I’ve spent a good chunk of June traveling, one for a brief escape from the confines of Berlin and another for a wedding back in the home country. Both of these gave me a chance to sample the gluten-less offerings of other lands, and despair at the current state of affairs here in Berlin.
Thanks to Gluten Free Globetrotter I was aware of a couple of restaurants in Prague, one of which is completely gluten free and not by accident, as in, they actually make gluten free versions of wheat based dishes that you can’t normally eat! Oh, how I love places that do this, its good to be able to eat in places where their food is gluten free but only gluten free because, by default, it has no gluten in it. But to be able go to a restaurant where you can eat food that has so far been banned from your life, is amazing.
The restaurants themselves are not much to look at, the first here called Švejk Restaurant U Karla is a chain restaurant with the kind of staff and service you would expect from a chain restaurant (ie. bored looking staff and easily/quickly prepared food).
The food was a little on the bland side, but it did give me the opportunity to try some dumplings.
The second called Restaurace Na Zlaté křižovatce is much better in terms of food and service, and is the aforementioned gluten free specialist place.
The food was amazing, not least because they had in-house freshly baked soft bread (which you can also order a full loaf for the next day to take home).
I got to have my first wiener schnitzel and the most amazing beef goulash I’ve ever tasted (gluten free or otherwise).
Plus, the even had DESSERTS! Meaning I could have my first apfelstrudel.
The only worry was that the place was near empty every time I went (except for a few English speaking tourists). Is this why we don’t have a place like this in Berlin? Is it just too niche to bring in the numbers required to keep it afloat?
On the downside for Prague, I didn’t find much in the way of Gluten Free offerings in the stores. I guess its always a game of give and take.
Just take a look at this picture.
That is in a fairly big but nondescript local Tesco’s. There is nothing particularly special about it, this is a pretty standard offering of gluten free products in the UK. The main thing to notice being the shear variety of offerings from different companies. For some reason, in the UK there are just a lot more of them making gluten free food, the result being that there is a lot of competition and the quality of the food is far superior to anything I’ve ever had in Berlin.
The bread above was amazing (although a chunk of that is the delight at it being soft, what with me growing up in England) and was almost indistinguishable from normal wheat based bread. That is, it didn’t crumble into a powder once inside your mouth.
For the wedding itself, I’d requested gluten free food at the afternoon tea reception and I’d expected to get something rather bland and horrific. Imagine my joy when these were presented to me.
Again, its not that the place I went to, or the catering company, are that special. Its just when you have a very good selection available in supermarkets, its very easy for people to offer good gluten free food.
It is easy to get bitter about the state of gluten free food here in Germany (or maybe more specifically Berlin). I mean, yes, the restaurants in the UK where I was were few and far between, but they were there (gluten free sandwich shops, chip shops with gluten free fish in batter, Marks and Spencers cafe offering gluten free buns) and in Prague the restaurants were limited but what was there is pretty damn good. The vast majority of gluten free food here in Berlin seems to be a good 5 or 10 years behind what you can get in most other countries, and I’m not exactly sure why this is. Gluten intolerance and celiac disease must occur at the same frequency in the population as other countries, so why is it relatively unheard of here? And what is it going to take for it to catch up?