Whether you’re eating gluten-free out of choice or, like my father, are a coeliac and unable to tolerate this mixture of proteins, eating out on Mallorca can be a challenge. Within the hospitality industry here, knowledge of this unpleasant disease generally seemed a bit sketchy when we first moved here: in 2004, on an early restaurant visit with my dad, he ordered what we were told was a gluten-free fish soup. Halfway through it, he spotted noodles in the bottom of the bowl. Apparently the lovely Mallorcan lady who had served us thought gluten was found only in bread!
Awareness of gluten and other allergens had to increase dramatically when the EU Regulation NO 1169/2011 on the provision of food information to consumers came into force in December 2014. Restaurants and other eateries now have to be aware of the 14 potential allergens (one of which is gluten) that may be used in their food. You’ll see a note relating to this on menus. If you are intolerant or allergic to any of these, be sure to let your waiter know when ordering your food.
Catering for coeliacs
Some restaurants have become more proactive when it comes to catering for gluten-free diets, by marking suitable dishes accordingly on their menus. To date, as far as I know, few eateries on Mallorca have gone down the route of offering a separate gluten-free menu (something my dad says is quite common where he lives in the UK).
The 5-star Sheraton Mallorca Arabella Golf Resort though has just launched such a menu (see link at the bottom of this post) and, on Saturday, I joined a group of invited coeliacs from the island to try some of the new gluten-free menu’s dishes at this hotel on the Son Vida estate, on the outskirts of Palma.
The Sheraton’s chef Daniel López has compiled a menu of seven hot starters and tapas, nine cold starters, nine snack dishes (including gluten-free pizzas), 11 pasta and rice dishes, five fish dishes, five meat dishes, and six desserts. That’s what I’d call plenty of choice. The gluten-free menu is available on request in either of the Sheraton’s two restaurants.
Many of the dishes listed you wouldn’t expect to contain gluten anyway, but coeliacs will know that the pesky stuff often lurks in ready-made sauces, stocks, ice creams, and other products. You may expect French fries to be safe to eat, but commercial manufacturers of frozen varieties often use a light coating – which can contain flour – to improve taste and colour. Even freshly cut chips are a risk when the fryer may also be used for croquettes and other coated fried food. Seeing a dish that you wouldn’t expect to contain gluten – but potentially could – being listed on a gluten-free menu is reassuring for coeliacs. As the daughter of one, trust me on this one!
Our coeliacs’ lunch began with warm gluten-free bread to accompany the traditional olives and aioli. After a few ‘montaditos’ – snacks served on slices of gluten-free baguette – we tried Andalusian gazpacho with garnishes, including gluten-free bread croutons; warm vegetable and feta wrap; Andalusian-style friend calamari with aioli (the coating was made from chickpea flour); Wiener Schnitzel with chunky chipped potatoes, fried capers, and pickled cucumber, and a traditional Mallorcan almond cake with almond ice cream.
Food apart, the lunch was an interesting experience, because those attending all shared the same challenges when eating out on Mallorca and buying gluten-free food products for home use. Lots of information and experiences were readily exchanged by this group and a few new friendships began as a result.
I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the gluten-free bread, wraps, and the ‘breaded’ coating for the calamari and Wiener Schitzel. I’m fortunate enough not to have to worry whether my food contains gluten or not, but I’d eat again from the gluten-free menu at the Sheraton Mallorca Arabella Golf Resort. It’ll be a great option when my dad next visits Mallorca.
Jan Edwards ©2016