The subject of dining out gluten free in France has been raised a couple of times recently, notably during the gluten free “tweetup” last week. Many people seem to have had a particularly poor time eating gluten free in France.
Yes it’s true, France sans gluten is a challenge but I don’t think it’s that bad. It’s certainly not Italy with its waiters and chefs who take Coeliac disease seriously and are normally fully aware of the condition and cross contamination issues. But with preparation it is possible to eat out safely in France. Previous posts on eating out gluten free France can be found here and here.
As a frequent traveller to France, I can offer a few tips which have helped me:
1. Take the Celiac Travel cards to explain to restaurants what your dietary restrictions are
2. Learn some French phrases to explain both your dietary needs and also the words for the naturally gluten free food items you’re likely to see in French restaurants. Lookout for these items on menus. If you don’t see them and you’re feeling bold, ask if they can be cooked for you. Useful food preparation words would be:
à la vapeur– steamed, au four – baked, à l’etouffée– stewed, en daube– stew, casserole, grillé – grilled
3. Be extra polite to waiters. I think anyone who’s ever been to Paris will have experienced at some point the particular breed of Parisian waiter who is super brusque. It’s just how it is, ensure you are very polite in communicating your requests and needs and ignore any surly attitude.
4. Most restaurants I’ve visited have been able to tell me either which menu items are naturally gluten free or those which can be adapted – just as you would do anywhere in the world.
5. Visit a crêperie for a savoury galette made with naturally gluten free buckwheat flour (farine de sarrasin or blè noir). You must check that 100% buckwheat flour is being used as sometimes there can be a mix of flours.
6. Desserts including crème brûlée and meringues are naturally gluten free (but always double check).
7. Be prepared to politely walk away before ordering if you’re not happy with your chosen restaurant, it’s your health after all
8. If you’re in Paris, please note the dedicated gluten free restaurant “Des Si et Des Mets” in Montmartre has closed according to their website. I wouldn’t normally point out where not to go, but this restaurant is referenced in many places online as the only gluten free restaurant in Paris and I wouldn’t want you to make a wasted trip out there. Hopefully it will reopen again soon.
9. Instead, Paris now has its own gluten free patisserie, Helmut Newcake which is located in the 1oth arondissement near the quirky boutiques of the Canal St Martin area. Surely a must for anyone visiting the City of Light.
10. Check out this French dining out website here, which has lists of gluten free restaurants in various French cities and reviews on them. It’s in French but you could use Google translate.
11. The website for “Association Francaise des Intolerants au Gluten” (French association of the gluten intolerant) for information on gluten free France
A couple of French food photos from our recent trip to Burgundy:
Buckwheat galette containing Mediterranean vegetables and goat’s cheese, Vezelay. Utterly delicious.
Duck adjusted to be served without the gravy it was meant to be served with, Semur en Auxois
Roast chicken, Flavigny-sur-Ozerain. This beautiful little village was the location for the film Chocolat. This was eaten in a ferme auberge where all the products were sourced locally. I’d actually just wanted an omelette but the locally produced eggs had run out!
Crème brûlée, Semur en Auxois. There were raspberries lurking under here.
Do you have any good gluten free tips for eating safely in France? Have you visited a restaurant which cooked particularly good gluten free food or offered exceptionally understanding service? Please do leave a comment and let me know.