In December I visited Brussels (along with day trips to Ghent and Bruges) for the second time but the first time as a coeliac. Although a lot of the dedicated gluten free restaurants are located quite far from the centre of Brussels (where we were staying), I still managed to eat well and try some tasty food.
A lot of gluten free options were also vegan (which is useful if you are dairy free and of course vegan) or just generally meat free. But I’m happy to try anything as long as it tastes good and there is no gluten involved.
You can’t go to Belgium without having a waffle and VEGANWAF have NAILED their gluten free and vegan alternative. Not too dense, perfectly sweet and with the chocolate and hazelnuts I added, I was in heaven. They have a big selection of toppings including vegan Chantilly cream as well as various sauces, syrups and fruit. I would go back to Brussels just for this waffle to be honest.
The Sister Cafe
At this cosy cafe the waffles are made with chickpea, rice four and banana making them 100% gluten free, and all of their sweet toppings including their vanilla rice ice-cream are also vegan. They also have savoury toppings including things like fried eggs, bacon, avocado as well as a vegan savoury option which has “mozzarisella” amongst other tasty stuff.
The Sister Cafe
As well as their waffles (which I had for brunch one day), I’m pretty sure that their entire menu can be made gluten free. From eggs and avo on toast, to superfood bowls, to peanut butter and blueberry jam on toast topped with fruit, cinnamon and chia and hemp seeds, you are spoilt for choice!
Their fresh juices are also a dream and can put some goodness into your body in between all the gluten free beer and waffles you may be consuming.
If you are dining later in the day they also have sandwiches, finger food, Buddah bowls and soups. Make sure you let them know that you are gluten free as they also serve normal bread.
Ricotta and Parmesan
This quirky Italian restaurant is fab cosy dinner spot. The exposed brick walls are covered in traditional cooking tools and family photos. It can get very busy so I would recommend either booking or going quite late. From 9.30pm it starts to get quieter although they still were seating people at 11pm!
A section of their menu includes a list of gluten free, vegetarian and vegan options (although these do not all cross over so read the menu carefully). In theory the gluten free pasta could be used in other pasta dishes if you checked which ones were gluten free, but I ended up having one from their GF list which included pesto, truffle and pine nuts. What I really loved about this dish was that the gluten free pasta was casarecce which is SUCH a nice change from the standard GF penne/fusilli/spaghetti. Although the dish did not have meat or vegetables (aside from being topped with rocket), the shape of the pasta added a nice texture to the dish.
I defo recommend the house red wine which was only £3 a glass and totally delicious. We were also offered a free shot of limoncello at the end of the meal. My kinda restaurant.
Hard Rock Cafe
An international chain can always be a safe bet for a gluten free meal as they generally uphold the same standards. Online I’d read mixed reviews about gluten free experiences here, but I had a really positive one.
The manager came and explained in detail what I was able to eat and how they could adapt meals to make them gluten free for me to allow me to have more options. I’d seen online that their chips were fried in the same fryer as everything else making them unsafe for coeliacs but I was happy to be offered mash as a side instead of salad. Carbs all the way. I’ve started embracing being offered mash instead of chips in restaurants as it is a nice change and gets me to try something I wouldn’t usually order but often really enjoy.
I went for the cheeseburger and when the waitress took my order she double checked for my allergies and reiterated the information about the fryer.
Lunchtime is probably a lot quieter than the evenings, but you can either sit at the bar and have a drink while you wait for your table or put your name down and come back later.
Belgium is famous for the beer, so it would just be rude not to try their gluten free offerings while I was there. I was pleasantly surprised by just HOW many they had, and I had never seen or tired any of them before.
With 2004 beers I was hoping I could at least find one gluten free beer, and I was right (plus a few more). Depending on which part of the venue you are in (there are different bars in different rooms and on different floors) they will have various selections. Some may only have one or two, but if you head downstairs they have a whole list of beers. Different barmen were offering different beers based on my preference of blonde beers but downstairs if you ask for a list you will see just how many they have to offer you.
Gluten free beer can be hard to track down in supermarkets if you don’t know what you are looking for. They are put with all the regular beers, and as I didn’t recognise any of the brands it took a long time to either locate a tiny GF symbol or see in the ingredients that there were some gluten free gems.
Below is one of the brands I found in a larger Carrefour supermarket which has several different GF beers.
Certain cafes/bars/restaurants will also serve gluten free beer and some even have signs outside which means it is getting more popular and will hopefully make it even more accessible in the future.
Travelling Via Eurostar
I thought I would also include the food I had to and from Brussels. We travelled by Eurostar with Standard Premier tickets so we had a meal and drinks included. Make sure you put down any allergies/dietary requirements in advance so they are able to cater for you.
On the way there we had breakfast which I was very pleasantly surprised with. Although I missed out on the pastries, all my other GF equivalents were very good. The gluten free option is also dairy free so I had to ask for normal butter and milk, but I didn’t leave my journey feeling hungry and enjoyed everything I was given.
Dinner on the way back was not as good as they didn’t have any gluten free rolls and my gluten and dairy free meal was a lot smaller and plainer than the regular alternative. I did come home and demolish a Nando’s after a mouthful of plain chicken and lentils followed by two cubes of pineapple as a desert. They did still have a Dove Bar which kept me going along with my wine, so it could have been worse!
If you venture outside of Brussels and visit Bruges, I definitely recommend visiting The Bottle Shop as they have a huge section of gluten free beers. Ask the staff where they are, as they are handily in a little section all together.
What are you favourite gluten free places in Brussels?