Lisbon: The Gluten Free Suitcase Guide
The sun always seems to be shining on Portugal’s hilly capital, which is not only one of the world’s oldest cities, but one of the richest when it comes to culture, nightlife and good food. However, as the home of the Pasteis de Nata – or custard tarts – Lisbon can, at first, seem impenetrable for a gluten free traveller. I can assure you that this is most certainly not the case. While so much of Portuguese cuisine is naturally gluten free, a lot of restaurants and producers have gone out of their way to prove that they are moving with the times and catering to gluten free diners specifically. Here’s hoping this guide convinces you to book those flights you’ve been considering!
If you arrive hungry and in need of breakfast, lunch or a sweet treat, Zarzuela should be your first destination. Located in the hilly and historical Bairro Alto district, this bar and bakery is Lisbon’s most well-known gluten free spot, known for its cross-contamination awareness and Pasteis de Nata! The bakery also produces gluten filled treats but keeps them strictly separate from the gluten free items, in separate and clearly marked display cases. As well as the vast array of cakes, pastries and sweets, patrons can sit down and tuck into a gluten free toasted or fresh sandwich, pasta dishes and homemade gluten free pizzas. All go perfectly with a bottle of Daura Damm beer so pull up a chair! Closed on Tuesdays.
R. Barnadino Costa 21-23
Brown’s Hotel Group and Restaurants
If you’re looking for gorgeous accommodation which offers a great gluten free breakfast and access to a bar, look no further than the Brown’s Hotel Group. I had the pleasure of staying at the group’s central location for a whole week and realised that the gluten free bread there was second to none. Put a call in to the hotel prior to your arrival and they will ensure you are provided with the crustiest and warmest of bread baskets each morning. The rolls are heated in an oven away from the toasters used for regular bread so there is no chance of cross contamination. The breakfast buffet has an ample selection of cured meats, cheeses and fresh fruit as well as eggs, bacon and gluten free cereal upon request.
Rua da Assunção nº75
Rua dos Sapateiros 73
Rua da Vitória 88
Foodies from near and far will rejoice when they step inside the recently refurbished Mercado da Ribeira market, which in 2014 was taken over by travel guide publisher Time Out. The market is now home to a multitude of upmarket food stalls, which in many cases are headed up by top Lisbon chefs and offer wine pairing to compliment the dishes on offer. Seafood dominates the agenda here, which makes sense given the market’s close proximity to the river bank. The only problem inside the Time Out Market is that there is too much choice, with many of the stalls listing the GF options clearly on their billboard-style menus. I personally recommend you start your market journey with a glass of the chilled Vinho Verde of the day at Manteigaria Silva and wander over to top chef Alexandre Silva’s kitchen for the black rice with sauteed scallops and seaweed or some hearty and fresh Bacalao atop a bed of spinach. If you’re not stuffed, snack on some freshly sliced ham from various vendors or an ice cream from Santini, where the staff will show you a gluten free allergen chart and open a new barrel of ice cream before serving you to avoid cross contamination.
Av. 24 de Julho 49
A true hidden gem in the Bairro Alto district, Flower Power is a flower and art shop turned restaurant which prides itself on using only the freshest ingredients. You’ll find a number of traditional Portuguese dishes on the menu, including the most delicious baked bacalao and on the dessert menu: one of the best chocolate cakes I have ever had, made up of lots of layers of thin chewy meringue. The waiting staff here go above and beyond to tend to anyone with a dietary requirement and you’ll enjoy your meal surrounded by beautiful art – what more could you ask for?
Calçada do Combro 2
Arguably the most Instagrammed cafe in Lisbon, Nicolau’s pastel colours and organic menu offerings draw in patrons from all over the world. You will undoubtedly have to wait for a table here but the gluten free crepiocas are worth the wait. They are clearly marked on the menu as gluten free, as well as the buckwheat pancakes and a selection of cakes. It’s a good idea to mention your dietary requirements upon arrival regardless as the hustle and bustle in this cafe is non stop. There are two additional locations in Lisbon – Amelia and Basilio – but their gluten free options are more limited so it’s definitely worth paying Nicolau a visit!
R. São Nicolau 17
While people may not set out to eat McDonald’s in a place as gastronomically rich as Lisbon, sometimes it will just happen. With numerous locations across the city, McDonald’s is a goldmine for gluten free patrons desperate to get their hands on some nostalgic and coeliac-safe junk food. Portugal offers a gluten free bun as a substitute on every single hamburger with the exception of the deep fried chicken and fish fillets. As always, the classic french fries are safe and fried in their own separate fryer so a complete meal of indulgence is possible! McDonald’s in Portugal also offers a number of gluten free extras including soups and salads. Those of you craving something sweet can enjoy a gluten free cone for your ice cream after your meal. A selection of locations are listed below.
Centro Comercial Continente de Lojas 008
Av. Nações Unidas 1-4
Praça Alvalade 14A-15D
Aeroporto de Lisboa
Alameda das Comunidades Portuguesas
It doesn’t matter where I am in the world, at some point during my travels I will crave what has got to be my favourite cuisine – Italian. While Lisbon may be peppered with Italian restaurants, the one that really goes out of its way to cater to the gluten free community is tucked away in the hills of the Campo de Ourique neighbourhood. Say you’re gluten free at La Trattoria and you’ll be immediately presented with the most wonderful of bread baskets, featuring ciabatta, breadsticks, olives and truffle ricotta dip. This restaurant has an extensive gluten free menu which includes a Melanzane Alla Parmigiana starter which could win awards – so crispy and cheesy, surrounded by bubbling tomato sauce and a crispy side salad for extra freshness. Choose from a number of sensational pasta dishes for your main or hearty meat and fish options and expect to leave stuffed and happy!
R. Artilharia 79
Seafood lovers will not want to miss out on a night indulging in langoustines and fresh clams at this traditional Marisqueira. This no frills restaurant is permanently full of locals and seems to not have been inundated with tourists despite its delicious offerings. Choose from an array of naturally gluten free fresh shellfish and prepare to be amazed at the vast platters that then arrive at your table. The portions make it perfect for sharing and the ideal prep for drinks later on. Patrons should be prepared to wait for tables if arriving after 9pm but I promise it will be worth it! Closed on Tuesdays.
Av. Alm. Reis 27B
If by now you haven’t had enough bacalao or codfish, I recommend you head straight to Sacramento do Chiado where the best Carpaccio de Bacalao of your life awaits. Order this to start and enjoy it solo or with some of the fresh gluten free bread that the restaurant brings upon request. While the decor may be garish, with deep reds and faux crystal chandeliers, you’ll want to stay at this contemporary Portuguese eatery for mains and desserts. The steaks are particularly good here, as are the traditional fried potatoes and vegetable sides. Incredibly accommodating staff made the experience all the more enjoyable.
Calçada Sacramento 40 a 46
What could possibly be better than taking in one of Lisbon’s most historic sites while enjoying a meal? Restaurante Conqvistador is located high up in the hilltop neighbourhood of Castelo, which is home to the medieval Sao Jorge castle. Have a seat outside on the tables set up on the cobblestone street or inside the tiled restaurant and start with a plate of freshly sauteed king prawns and some marinated olives. While this restaurant would not seem an obvious choice for the allergy or coeliac crowd, it cooks up a number of Portuguese specials daily that are again, naturally free from gluten. The veal in jus is a house speciality and comes complete with a fried egg and flash fried potatoes that are so thin they are essentially crisps – perfect for soaking up the moisture of the leftover sauce. Absolutely worth the hike!
Tv. de São Bartolomeu 12
Last but not least, Bomjardin is a must-visit for the meat eaters out there. The concept of this old and historical eatery is simple – spit roasted chicken with piri piri seasoning and an array of sides. Do not dwell too long on the extensive menu because chicken is what this place does best. Choose your size and your piping hot plates will be with you in a flash. The fries are entirely safe for coeliacs and will be quickly topped up should you require more. The salads are large and also a good sharer to add green to your beautiful beige meal, which can be enjoyed al fresco or indoors. Order a bottle of Vinho Verde and enjoy!
Tv. de Santo Antão 11
This Italian restaurant is located on the water edge with a wonderful view of the old port – Belem. You’ll be handed a gluten free menu upon arrival when you state your requirements from which you can choose a number of pasta dishes or pizza. One thing to note about this restaurant is that it is by no means a 100% gluten free kitchen so while the staff try their hardest to keep gluten free items separate, there is a risk of cross contamination. I enjoyed a lasagne (a rarity!) at Nosolo Italia and had only a great experience. The wine list is pretty decent too!
Avenida Brasília, 202, Santa Maria de Belém
Lisbon is home to multiple supermarkets, the larger ones of which are incredibly well stocked when it comes to gluten free snacks. Jumbo Pao de Acucar in the Amoireras Shopping Centre should be your one-stop-shop while you’re in Lisbon, with a reasonably priced and eclectic gluten free range. Be prepared to leave with multiple bags and stock for your Gluten Free Suitcase on the way home! Also check out Pingo Doce stores, dotted around the city for their Sem Gluten range.