto, swiss cheese and caramelized onions…it was declicious. They also had cookies, muffins, and other pastries on their menu – I was much too full to indulge though. I should also mention that the bread is homemade and they even bring a gluten free bread basket, it was so fun!
On days where I knew that gluten free options would be hard to come by (ie – museums/castles) I would pack a couple slices of gf bread or gf oatmeal to go. When we went to The Tower of London, I picked up a banana, yogurt and then hot water for my gf oatmeal. It wasn’t the most delicious lunch, but it kept me satisfied until afternoon tea or dinner came around. Same went for Hampton Court – there were no options that I could eat – luckily I had a couple slices of bread in my purse, so I bought some cheese and a banana, which accompanied my bread.
In London we ate at Pizza Express, which had gluten free crust! Although the gluten free pizza sounded delicious, the antipasto plate caught my eye, and it too was gluten free. At Pizza Express they list beside each item what is gluten free, vegetarian and what items contain nuts. In Covent Gardens there was a restaurant near the theatre district called PJs Grill, it also offered gluten free options, like bunless burgers, steaks and salads. I had a COBB Salad, it was delicious!
Gluten free snacks: In a lot of the art galleries and museums in London, there were a few gluten free options for treats. Such as the National Art Gallery which had a gluten free chocolate cake. You can also go for high tea at Fortnum & Masons, Browns Hotel, Claridges Hotel, and the British Museum. That was one thing I really wanted to do, but it costs around £50 for tea, tea sandwiches and cakes…which I found very pricey! The grocery stores, such as Waitrose, had a ‘free from’ section, which had gluten free breads, cereals and even tea cookies (like custard filled and digestive cookies)! I tried Genius bread when I was there and I honestly almost cried – it tasted exactly like “regular” gluten bread. The slices were huge and the consistency was soft and chewy…it was so amazing. Genius…come to Canada!!! Wimbledon was my favourite spot in London, I am a huge tennis fan and have wanted to go for as long as I can remember. Unfortunately the tournament isn’t until late June, but seeing Centre Court and the museum was just as awesome. We even had strawberries and cream there – and those are most definitely gluten free.
Gluten free dinners: In both London and Paris we rented flats, which were both equipped with kitchens. Some days we would pick up a roast chicken and salads so that we could just eat in. It was great after a long day of touring, and also a secure way of knowing that what I was eating was gluten free.
My favourite dinner in London would have to be the gluten free fish and chips! I was so excited to find a restaurant that had that gluten free option. It was my first fish and chips in a very long time, about 7 years! The restaruant is called The Grill on Leicester Square. It had a few gluten free options, but obviously the fish and chips grabbed my interest. It was absolutely delicious – crunchy, flaky, and oh so good! The mushy peas were good too! In Paris, steak and frites (fries) is always an option, except you really can’t eat it too many times, it’s so heavy. Just make sure that the fries are fried in a separate deep fryer, avoiding cross contamination. In London they also have the restaurant Wagamama, which is an international Japanese restaurant chain. They are able to make most items gluten free, and some of the menu items are naturally gluten free. It’s a tasty restaurant but extremely casual and more of a lunch place than dinner place.