Friday, 8 August 2014

Finding Our Gluten Free Feet In Paris

The last couple of weeks have been insanely busy and I have been no-where near the kitchen other than for the purpose of basic sustenance. We took a couple of weeks away from work and seem to have crammed every waking moment..... from decorating to a brief break away and now my daughter's birthday is looming fast and cakes need to be made and a party organised to celebrate. Needless to say, I have been a bit lax on the blogging front. I apologise, but sometimes family has to come first............ with time to refresh relationships and just enjoy each other's company.

Our break away took us to Paris for a few days. For anyone who has not been, it is absolutely a place you must visit. It has so much to offer and is incredibly diverse, both in culture and interest.

As it was my daughter's first visit, we focussed on the usual tourist destinations, from whizzing to the top of the Eiffel Tower, to a leisurely trip down the Seine (and everything in between). We did buses, the metro and an awful lot of walking!

But as anyone who has to eat gluten free will know, the trickiest part of visiting any new country or city, is knowing what to eat and where to eat....... safely.  When we go away for longer periods, we tend to stay where we at least have the option of self-catering, as this makes it so much easier to feed ourselves with confidence. On this occasion however and as it was a shorter trip, we stayed in a hotel and decided to take our chances.

I thought Paris would be easy.......... I've heard they have a good range of gluten free baked products in the supermarket so thought they would be well geared to understanding gluten free restrictions. Armed with a spattering of 'gluten free French' (mainly translations for key ingredients) and gluten free French restaurant cards, I figured eating out would be a relatively straight forward affair.

How wrong was I?! Excuse my 'French', but we could find sod all in the supermarkets on the baked front and a good portion of the restaurants we attempted to visit shook their heads in horror at the suggestion they might be able to feed us safely. Thank goodness my daughter eats omelettes and thank goodness I took a pile of English gluten free crackers and rolls to accompany the local ham and cheese that we had to fall back on. It was far from easy!

Fortunately, I am a bit OCD about researching any specialist gluten free restaurants before I go away and I had a few recommended venues up my sleeve. Unfortunately, they turned out to be in fairly random parts of the city, which required specific journeys off the tourist track and planning to make sure we were there when they were open (no popping into the next available restaurant at any time we fancied!). But in a city full of mouth-watering patisseries that taunt you with their glutenous delicacies, the specialist gluten free patisseries and creperies offer safe treats which are just as beautiful, perfectly formed and delicious and are absolutely worth the effort to find them. And trust me...... when you don't want to see another omelette ever again, these places are a godsend!

Biosphere Cafe : 47 Rue Laborde, 75008, Paris (01 42 93 45 58)
Within reasonable walking distance of Montmartre, Biosphere Cafe is a completely gluten free creperie, which serves pancakes, breads, soups, pizza, quiche, macarons and sweet pastries.  My daughter's face and excitement when we went in and I told her she could eat anything she wanted, is one of those memories I will treasure.

The cafe was incredibly busy and deservedly so (if you visit at peak times, it would definitely be worth ringing ahead of time to book a table). The service was welcoming, the staff spoke good English and the crepes were really good! We ate savoury ones, so that we could sample the patisserie for dessert.

Tuna, leek and cheese :

Spinach, goats cheese and egg :

I didn't get any photos of pud, because we were so excited to be able to eat them, I forgot my camera was there! Oops..... But take it from me, the little cheesecakes and caramel tiramisu were lip-lickingly delicious and worth every Euro........

We would have loved to have gone back for a second meal, but time ran away with us and we weren't within reasonable distance to get there easily. Hey Ho..... next time........

Helmut Newcake : 36 Rue Bichat, 75010, Paris (09 82 59 00 39) - Bakery & Cafe / 28 Rue Vignon, 75009, Paris - take away only.
We tried both the take away and the cafe. The take away is really central and within easy walking distance of the Louvre, but the cafe requires a bit of a metro trek.  It is well worth the effort....... the patisserie is to die for (gluten free or not!)..... Look at these beauties........

Helmut Newcake was the first gluten free bakery in Paris, opened by Marie Tagliaferro (a French trained pastry chef) with her husband in 2011, after she discovered she was intolerant to gluten. Since then, she has been making French gluten free patisserie magic for locals and foreigners alike. You feel like you are eating works of art which would, in any taste test, win hands down against the traditional glutenous versions. So popular is this little cafe, that some reviews suggest you should book several days in advance to get a table. We were lucky........... we turned up on spec for Sunday brunch, and were squeezed in on the bar stools overlooking the street. I suspect that had it not been August (when the Parisians are 'en masse' out of town), we would not have been so fortunate. Happy holidays Parisians!

Treated to a basket of fresh gluten free breads, marmalade brioche and delightful little choux buns, pancakes, bacon, smoked salmon, salad and scrambled egg.............. freshly squeezed juice and coffee........... all followed by a perfect slice of hazelnut gateaux, this meal was heaven!

My only criticism is that the meal that was served as standard was very adult-focussed and my daughter found it a little alien to her palate. On the other hand.......... we think it is good to broaden her culinary horizons, and faced with what was put in front of her (salad carefully removed by Mum), she wolfed it down.

We bought bread and pastries from the take away....... The bread was quite dense in texture with a good crispy crust and did us well for breakfast for a couple of days with local cheese and ham.

The pastries? Well.........I think they speak for themselves......................

Unfortunately we didn't make it to our third intended gluten free restaurant as we ran out of time. I know that we should have prioritised all eating venues over the Paris sites, but travelling with an eight year old, means some things just have to give......... darn!!!! Noglu however, came highly recommended (if not particularly child-focussed) and if you are travelling to Paris, would be well worth a visit. I will certainly get there next time round!

Not to be forgotten of course is the Parisian obsession with the macaron............ which for the most part are naturally gluten free (although it is always worth checking for sure that they haven't slipped any flour in) as they are made with ground almonds and are available all over Paris.

World famous of course, are the macaron from Laduree which absolutely deserved a drool-worthy trip. Temptingly beautiful coloured discs of slightly chewy, almondy sweetness await you within each little boutique, but beware, most of their shops are fronted with long queues of tourists. We found the one on Rue Bonaparte to be relatively quiet in comparison to the others.

All the macaron in Paris appeared to be highly priced, and Laduree are no exception at 45 Euros for a box of eighteen. Granted they are beautifully presented and uniquely flavoured. But best of all (for us gluten-avoiders), you can bring a box home and enjoy a little taste of France long after you have left the Eurostar behind!

Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-14 unless otherwise indicated


  1. Despite the poor choice in the supermarkets those bakeries look amazing! I'm off to Paris with work for 1 day in October and hope to be able to visit some of these places while I'm there. I've never been to Paris before but looks beautiful.

    1. Definitely try and get to one Katie when you are there. If it's patisserie you are after, I would recommend Helmut Newcake for sure!

  2. I love Paris and I will be making a trip later this year. Hope you had a good time away. Definitely looks like you got a lot of delicious gluten free treats! I'll see if I can get to one or two of them to try for myself.

    1. It was a lovely trip, thanks Ros. Paris is fab! It would be interesting to see what a gluten eater thinks of the gluten-free competition on the patisserie front...... Let me know if you try some!

  3. What a great tip and a wonderful selection of gluten free bakeries and cafes you managed to find (although it certainly didn't sound easy!). As you say, thank goodness the marvellous macaroons are gluten free- no one does hose terrifically tasty morsels anywhere better than Paris!

    1. The bonus was finding gluten free bakeries which did such astonishingly beautiful patisserie! And the macarons were so so tempting!

  4. How wonderful Paris. I have been there only a couple of times quite a few years ago now.
    How strange though in such a large city that you could not find gluten free restaurants! These days so many people cannot take gluten, there need to be more! Surely they will be over time.
    I love your photos of French patisserie... the French certainly know how to make fabulous sweet treats!! And they are so beautiful too!

    1. Thanks Alida. I agree.... the French were just not geared up to it! Do the Italians do better? If so.... I'm heading to Italy next time!

  5. I can never resist anything from Laduree!

  6. I'm so glad you managed to find some wonderful 'sans gluten' places to eat. I think that's one of the benefits of going to a big city as they are far more diverse and cater for all needs. I bet your daughter must have been in heaven!

    1. Travel is the biggest 'headache' of having a dietary need, but we definitely lucked out here. My daughter was really thrilled!


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