Spain is the most popular foreign destination for British tourists so finding places to eat here is possibly more important than anywhere else! These tips and suggestions should really help you when you visit the country.
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Parador de Turismo de La Granja
San Ildefonso, Segovia View On Map
They are high quality hotels, mostly located in former historical buildings. This Parador is in the Casa de los Infantes, in the village of San Ildefonso. It is a very quiet and nice building and the rooms are comfortable. It has swimming pool and a spa zone. In terms of gluten free meal, the breakfast-buffet is very complete. There are specific gluten-free products: bread, muffins and marmalade, but to my view, the most significant point is the wide variety and quality of their naturally gluten-free food: eggs, ham, cheese, omelet, yogurt, juices, fruits, nuts... you will not be hungry.
The restaurant of the Parador (Puerta de la Reina) has several gluten-free dishes in its menu as well.
I chose to have the prawns which can came with guacamole while Mr G had the pulled roast lamb which came with soup, refried beans and guacamole. To be honest these dishes were probably the spiciest meals we've ever had in Spain but compared to our general London cosmopolitan eating the flavours were not as bold as we would have liked. However, despite eating in a chain restaurant, in a food court the service was very personalised and the staff really seemed to go out of their way to make clear what could be adapted for me to eat gluten free (about three quarters of the menu). We finished our meal with a very delicious slice of strawberry cheesecake thank goodness it was on the menu as that was what lured us in!
The first day we went to Celicioso it was a Saturday and a national holiday. Honestly it felt as if all of Spain's coeliacs had descended upon this little shop. Every table was rammed. I have never seen a gluten free shop so busy. The second time we went it was a lot quieter and felt very cosy and intimate.
The best bit about this shop is that there is so much to choose from. I really couldn't decide what to choose. On top of that everything looks so pretty which just makes the choosing process even harder. Just be prepared to wait a bit in the queue because you know the person infront will be having exactly the same dilemma! I just love pretty cake and their cake is most definitely pretty. The first time we went I chose the Tiramisu cake and a strawberry cheesecake. Both were amazing, soft and fresh. They tasted amazing and there was no way you could tell that they were gluten free beyond all the signage outside and inside the shop making clear their stance on gluten. The second time we went, it was quite literally before we went to the airport, so we had chocolate cupcakes in their café. I picked up some American sized cookies for the plane ride home but I was more than astounded that they made it all the way in one piece!! The biscuits like the cakes were really good, no horrible after tastes just the taste of goodness.
I absolutely love this place and cannot wait to go back again. If anything I would make a detour in Spain just to come here!
NH Palacio de Tepa
The next morning we went down to breakfast and I have to say I was impressed. There was clear signage of the gluten free food (by the way when I mean gluten free food I mean things like bread as opposed to apples) and best of all they were in jars!! Seriously a lot of hotels could learn from this. How many coeliacs have got to a hotel breakfast, been very lucky enough to find a gluten free section, only to find that another hotel guest has abandoned their gluten croissant on top of the gluten free biscuits? I admit this has never happened to me but thought stays with me nonetheless! They had about 4 jars of things: croissants, biscuits, and madalaine style cakes. Happy days! The croissants were a bit stiff but they were fine once I smothered them with butter and jam much to shock of MrG. Overall I was really pleased with our stay and breakfast here.
El Meson (by Parque Santiago III)
We chose starters so that I would be able to try both. For the main course we deliberately chose a gluten and a gluten free pizza margarita so that Mr G could do taste comparison. Plus it is interesting to see how pizzas which have the same topping are presented. This is what we ordered: GF Nachos, GF Chicken salad with apple and pesto, GF Margharita pizza, Gluten Margharita pizza.
I'm not sure what the difference is between the gluten free nachos and normal nachos is. Essentially they look the same. None the less it does show that sometimes even the most obvious things can be unsuitable for us. When the pizzas came they looked the same, presented on wicker plates (mine was white) with paper doillies. The gluten free pizza came with a little "sin gluten" flag, so it was obvious which was which. On first inspection they looked exactly the same and according to Mr G they tasted pretty similar. The only obvious distinction we could find was that the gluten free pizza was slightly brittle on the underside. Also after I had finished eating mine I had lots of crumbs on my plate where as Mr G's pizza held together and he had no crumbs. Would I go back? Absolutely.
Hotel Reina Petronila
Well breakfast was a surprise. They had a whole section labelled sin gluten! I was utterly shocked and little hyper at the prospect of all the things that I could get a sugar rush off! If we are being brutally honest, the whole joy of a hotel breakfast is having a choice of things to try and I have to say the Hotel Reina Petronila delivered! Not only did I have bread, I had muffins, cakes, biscuits absolutely lots to choose from. It was amazing. I only wish more hotels could be like this. Most importantly the bakery products, although kept open, were kept on the other side of the room from the gluten bakery breads. There was a very minimal chance of cross contamination because of the level of segregation.
I don't know why but one of my strangest habits when going to hotels is looking at their room service menu. I have no idea what I expect to find but I just like looking at the things I wouldn't choose even if I were not a coeliac. If nothing else I think it would be fun one day to compare a standard room service menu item from various hotels around the world just to see how much local tastes would influence it. But, I digress. I was more than surprised to note that in the Hotel Reina Petronila they had a note on the last line of the menu which stated that: gluten free bread was available as well as gluten free beer. I have to say I was very impressed with this as I have never ever seen gluten free bread available on a room service menu. I don't drink so I wasn't interested in the beer, but I still thought wow!
Another night, we went to the hotel bar (which is also a very popular cafe) to watch the football and once again were surprised to see that they offered gf bread and gf beer. The gf bread was a baguette style bread that had previously been frozen. Sadly I had left my camera in my room so no photo. However the bread, was crunchy on the outside and very soft on the inside.
Looking around it was like being in a coeliac dream world, every ice cream was labelled with a crossed grain symbol to indicate its suitability for coeliacs; the ones that were unlabelled were the type that I would avoid anyway: cookies and cream, doughnut etc. Honestly, there was so much to choose from. Then MrG pointed up at the board (I was still too busy trying to decide what ice cream I would have) "Look" he said "barquillos sin gluten!" Well I don't think I can remember the last time I had an ice cream in a cone, it must have before coeliac disease.
When it was our turn, we mentioned the ice cream we wanted with the barquillo sin gluten, now here is the amazing bit. The woman nodded her head, picked up the ice cream scoop and a spatula went and washed them and her hands. Then she cleared the first bit of the ice cream we wanted with the spatula, and then scooped the ice cream. Wow. I wish more places could be so cross contamination aware. Normally when you even suggest to places that maybe they'd like to clean the ice cream scooper they think you mean a dip in the communal bucket thing. I'm pretty gun-ho when it comes to ice cream but if anything this experience made me realise how open to cross contamination ice cream is and if anything that I should be more careful! Top marks to Heladeria Tortosa. The ice cream cones were kept wrapped up and apart from the normal cones and they are the ones that can be bought in El Corte Ingles.
The ice cream was fantastic. Not only was it obviously cooling (remember it was 40 degrees at the time), it tasted amazing. The flavours really came through and it reminded me that good ice cream can be so much nicer than cake. Naturally we went back more than once, all in the name of research. I can confirm that each time we went back we were served by different people and each time each member of staff went through the same precautions before serving up the gluten free cone. How wonderful is that?
When you go in there is a list of fillings on the wall, and again so outward signage of gluten free anything, so we went through asking and they replied with a loud "of course" and then went off and brought back the "menu para celiacos" and then another menu in English and then explained on the English menu what could be made gluten free. Frankly we could not have got a warmer welcome.
I chose to have the strangest sandwich filling ever here: lettuce, tomato, white asparagus, hard boiled egg and anchovie. I could imagine it in a salad for what ever reason I felt and to an extent still do feel that it is a strange sandwich combination BUT I'll put my hands up and say it works. In fact I'd go far as to say it tastes really nice. The bread was a good baguette. I find it quite strange that the Spanish seem to have mastered the art of making good gluten free baguettes and yet the UK seems so far behind..meh! Anyway I enjoyed my bocadillo. Again another strange experience of walking in off the street and ordering a gluten free sandwich without phoning ahead and without any drama!