When you’re coeliac, or have a specific dietary requirement, your travel planning priorities definitely change. Once upon a time, my first point of call was to hunt out the best off-the-beaten-track spots that locals love; these days, it’s looking at whether restaurants at my soon-to-be destination cater to gluten free eating needs. Slightly tragic, but necessary.
Upon booking a trip to Valencia, one of the first discoveries I made for gluten free food in this Spanish city was an entirely gluten free bakery – it definitely bode well. My research threw up a whole list of places at which I’d be well catered to, and I headed off feeling confident that I wouldn’t be left only eating snack bars that I’d stashed in my suitcase.
Whilst only in the city for a long weekend rather than an extended stay, I didn’t have difficulty finding tummy-friendly meals, and wasn’t limited to just endless platters of meat and cheese, either (although this might not have been a bad thing). Plus, I didn’t glutened once – a huge tick for a successful trip!
If you’re heading to Valencia and want to go armed with some ideas for places to eat, read on for my favourite gluten free eatery finds…
Surely a no-brainer for any coeliac to visit if they’re in the city, Celiacruz is an entirely gluten free bakery situated about a 15 minute walk south of the city centre. Serving up both savoury and sweet goods, you’ll find everything here from croissants and empanadas to cakes and pastries. I cannot tell you how excited I was, however, to find PROPER DOUGHNUTS. Not the cake/baked ones that are usually the gluten free variety, but proper fried-style beauties with flaky icing, just like I used to be able to enjoy.
It. Was. Heaven.
Didn’t want to be a total sugar fiend on my visit though, so also picked up a ham and cheese croissant – the pastry was golden brown and flaky with a great texture, and there was a good amount of tasty filling, too. My advice? Run, don’t walk to Celiacruz – and think of me when you tuck into a doughnut.
Tucked down a little side street populated by a variety of other tapas joints, this restaurant was the location for my favourite meal while I was in Valencia. Allergens are clearly marked on the menu with symbols, so I had no trouble deciphering what was safe for me to eat, and there was a great variety of options to choose from.
We ordered four tapas dishes from the menu: roasted aubergine in tomato sauce with cheese; the iberico meat and Manchebo cheese platter; patatas bravas with aioli; and goat’s cheese salad. Whereas in the UK tapas dishes are small, we soon discovered this was not the case in Spain (and definitely not at La Teresina) – each dish is the size of a regular meal plate, so we ended up with a ridiculous amount of food that barely fit on the table (much to the hilarity of the couple next to us). The aubergine was melt in the mouth, the goat’s cheese was genuinely the creamiest and most divine I have ever tasted, and I’m still thinking about the patatas bravas a couple of weeks later.
The staff are also really friendly and are able to speak English to answer any questions you might have. If I’d been staying in the city for longer, I’d definitely have gone back for another meal there – I’d highly recommend you visit at least once, too!
I always think it’s a great sign when a restaurant is busy – even outside of key dining hours – and this after tucking into my lunch here, I quickly understood why this eatery was overflowing with diners. Serving up Italian cuisine, the bustling La Pappardella has a great range of dishes catering to coeliacs on a separate gluten free menu; however, all food allergens are still clearly marked with symbols on the main menu. All pasta dishes can be made with gluten free pasta, while several of the salads are also gluten free. Several of the salads sounded absolutely delicious, so decided to go for one of those – and I am so glad I did! The Popeye (great name) comprised spinach with mushrooms, crispy pancetta, cherry tomatoes, raisins, toasted pine nuts and was topped with big slivers of Parmesan and a good drizzling of a cherry balsamic dressing. The contrasting textures and flavours of the ingredients worked fantastically together, while the sweetness of the cherry in the dressing was ridiculously moreish. My boyfriend, meanwhile, had the aubergine pasta (though not gf) and raved about this dish, too.
One of several bars/restaurants tucked away in a cool circular building, El Leon serves both tapas style smaller plates and bigger meals; all of which are clearly marked with allergens on the menu. I went for the cod dish, which comprised a hearty fillet of fresh fish, which was topped with a garlic-y, hollandaise style sauce – it was totally delicious. This was served on top of a chunky tomato sauce and alongside some crispy chips. A slight panic set in about the chips as, even though the dish had been marked as gluten free, I was concerned about cross contamination in the fryer. However, after checking with the waitress, I was reassured that the fries were cooked in a separate fryer, which is how they were gf; while the patatas bravas were cooked in a gluten-y one, which is why they are not marked gf (sadly). I was really impressed by how aware the staff were of coeliac concerns, which helped me enjoy meal (tasty in its own right) even more.
If you’ve had your fill of paella and tapas, then this light and airy eatery is worth stopping by. You pick up a salad base (choose from different varieties of leaves), then take it up to the counter – where you can choose several toppings from a wide variety. All ingredients are kept in separate tubs, so there’s no chance of them touching each other, and each has its own set of tongs, so there’s no cross contamination in that respect, either. I went for mozzarella, cherry tomatoes and sweetcorn, and the server definitely didn’t scrimp on portions. There are several dressings to choose from, too – the server couldn’t guarantee that the balsamic one I wanted was gf, so he used a fancier balsamic from a glass bottle on display that noted it was gluten free on the packaging. Really fresh ingredients, good portion size and well priced, it’s an ideal healthier option.
Puerta del Mar
I’d read online that this restaurant was one of the best for paella in Valencia and, what with the city being the birthplace of this famous dish, there was no way I could leave without having it at least once. I hadn’t been able to figure out whether they catered to coeliacs though, so took a chance and told the waiter as soon as I was seated that I needed to eat gluten free and asked if this would be possible. He immediately rushed off to the kitchen to find out, then informed me that I was able to eat all of the rice dishes on the menu, and he could provide information on how a few of the others could be adapted to be gf, too (though I didn’t make him go through this as I knew I wanted paella).
Before the paella dish came out, they bought me a heated gluten free baguette which was served in a paper bag – as I also discovered elsewhere, it is provided by the manufacturer in this way so the bread can be stored and heated up without any cross contamination in the kitchen. I’d only just finished the first when they very kindly bought out another – but I wanted to save room for the main. My boyfriend and I shared the chicken, mushroom and pumpkin paella, and it was served straight from the giant pan it had been cooked in. While there wasn’t a great deal of meat in the dish, it had a good flavour (although my boyfriend thought it was a bit too salty) and there was a lot of food overall – we both had three servings each.
Their dessert menu consists of a giant cake trolley, which is overflowing with some incredible looking bakes – to my surprise there was a gluten free one on offer, but I was so full of paella and baguette that I had to decline. Again, another restaurant that impressed me with their care and attention to making sure everything was gluten free and safe for me to eat – definitely worth a visit if you want that extra peace of mind.
La Nicciola Toscana
You can’t go on holiday without getting ice cream, and this little gelato parlour was the perfect stop-off for dessert after dinner one evening. There are a huge range of flavours to choose from, both gelato and sorbet, and each is clearly marked with any allergens – so I could be sure I wasn’t going to accidentally eat any hidden cookie pieces. You can also get your sweet treat in a tub rather than a cone (which isn’t gf). I went for the stracciatella – a milky flavoured gelato with chocolate shavings – and it was perfect; smooth, creamy and with lots of chocolate packed in! Before you order, make sure you tell the server that you’re coealic – otherwise they stick a non-gf wafer in the top of your ice cream, which then obviously ruins the fun. It’s under €3 for a small tub but you get a good two scoops in there, so great value for money.
La Mas Bonita
I went for the salmon, avocado, cucumber, tomato and lemon mayo sandwich, which came served in a sizable baguette. It was freshly baked, so warm and crispy, and it was generously packed with ingredients. However, it’s far from the cheapest option – my sandwich, with no garnish or accompanying sides, was 10 Euros. Yikes. Even if you don’t want to pay that much for food, it’s definitely worth stopping by for a coffee or a drink in the evening so soak up the chilled atmosphere.
Rayuela – a number of dishes that have been certified gluten free by Acecova (the Spanish version of CoealicUK): rayuelarestaurante.es/index.html
At the BioParc – the restaurant outside the main gates (don’t try the eateries inside as it’s a hopeless cause) serves gf bread and pasta dishes, including lasagna: bioparcvalencia.es
Gino’s – gf pasta and a couple of starters/desserts on offer here, with the dishes served on different coloured plates to avoid any confusion: ginos.es/carta/nuestros-menus/menu-sin-gluten
Restaurant Navarro – quite a few gf dishes on the menu: restaurantenavarro.com