Spain

Spain

Gluten Free Hotel Stay: Barcelo Valencia, Spain

Writing hotel reviews on this blog is not something that I normally do. Why? Well, in many cases one very good hotel is very much like another very good hotel. Yes there’s usually a USP that sets it apart from its peers. However, in many cases I don’t feel I learn something from bloggers writing reviews of hotels that – for the most part – I couldn’t learn from looking at the hotel’s website.

So that’s exactly why I am writing a review on the Barcelo Valencia.

Because I just didn’t know from the website how suitable this hotel would be for my needs as a traveller with dietary restrictions who is also travelling with small kids.

Location
The Barcelo Valencia is located directly opposite the Valencia’s City of Arts and Sciences. You can read all about the scientific and cultural space which is housed within the modernist City of Arts and Sciences here. There’s one busy road to cross but then you’re within the park.

City of Arts and Science Valencia

Following a catastrophic flood in 1957, Valencia’s river Turia was diverted and the old riverbed turned into a park which winds its way through Valencia. We thoroughly enjoyed walking through this park and the kids loved being out of the buggy in a safe, car free green space. They also loved that there seemed to be a playground spaced approximately every 5 minutes….!

Just over the road from the Barcelo Valencia hotel is also a great little playground for kids.

Food
Our usual pattern for food when travelling with the twins has been to have a main meal all together at lunchtime in whichever city / location we’re in. We find it easier to find something suitable for all of us this way. In the evenings, if everyone is tired after a day sightseeing then we get a picnic type tea for the kids to eat in the room. Mr D and I will often order something from room service after the kids have gone to bed. Consequently, I often enquire at hotels for a copy of the room service menu before making the room reservation to check there are gluten free options for me.

On this occasion I contacted Barcelo Valencia before booking. A room service menu was sent to me. Nothing was explicitly noted as gluten free on the menu but since there were fish / meat / veggie options it looked good.

What I did not know until we got there was that they had plenty of gluten free options.

They even had Daura gluten free beer in the restaurant and bar and consequently I could have ordered this on room service. We ate a couple of times in the hotel restaurant. I particularly enjoyed this burger, served with gluten free baguette (!).

I’m not a big hotel breakfast eater and we often choose to stay in an apartment instead of a hotel for this reason alone. However, the breakfast here was really something special.

I’m struggling to remember a time recently where I have stayed in a hotel offering such fresh and excellent quality ingredients. Beautiful fresh fruit, good quality hams and cheeses.

The pungent blue cheese was cut in huge chunks and truly excellent; the chunk in the photo was the smallest piece offered! On the hot plates were bacon, sausages (I didn’t eat them so not sure if they were gluten free), eggs, roasted Mediterranean vegetables, tortilla….the list goes on. Each item was topped up regularly so they never ran out.

For gluten free diners I was given a huge selection of breads, biscuits and muffins when I asked if they had any gluten free items. There were also biscuits on this plate but they had been swiped by the time I took the photo.

Room
We booked a two bedroom suite – there are 2 suites in this hotel. The suite was huge because in addition to the 2 separate bedrooms – each with en-suite bathroom with massive baths – was a (small-sish) lounge and a further, third, guest toilet. All the doors were the sliding variety so the space could be opened up. The only downside was that the windows were quite high up so you couldn’t see out of them unless you stood up. Shame when there was a great view out of the window!

What else to know?
Joining the hotel’s loyalty programme (Barcelo has hotels throughout Spain) provides various incentives including room discounts and/or late checkout. As members of this loyalty scheme, we were received a discount on the room cost, free bottles of water and sweets (which I managed to swiftly swipe) in our room along with a credit towards items bought in the hotel.

There is free wifi throughout the hotel.

There’s also a great looking spa – complete with outdoor pool for the summer months – up on the top floor of the hotel. Finally, there’s also a rooftop bar overlooking the City of Arts and Sciences which would be perfect place to enjoy a sun-downer. Sadly I didn’t get a chance to use these on this trip but I’ll have to come back!

This is NOT a sponsored or affiliated post in any shape or form. I stayed here, I really liked the hotel and wanted to share this information in case you are planning to visit Valencia and are looking for a good hotel with gluten free and family friendly options.

Address: Hotel Barcelo Valencia, Av. de França, 11, 46023 València, Spain

Click here for the hotel’s website.

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Gluten free hotel stay Valencia Spain

 

Gluten Free Bilbao, Spain: Zortziko Restaurant

Although our trip to Bilbao was only booked a couple of days before we left, I still had enough time to research gluten free dining options.

I used the incredibly useful Madrid Coeliac Society website (key pages are in English) and printed from there a list of restaurants it recommended in Bilbao. The link will take you to search for restaurants throughout Spain. We then cross referenced this list with our Bilbao guidebook and a map.

It was very fortunate that the restaurant I liked the look of most happened to be close to our hotel. The website for Daniel Garcia’s Michelin starred Zortziko restaurant even noted that they catered for Coeliacs. We asked the hotel to call and make a reservation and they advised the restaurant that I was Coeliac at the time of booking.

From the outside it’s not immediately obvious that the building houses a restaurant. Sure, there’s a sign on the wall but when you enter it’s almost as if you’re going into someone’s house. Albeit a very grand house! The restaurant 4 rooms decorated in distinctly different styles. In the front, the decor is very traditional. We sat in the middle room which was unusually decorated. We later discovered it was used for the cookery school. Personally, I preferred this room because it was fun and a bit different. I also LOVE tomatoes so sitting with this view made me happy!

I was provided with the menu which focuses on Basque specialties and the waiter explained which dishes could be made gluten free. The tasting menu looked very exciting but I thought this would be challenge too far to make the adjustments for the dishes to be gluten free and the options on the main menu all looked very appetising.

This was approximately half of the starters and he said all of the main course fish and meat could be prepared gluten free. Of course, the waiter said, the alterations might mean you can’t have the sauce or perhaps an ingredient should be omitted but I was to let him know what I’d like to eat and he’d discuss it with the chef and advise what the substitutions would be. The waiter said any fish would be grilled or baked (not fried) for me. The service throughout the meal was attentive and our waiter spoke excellent English which helped when discussing the ingredients in each of the dishes and the adjustments to make them gluten free.

The waiter brought me this gluten free bread.

I can honestly say this bread was amazing. Just look at it – it even looks like a normal small baguette, doesn’t it?! Whilst the middle didn’t have the same light as a feather texture of a French baguette, the outside was crunchy and just like the regular, gluten filled version. At the end of the meal the waiter brought out the packet for the gluten free bread. It was made by the Spanish brand, Berlys. Like the fantastic Swedish gluten free bread Fria, comes frozen so it can be stored for whenever it’s needed.

The style of cooking is my absolute favourite. Using ingredients that are so fresh and flavoursome that they are served with just a dash of complementary flavour. Simple but at the same time, complex.

For a starter I chose the scallops with baby squid caviar and smoked onion.


For main course I chose sea bass with “large red prawn brushstroke”. For something thinly brushed across the plate, the red prawn reduction was insanely intense.

There were sweet options for dessert but I really wanted to try some cheese to enjoy with the remaining Rioja in our bottle.

This is a half portion, Mr D and I decided to share the cheeseboard. Eaten from left to right, the intensity of flavours increased as I progressed to the right of the board and a seriously unctuous blue cheese which was local to that region in Spain was a great finale.

As we left the restaurant we were lucky to meet Daniel Garcia and I got to thank him for an amazing meal.

Details:

Zortziko located at Alameda Mazarredo, 17, 48001 Bilbao

Hours: 13:00 to 15:30 h. – 20:30 to 23:00 h.
Closed Sundays and Mondays. Check directly for opening times during late August/September

Cost: 3 course dinner for 2 people including wine was EUR 170

 

Gluten Free Bilbao, Spain: Art & Pintxos

After checking into the Hotel Miro, we walked past the Guggenheim museum and Jeffs Koons topiary dog, into the Old Town along waterfront, checking out the signs of Bilbao’s regeneration along the way. Bilbao’s old town (Casco Viejo) is a mix of buildings dating from the 15th to 19th centuries and is situated on the east bank of Bilbao’s river Nervion.

Although San Sebastien, located 60 miles east along the northern Spanish coast, may be better known as a foodie mecca with three (of Spain’s six) 3 star Michelin restaurants, Bilbao takes its gastronomy seriously. Pintxos are the Basque region’s version of tapas, albeit far more elaborate than tapas you’ll find in other regions of Spain. Would we be able to find some gluten free options for me, I wondered? We started at the Plaza Nueva where Gure Toki, the 2011 winner of the annual pintxos completion is located (yes, they really do take pintxos seriously around here!) along with many other pintxos bars. I think this square would be a fantastic place to sit outside and try pintxos like the locals (usually a txikiteo or bar hop between 7 and 9pm before going out for dinner) with a glass of the local Txakoli white wine. But perhaps not in February!

We wandered through the quaint old town streets and stopped at Berton (C/Jardines 11). Could they offer any pintxos sin gluten? No, came the very definite reply. There was nothing on the counter that was gluten free and I wasn’t so hungry as to ask them to make a gluten free alternative sin pan. Nevermind, a good glass of Rioja always helps. As we sat enjoying the wine, a mighty plate of jamón Iberico was delivered to the next table. Now that, that would do nicely.

Salty, sweet, moist and cut thinner than a sheet of paper. I have never tasted ham like this.

We saw these beauties in a store close to Berton and considered over several more glasses of Rioja whether we could bring one home with us.

As the day continued, we saw increasing numbers of people dressed in ever more elaborate costumes. It created a really fun atmosphere as we saw whole families (including tiny babies) dressed as smurfs, clowns and Pirates along with the odd Buzz Lightyear. Spiderman suits must have run out in the region as every 5 year old appeared to be wearing one!

Alien and pirate son.

Send in the clowns!

An entire family of witches. Even the babies in the buggies were dressed up!

We later discovered it was carnival that weekend in Bilbao. We joined what appeared to be the whole city in watching a procession of floats trundle slowly pass us. We felt really lucky to have stumbled upon Bilbao on carnival night.

The Guggenheim museum was the big attraction for us travelling to Bilbao.

I’ve wanted to visit since it opened in 1997 but somehow never made it. We picked up the hugely informative free audio guide which described the building’s construction and the art works it contains. I was amazed to learn that the initial design for the iconic titanium clad building – instantly recognisable to anyone with an interest in art or architecture – was drawn by Frank Gehry on the back of a hotel envelope. The art works on display are mainly mid 20th century onwards and the audio guide provided a truly excellent commentary on the gallery’s art. I particularly enjoyed the Fish Gallery with Richard Serra’s huge participational steel installations.

Sunday morning spent at the Guggenheim was the highlight of our trip and, for me at least, reason alone to return to Bilbao.

 

Gluten Free Bilbao, Spain: Hotel Miró

We booked our trip to Bilbao at the very last minute and managed to find a flight from Heathrow on the Spanish low cost airline, Vueling. I tend to avoid low cost airlines since they generally fly from Stanstead or Luton, neither of which are convenient when you live in south west London. I also think once you’ve added in the cost of surcharges such as seat selection, checked bag and a card fee for the payment, you don’t end up saving much. But the only airlines flying direct to Bilbao from London were Vueling or easyjet. I was quite impressed with Vueling and I’d be happy to fly with them from Heathrow again.

Bilbao airport is quite small and it took no more than 10 minutes to disembark, collect the bag and walk through the controls. Options for taking the 10 minute trip into central Bilbao are either a taxi for EUR 20-25 or the airport bus for the princely sum of EUR 1.30 each. Mr D insisted I left my usual taxi-Queen lifestyle at home and we got the bus. Hmmm.

We stayed at the Hotel Miró on Alameda Mazarredo, 77 which is opposite the Guggenheim museum and within easy walking distance of Bilbao’s shops, restaurants and the Old Town. We got off at the first stop on the airport bus and walked around the corner to the hotel. This hotel is part of the Design Hotels group which are a group of independent boutique hotels. We’ve stayed in a few of their hotels around the world including the excellent Hotel Urban in Madrid and I’ve not been disappointed. Hotel Miro is a stylish, modern hotel which offers free wifi both in your room and throughout the hotel (I am so over paying up to EUR 25 each per day for us to connect our iPhones) and even a free bar to guests. Which seemed like a very dangerous proposition, for the hotel at least!

In advance of our trip, I’d contacted the hotel about gluten free dining options. They confirmed they would have gluten free food available at breakfast for me. When I arrived at breakfast I spoke to waitress and she brought me this gluten free baguette, freshly warmed.

It tasted absolutely amazing with its crispy outside and light bread texture inside. It was especially delicious with some jamon serrano. So good in fact it was hard to believe it really was gluten free. Perhaps I wasn’t the first to wonder this since I was presented the gluten free bread in its packaging!

 

Details

Hotel Miró, Alameda Mazarredo, 77, Bilbao, Spain

Rooms cost from EUR 110 per night