Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Gluten-Free on Eurostar (2019)

One of the most amazing things about visiting London is that not only is the city jam-packed with extraordinary things to do, see, and eat, but it's a day tripper's dream, with so many cool towns and cities only a few hours away by road or rail. 

Inspired by binge watching the Anglo-French television drama The Tunnel and buoyed by a couple years of high school French (aided by Duolingo), I decided to go on a day trip to Paris for a whirlwind visit to the city of light. I booked my journey on the Eurostar, which delivers you from London's St. Pancras station to Paris' Gare du Nord in a little over two hours, with lovely pastoral scenery in between (as well as the Chunnel). 

As a semi-frequent Amtrak user here in the States, I know to always pack food because the on-board dining options are nonexistent for gluten-free folks. I was pleasantly surprised that in booking my journey, Eurostar not only offered options for those following special diets (in some sections), but those options also included multi-course meals. That's unheard of here, and was curious to see what would be served on board.

For bookings in Standard Premier or Business Premier class, Eurostar is able to accommodate a wide range of special diets with 48 hours' notice (contact them if you have  questions). Meal reservations can be made at the time of booking or any time on their website. They unfortunately cannot accommodate nut-free diets.

To make the most of my there-and-back day in Paris, I booked an early morning train from London (leaving at 7am) and returned on a train departing Paris at 7pm. For both legs, I booked Business Premier tickets, which include access to lounges at both train stations, ticket flexibility (for changes or full refunds), and a three course meal. 

While I wish I could tell you what the three course breakfast was on my train to Paris, I unfortunately slept through my early morning alarm and missed the first leg of my journey. Luckily, thanks to some quick maneuvering by the Eurostar ticket office team, I was able to jump on a train about an hour and a half later, which while saving the day, meant that my gluten-free breakfast and I were irreparably separated. However, I was determined not to let my day be ruined by the setback, and enjoyed a GoMacro protein bar as my less exciting, but substantial breakfast. 

As such, the only meal I can report on is my gluten-free meal on the return leg from Paris to London. Unfortunately, Eurostar cannot accommodate multiple allergens, so while my meal was confirmed to be gluten-free, I had no way of knowing what, if any of it, was dairy-free.

As I've said before in previous posts, while I am still profoundly gluten-intolerant, my dairy sensitivity has lessened over the years, to the point where I can tolerate occasional low-level exposures to it without adverse effects. Since I picked up a late lunch and several pastries at Helmut Newcake to enjoy while waiting for my train, I wasn't really hungry, so I only took a few bites of a couple of the dishes for reporting purposes.



The main course featured fish, rice, and veggies, and was one of the dishes I did sample.The rice was pretty sad- dry and crunchy. The veggies were less than inspired but the fish was better than I expected, not too dry or "fishy." Overall it didn't have much flavor and I only ate a few bites. I'm glad I wasn't banking on this to be my main meal for the evening.



The next vibrantly-hued dish is a beetroot salad. However, this was one dish I did not try.



The best dish on the plate was this colorful pasta and quinoa salad, which featured zucchini noodles, broccoli, and crunchy toasted corn kernels. It had a light and fresh flavor and had none of the blandness or texture issues presented in the fish and rice. While certainly not anything to write home about, nor a particularly memorable dish, it was the only thing on my tray I totally finished. 



Two slices of gluten-free bread are also included, and are wrapped, which makes it easy for transport should you choose not to eat them en route. The bread was soft and seemed sturdy. It also features an abundance of seeds in the crust and interior. Because I had had so many pastries and waffles that day, I regretfully did not taste test the bread. 



While this is by no means a full review and I wasn't overly impressed with the food on offer, I am glad that Eurostar does cater to gluten-free travelers in this way. They definitely outshine their American counterpart (Amtrak) in this regard. Though disappointing, I can understand why they do not accommodate other allergies, and recommend to anyone with multiple intolerances (or just wants to have extra peace of mind) to always carry snacks on hand just in case. 

One other note: I did not have a chance to visit the onboard CafĂ© MĂ©tropole, and don't know what, if any, gluten-free options are available there (for those not served a meal or want a snack en route). 


Disclaimer: This review is based upon the information I have at the time of publication and does not reflect changes in ingredients or availability of items. Please contact Eurostar directly for up-to-date information and feel free to contact me with any questions or comments. I was not compensated for this post and it is a reflection of my personal opinion and experience.

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