Gluten Free Paris – Pastries

One would think that Paris, home of pastries and baguettes, would not be the best place for a coeliac. And up until a few years ago that assumption would have been correct. The French are still not known for their general knowledge of gluten free requirements or the problems of cross contamination, but luckily a number of fully gluten free places have opened up in Paris and it is possible to eat very well while you are there.

I just returned from four days in Paris and managed to try eight different bakeries and restaurants. It required a lot of walking and a very patient boyfriend but was definitely worth it. This post will focus on pastries, then one on sandwich shops, then cafes and restaurants to finish!

The first bakery I tried, and the one that needs to be at the top of the list for any coeliac or gluten free eater, was Helmut Newcake. It looks like a regular French patisserie, except EVERYTHING is gluten free! All the shining pastries in their little rows. It was a very happy moment. There are two Helmut Newcake locations and I visited both on my trip. We also had brunch at the cafe on the Canal St Martin but I will describe that in the other post. This one will focus on the 7 pastries I had… In addition to a baguette and a small brioche!

So many tasty pastries. Like a real bakery!

Bad panorama, but so many tasty pastries. Like a real bakery!

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So happy.

So happy.

On the first visit I picked up a rhubarb meringue tart, a raspberry tart, and a Madame de Fontenay (two choux buns with chocolate cream filling). The bakers on Great British Bake Off made religiuese last series, which were very similar to the Madame, so it was great to be able to try one. Apologies for the photos of the pastries I purchased. They were carried around for some time in the hot sun before I ate them and they didn’t look their best. But they were extremely tasty. I even shared.

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Slightly squished/melted but still made my day.

The bottom of the Madame de Fontenay in the Tuileries. The top disappeared too quickly for a photo...

The bottom of the Madame de Fontenay in the Tuileries. The top disappeared too quickly for a photo…

I also bought a baguette for dinner, with saussicon and cheese in the Jardin des Tuileries, and a mini brioche for breakfast the next morning. We were staying in an AirBnB so ate breakfast in our flat every morning. I believe the baguette was made with gram flour because it had the slight bean aftertaste which I’m not a huge fan of. But it was still a good gluten free loaf.

Baguette.

Baguette with tasty cheese.

There was a lot of cheese eaten too.

On my second visit, right before getting on the Eurostar home, I bought another Madame de Fontenay, a caramel éclair, a Symphonie (layered cake with raspberry, cream and other tasty things), and a meringue Chantilly, which looked like a meringue éclair with whipped cream. Again they didn’t quite make it as far as the photos, having had to survive a trip through the security x-ray to board the train. But the éclair made Monday morning back in the office much better.

More fallen-over yet tasty pastries.

More fallen-over yet awesome pastries.

Helmut Newcake accounted for almost all of the sweet pastries I ate during my trip, except for a quick waffle from Yummy & Guiltfree. This cute little stand is in a courtyard in the BHV Homme Marais department store, and the courtyard is a lovely place to sit away from the hustle for a few minutes. The waffles are all gluten free and come on sticks with tiny bows. I had the ‘Roland Garros’ in honour of the French Open (lemon curd and cream) and my boyfriend had the caramel. Slightly messy to eat but a good sugar hit mid-afternoon.

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I also purchased a mini croissant from Biosphere Cafe, a full review of which will appear in a later post. I ate the croissant with the brioche from Helmut Newcake for breakfast and both were extremely tasty.

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Mini croissants made a further appearance for breakfast when I purchased some from Bio C’ Bon, a French Whole Foods-type chain. I slightly burnt the croissant so there is no ‘after’ photo. The croissant was good for a bake-at-home one, but lacked the typical pastry layers of a croissant. Would probably buy them again if I was on a villa holiday in France or similar. I was also a big fan of the fact that the croissants came individually wrapped, which meant the others lasted longer!

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Overall it was a very good thing that I walked 70km over the four days, as lots of pastries provided lots of sugar-fueled energy! I would recommend coeliacs went to Paris just for the pastries from Helmut Newcake, but the abundance of other options made the trip even better.

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Niche – Gluten Free Restaurant Review

Words to bring joy to the heart of any London coeliac: ‘fully gluten free restaurant’. They’re multiplying! Now embracing the wonders of a completely gluten free restaurant is Niche, next to Sadler’s Wells theatre and on the border between Farringdon and Angel.

If you are anyone eating gluten free in London (or can come down for any sort of visit), you must visit Niche. The restaurant itself was light and airy, the staff were friendly, the menu had a great range of choice, and the food was fantastic.

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I had been meaning to try Niche for weeks, since hearing that it was now all gluten free and checking out their awesome menu, but even though I live and work a 10 minute walk away I hadn’t quite gotten through the door. So with a free weekend I was determined to make it for brunch. Niche serves brunch Saturday and Sunday until 3pm and, in a rarity for the hipster brunch spots of Clerkenwell and Islington, takes reservations. I should note that this is a completely independent review. I received nothing from Niche except tasty food, but I’m about to use enough superlatives that my independence might be doubted…

First up was parmesan and cheddar doughnuts. Just the name on the menu sounds awesome. And when they arrived it was literally fried cheese. Very tasty fried cheese. They were served with a tomato and red pepper sauce, which my boyfriend enjoyed, but I just went straight for the cheese.

Fried cheese doughnuts. One of the few times I'll allow something served in a basket.

Fried cheese doughnuts. One of the few times I’ll allow something served in a basket.

The inside of the fried cheese.

The inside of the fried cheese.

For the mains we went for typical brunch options. My poor boyfriend even had to wait to eat his food so I could photograph it, only happens in a gluten free restaurant! He had a full English and I had eggs Benedict. Full English got a thumbs up, especially the sausages. Eggs Benedict was also awesome, with a really thick Hollandaise and crispy bacon. We both agreed that the eggs were the right consistency and with the right seasoning, which is rare at a brunch spot.

Full English, fully gluten free.

Full English, fully gluten free.

Eggs Benedict (scrambled because I don't like poached) with a side of avocado and awesome hollandaise.

Eggs Benedict (scrambled because I don’t like poached) with a side of avocado and awesome hollandaise.

Because we hadn’t eaten enough tasty things already, I insisted on dessert. Because who can resist a peanut butter and white chocolate blondie?! (Except my boyfriend. Who is weird and doesn’t like peanut butter, so only ate the ice cream. MORE FOR ME.) It was squidgy and rich and awesome. I noticed on the way out that they’re available for takeaway too…

WHITE CHOCOLATE AND PEANUT BUTTER BLONDIE. So many good words together.

WHITE CHOCOLATE AND PEANUT BUTTER BLONDIE. So many good words together.

But I resisted the takeaway blondie this time and instead got a chocolate chip cookie, which I later ate in the sun. Cookie was the right amount of baked (ie almost not), and the chocolate had remained gooey in the sun. It got the highest praise of ‘You wouldn’t know the difference’ from the gluten eater.

Cookie in the sun.

Cookie in the sun.

As you might be able to tell, I loved Niche. Couldn’t find anything to fault it on my first visit, and hope that will remain the same on my sure-to-be-lots of subsequent visits. Any and all gluten free people of London must visit. And take your ‘normal’ friends, they’ll never know the difference. The food is just good, in addition to being gluten free.

I decided to go for a typical brunch main on this visit but spent a long time agonising over my decision. I will have to go back many times, as I really wanted to try the cauliflower steak, the superfood salad, the beef and chorizo pie, and pretty much everything else on the menu. I will update this review as I try more. I have discovered that they do takeaway and Deliveroo, which may be great for tastiness but bad for my bank balance.

We had had brunch the day before at a hipster spot in Hackney. Where we paid a lot more for a dark restaurant, unseasoned food, and no gluten free carbs on the menu whatsoever. I will only be returning to one brunch place that I tried this weekend, and it is most definitely Niche.

La Polenteria – Gluten Free Restaurant Review

London can often feel full of chain restaurants, which can be both good and bad as a coeliac. I am often grateful for the large number of Pizza Expresses available, especially with the never-ending supply of vouchers, but I also like to support independent restaurants and eat something different! Luckily Soho has a large number of independent restaurants with gluten free options, including one of my favourites: La Polenteria.

On one visit they had balloons that you could write on. This was my contribution.

On one visit they had balloons that you could write on. This was my contribution.

La Polenteria does nothing but polenta, as might be gathered by the name, but in a huge variety of ways. Pressed and grilled polenta slices are used in place of bread for bruschetta, soft polenta is used as a base for stew, there is polenta pasta, and even desserts baked with polenta. Everything on the menu can now be gluten free, although this isn’t labelled and can be confusing, and they have been accredited by Coeliac UK.

I have been to La Polenteria numerous times over the last year so have had a thorough peruse of the menu. They have experimented with different options, including salads, sandwiches and pasta, but always have a selection of vegan, vegetarian and meat-based dishes served directly on polenta.

If you arrive before a certain time of the evening (I think 7) they do a happy hour, with small polenta tasters and fruit-based champagne cocktails to start.

Mini happy hour polenta bites.

Mini happy hour polenta bites.

Rose champagne cocktail with flower petal.

Champagne cocktail with flower petal.

I have also had the full portion of bruschetta as a starter. The polenta worked really well as a base for the tomatoes and this is definitely something I will try myself at home for parties.

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My favourite mains have been the ones with soft polenta and lots of cheese. They are very generous portions with great quality toppings. The toppings vary based on season, with more stews in the winter and vegetables in the summer, and are always tasty. And you can’t go wrong with this much cheese.

Polenta with tomatoes and an entire ball of mozzarella. Perfect for summer.

Polenta with tomatoes and an entire ball of mozzarella. Perfect for summer.

Polenta with a huge wedge of grilled cheese, very tasty Italian ham, and raspberries. So much cheese.

Polenta with a huge wedge of grilled cheese, very tasty Italian ham, and raspberries. So much cheese.

On my last visit I also tried their fresh pasta, getting the gnocchi with red pesto. I thought it was very tasty, and nice to have fresh gluten free pasta! However I think I will go back to the soft polenta next time because it’s a bit more unusual and not something I would do to the same standard at home because of the awesome toppings.

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Sometimes I have even had room for dessert (or gotten something to go…) and my favourite is this chocolate and coconut bar which is exactly like a coconut gluten free Nanaimo bar, for any other coeliac Canadians in London. (Please get in touch if you are out there, I can’t be the only one!) For those uninitiated into such delights, it’s a chocolate base (cooked with polenta here), with a coconut cream filling and chocolate ganache on top. Highly recommended.

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Word has obviously been spreading about La Polenteria, including a mention in Time Out last week, and on my last few visits it has been getting busier and busier. It’s a small location in a bustling area so I would definitely make a reservation for dinner, especially on a weekend night.

Overall I would highly recommend La Polenteria to anyone looking for a non-chain gluten free restaurant in London!