It may seem silly, but when I decided to visit Paris as a day trip from London, my immediate thought was that I wanted to find an authentic patisserie that would enable me to enjoy authentic gluten-free baked goods, and quite possibly a gluten-free baguette. As it happens, Paris is home to many gluten-free bakeries, which made narrowing down which one I wanted to patronize during my limited time in the city a real challenge.
I debated long and hard over which patisserie to stop by, but once I discovered 100% gluten-free Helmut Newcake, I knew this was the perfect spot for me with it's convenient location in the center of the city and promise of a full range of sweet and savory dairy-free options.
After a long day of sightseeing by the Louvre, Musee d'Orsay, and Eiffel Tower, the small shop was also a perfect place to pick up a late lunch before heading to Gare du Nord, my final destination to board a Eurostar back to London. As I entered I had high hopes that Helmut Newcake would be the French bakery I've been waiting for since I went gluten-free years ago.
Visiting in the late afternoon on a Friday, I was worried that my options would be limited after the morning and lunchtime rush. I needn't have feared, as I found the cases well-stocked with an lovely array of sweet and savory baked goods on offer. I really appreciated that the label for each type of pastry also listed which ones were dairy-free (sans lactose), which made assess my options a bit easier. Although I could immediately discount the dairy-containing items, I found there were plenty of non-dairy options to choose from. It was really difficult to decide what to order!
The pastry that first caught my eye, and I knew I couldn't leave there without was the stunning rhubarb tart. I was drawn in by the towering meringue atop the pastry, but knew it wouldn't travel well, so I decided to have enjoy it there in the cafe as I decided what else to order.
I loved the crunchy tart base and tangy rhubarb filling. Combined with the pillowy meringue, each bite was absolutely heavenly, and I can say for certain that this was far and away one of the best things I've ever eaten, gluten-free or not. Maybe my experience was enhanced by sitting at a small metal table outside the cafe soaking in the late afternoon sun and people watching, but I was so happy I stopped to savor the moment and this lovely tart.
Knowing I was on my way to the train station and not knowing what would be available to order nearby, I picked up a salad to go, which proved the be a fantastic choice as the salad was every bit as amazing as the rhubarb tart. Atop a bed of fresh greens, I enjoyed the textural and flavor contrast of tomatoes, quinoa, tart pomegranate seeds, and a delicious balsamic dressing. After a long day of train travel and wandering through the streets of Paris, this salad was a perfect pick-me-up that was light, yet substantial.
After enjoying the salad, I could no longer resist the temptation of the eclair chocolat-noisettes, an eclair with chocolate and hazelnuts. The pastry itself was pillowy and had a lovely texture and taste to it. The real star of the show however was the heavenly chocolate-hazelnut cream stuffed inside, augmented by a chocolate ganache atop the pastry and whole hazelnuts.
In look and taste, the eclair was sheer perfection, and something I thought I'd never be able to eat again with gluten and diary as my dual dietary restrictions.
The third sweet pastry I picked up from Helmut Newcake was a lovely and delicate lemon tart (tartelette citron). Here again I succumbed to temptation, as it didn't even make it to London with me, I enjoyed it as an evening treat on the train en route back to the UK.
The tart's crispy, graham-cracker-flavor like crust was delicate, but able to withstand jostling from the bakery, the security line at the train station, and transport to the train. The real star of this pastry though was the lovely lemon filling, which was really refreshing and had a perfect balance of sweet and tart notes. It provided just the boost I needed to get through the last of my journey and navigate back to my hotel in London after a long day.
Of course in visiting a completely gluten-free patisserie, I couldn't leave without sampling one of their savory options, so as to balance out all the sweet treats I purchased. As was the case, I also picked up a pain boule nature, a crusty white bread. The bread was absolutely incredible, featuring a delicious and soft interior and hearty crust. It may have been weird to tear off pieces as a time over the next few days to eat it, but I didn't mind in the least. The bread was just too good, even on its own!
I really hate that one of the highest forms of praise you can give gluten-free baked goods is that you can't tell they're gluten-free. That presumes that gluten-full creations are by default better than their non-gluten counterparts. Helmut Newcake certainly proves that this is not the case, and the sweet and savory items I sampled were simply exceptional on their own merit. Not only are their products of exceptional quality and clearly crafted with care, the staff were really friendly and were able to converse easily in English once my limited French wore out its usefulness.
If you told me all those years ago when gluten and dairy were restricted from my diet that I would be able to go to a completely safe patisserie in the heart of Paris and order bread and sweets without fear, I wouldn't have believed you. In fact, having been there and done just that, it's still hard to fully wrap my mind around it and explain just how meaningful it was to have such a magical experience.
Helmut Newcake should definitely be on any gluten-free foodie or celiac's must-see list when visiting Paris. You won't regret it, and will leave laden with some of the best gluten-free and dairy-free baked goods I have ever encountered.