A couple of years back Nuala was diagnosed as Coeliac, which essentially means she has to avoid foods with gluten in them, basically anything containing wheat or other cereals. In this blog, I thought I'd share some tips on how Nuala's tackled the challenge of gluten free dining in Portugal
and hopefully there will be something useful for those of you with dietary constraints.
First, if possible buy a 'Coeliac Card' or Portuguese Eating Out Card. Nuala obtained hers from the Coeliac Society of Ireland (www.coeliac.ie) for a couple of euros but I'm sure they're available from other national groups. The card essentially explains, in Portuguese, that you are Coeliac and are gluten intolerant. This card breaks down any potential language barrier when you're in a restaurant.
We tend to eat breakfast at the villa each day. The important thing is to have access to gluten free cereal options or gluten free bread. The shop with the best choice seems to be Continente. Many of the other stores (Pingo Dolce, Aldi, Lidl) have some Gluten Free options but not the choice offered by Continente.
Lunch is probably the most challenging meal of the day regarding choice. Most restuarants do not offer gluten free bread options, therefore sandwiches are a non-starter. Salads are always available and are gluten free, but a salad every lunchtime quickly becomes boring. If you fancy fast-food then the likes of McDonalds and Burger King do an extensive gluten free offering (including gluten free beer!).
Dinner tends to be easier. Most meat or fish based main courses are likely to have been grilled or fried. The main thing is to avoid sauces and dressings that might contain flour. Fries/chips are also generally served with everything and are safe as long as they are cooked separately from any other battered dishes (it's always worth asking). On our most recent trip we found good options at the following restaurants:
Osaka, Monte Gorde - this is an all you can eat buffet type place. We've always had great sushi there (which is totally gluten free) and it's excellent value at €15 per person. Tripadvisor reviews are mixed though.
Castelo Cafe and Restuarant, Tavira- An excellent steakhouse. In the summer you can sit outside but during the cooler months it's best to book a table inside. It's essential to make a reservation as they only have 16 seats inside. The food is always excellent and the homemade chips/fries are totally gluten free.
Maharaja Patiala Tandoori Restaurant, Monte Gordo - An Indian/Nepalese restaurant where the service is exception. The host, Thakur, will certainly look after you. Indian food is usually a safe bet for Coeliacs, with just the naan breads to be avoided.
Restaurante Dom Rodrigo, Castro Marim - A typically Portuguese restaurant, with excellent service and a great reputation. Definitely advisable to reserve a table in advance. Plenty of grilled meats and fish, served with gluten free sides such as rice or boiled potatos.
So in summary, most restaurants are accomodating. Lunch tends to be the most difficult meal of the day, but evening meals are generally fine.
Nuala & Matthew
We fell in love with the Eastern Algarve a few years back. We'll try and impart our knowledge of the area and other travel tips via these blog posts.