Thankfully eating ‘sans gluten’ in the City of Light has never been easier. Visitors (and lucky folk like me who live there) can now track down gluten free goodies pretty much all across the city. What started as a small enclave of gluten free restaurants in the 10th arrondissement has spread out far and wide – from GF eclairs at Mon Eclair near the Arc de Triomphe, to GF waffles at Yummy and Guilt Free near the Hotel de Ville and even a tartine à l’avocat (avocado toast) to be found at Café Mareva near the Canal St Martin.
The coffee scene is improving here too with many independent coffee shops now being supplied by the Atelier des Lilas who produce excellent GF baked goods like madeleines, brownies, quiches and bread for them as well as for restaurants and the Grande Epicerie food store.
If after a busy day sightseeing you prefer to eat at home in your AirBnB accommodation, there are plenty of options too. You can find GF groceries – breads, pasta, cookies etc in most supermarkets now. Brands such as Schär, Carrefour and Genius are stocked in mainstream supermarkets but there are some more interesting and, it has to be said, better quality products from smaller producers in the organic ‘bio’ stores like ‘Bio Co-op’ ‘Bio C Bon’ and ‘Naturalia’ across the city.
It’s worth knowing that apart from less expensive brasseries and chain restaurants, many small restaurants will only offer lunch between about 12h and 14h and dinner between 19h and 22h and be closed at other times. Outside of Paris there isn’t the all-day eating culture to be found in many large cities of the world like London and Singapore.
If you eat in small independent restaurants then look out for the ‘fait maison‘ symbol. It means the restaurant makes things from scratch, meaning they are likely to be far more knowledgeable about what is actually going into your food.
Consider trying a ‘steak frites’ here – the national dish! The French do not have the habit of deep frying very much apart from ‘frites’ so chips/French fries can be a safe option (but, as always, eater beware!). Choose a small restaurant where there is nothing vaguely like fast food on the menu and, as always, speak to your waiter about your requirements when you order.
Most brasseries will offer an omelette with ham or cheese (or mixte, with both) which will be made with unadulterated eggs and butter. Galettes, or savoury pancakes, are usually made with buckwheat sarrasin flour but cross contamination can be an issue – fortunately there are a few GF friendly creperies across the city, like Biosphère.
Another option for eating out is a wine bar where they will often offer a planche de fromage, a wooden board of assorted cheeses. Perfect if you pitch up with your own GF bread or crackers in your handbag like I do all the time! Of course in the summer months, a stroll around a local market buying a piece of cheese here and some saucisson (dried salami-type sausage) there, along with some ripe red tomatoes and a juicy peach can make for a lovely picnic.
And as for dessert there are some fabulous GF bakeries and patisseries – the renowned NoGlu, my favourite – Chambelland, Helmut Newcake, and the new kid on the block for stunning classic French patisserie, Sitron. Grom ice creams even offer the holy grail of gelato – a GF cone. Sadly one thing I have no great news on is GF croissants – no one is yet selling fresh ones – so watch this space!
Things to remember:
Always say ‘bonjour’ to your waiter – they are a proud bunch and don’t like to feel they are being unappreciated.
If you can’t speak French then carry a Coeliac travel card explaining your dietary requirements and politely ask the waiter to read it – s’il vous plaît!
There are some great websites that will keep you up to date with the GF scene here:
www.bacididamaglutenfree.com is the website of Chiara, an effervescent Italian lady living in Paris who eats her way through the city and blogs about it in English and French. She also has reviews of great finds in other European cities and conducts food tours in Paris and Italy.
www.becausegus.com is a French site but worth a look for their up to date reviews on restaurants and GF products available in France.
www.glutenfreeinParis.com often features great reviews of raw, vegetarian and vegan restaurants but is only in French.
And remember, while you’re here you might like to take a GF cookery class with me to learn how to make baguettes, buttery Breton cookies or maybe a traditional tarte flambée!