Recently, I took a family trip away to Portugal with my family and stayed in a lovely hotel called Hotel Falesia between Albufeira and Vilamoura. We only stayed around the local area but I must say it was the best gluten free experience I’ve had yet, whilst going abroad as a Coeliac! The hotel was also adults only which meant it was a dream paradise for relaxing but having fun at your own leisurely pace. I’m going to outline all that I ate whilst staying there for the week, however, if you would like any information about the area in general, hotel or other attractions/excursions – feel free to contact me.
Hotel Falesia, Albufeira, Portugal
To start with, my hotel provided the most magnificent gluten free experience from the second I stepped through the marbled wonder. We were staying on a half-board basis, meaning we were provided breakfast and dinner every day. Arriving late-morning, we were all quite peckish and wanted some lunch. We sat outside by the pool in the beautiful sunshine and I had that classic ‘ah I’m on holiday vibe’ immediately. I only wanted something small so decided to go for the fresh vegetable soup.
When questioning about the soup being gluten free, the lady serving went to get some reassurance from the chef about the ingredients. To my demise, I was told that the soup had gluten-containing ingredients in, but she followed up that statement by explaining that the chef will cook me a soup from scratch without any grains in it. Result! I knew we had chosen the right hotel at that moment. They then surprised me again by providing three slices of gluten free bread and butter alongside it. The soup was absolutely delicious (I wouldn’t normally get this when it’s hot outside but it was just perfect).
On the first day, I was panicked looking at the buffet-style food as this is normally a pretty dangerous place for Coeliacs, however, it seemed like ALL staff had been informed of my dietary requirements before I even arrived at the restaurant. As soon as I walked in, the head waiter said ‘Ah gluten free!’ when he saw me, and I felt so safe (and kinda special too – in a good way). He escorted me to the head chef and she looked at all of the hot breakfast items and sort of scowled. After a bit of Portuguese communication that I couldn’t quite comprehend, the head waiter explained that the pre-cooked hot food at breakfast wasn’t suitable for my allergy. So it’s fruit, bread and yoghurt for me every day then I guess, is what I thought to myself.
But, he then made my whole holiday when he said that any items I wanted could be cooked fresh and separately in the kitchen to avoid cross-contamination. I was blown away! So most mornings I went for bacon (which was more like thin slices of Parma ham!) and eggs in varied forms, along with gluten free bread. This unfortunately did break apart quite easily, but I felt honoured to have it so readily available for me. I also had the fresh fruit and different herbal teas every day!
Oh how I miss dinners at the Falesia already. Again, in a buffet style but this time the head chef guided me through everything suitable for Coeliacs on offer instead. Before my main course every night, it almost became a ritual to compose a delicious salad and top it with Parmesan, which was perfect after being in the sun all day!
Like this one with red pepper, green pepper, shredded carrot, mixed salad leaves, tomatoes, cucumber, freshly sliced pork loin AND MANGO SUSHI. I was so surprised when I saw the chef making this as I’d never seen mango in sushi before, of course I gave it a go and it was extremely refreshing and different! Another evening, I put together a salad with Parma ham (my favourite!), cucumber, salad leaves, green pepper, shredded carrot and tomatoes.
There was an unbelievable selection on offer that changed daily for main courses. I literally took a photo of each dish but I thought I would choose my two of my favourite dishes to share. One was homemade potato wedges (cooked in the oven to avoid any nasty cross-contamination), fresh green beans and baby carrots, grilled pork steak and a fresh sardine. Which, for anyone who knows me pretty well, is a BIG risk. I’m not the biggest fish eater but I wanted to try it and was pleasantly surprised at how yummy it was – especially with their homemade ‘special’ garlic sauce they topped it with!
My other favourite dish is displayed above. Homemade roast potatoes with herbs and seasoning, butter rice, ratatouille vegetables, fresh green beans and the most delicious ‘thing’ ever. It didn’t really have a name as such but because it had cheese on top and seemed like aubergine around the side, I obviously put it on my plate. To my surprise, when I tried it, I was so happy when I cut into it and it was full of a creamy, bechamel-like sauce. Completely gluten free and vegetarian!
Now for the adorable and accommodating part of dinners at the hotel (as if it wasn’t already). Half-way through the holiday, after multiple evenings of the chef giving a ‘thumbs-up’ for the pasta sauces but not the pasta, I thought it was worth asking if they had any gluten free pasta. The waiter came back with a glum look on his face and explained that they didn’t have it on offer for me. However the next evening without even asking or hinting, the head chef, whilst giving his daily ‘yes’, ‘no’ routine, asked me if I wanted gluten free pasta?! So my last two evenings at the hotel consisted of freshly-cooked, safe pasta.
One evening I ate it with a simple tomato and herb sauce topped with helpings of Parmesan, the other was with my favourite pasta sauce – Carbonara!
Desserts were, as expected, a bit more limited so I just stuck to fresh fruit but this was just right after all of that! If staying in the Albufeira area as a Coeliac, I definitely recommend staying at Hotel Falesia without a doubt. Or if you’re anybody for that matter as all of my family said it was one of the nicest hotels with excellent service. One to remember for sure.
Their website can be found here if you want further information.
Senhor Frogs, Albufeira (Central), Portugal
GLUTEN FREE PIZZA. HAPPY HOUR. I reckon that’s all I have to say about this golden gem of a place. You could choose any pizza toppings on a gluten free deep pan base, free from cross contamination. Even a bacon double cheeseburger pizza!
I decided to go for the Sicilian, consisting of pepperoni, mushrooms, green peppers, cheese and tomato sauce. The pizzas were quite expensive (see prices above) but it was honestly maybe the best gluten free pizza I’ve had that has a thicker base so was 100% worth it! They even provided me with a little garlic butter dip once I saw it on the menu, my favourite (and a bit unhealthy) dip ever for pizza dipping. Due to it being conveniently happy hour when we arrived, I also treated myself to a strawberry daiquiri.
Their website can be found here.
Tania’s, Albufeira, Portugal
On our last day, we decided to take a walk within the hotel’s local proximity and to my surprise, I came across a ‘Sem Gluten’ sign at the first restaurant we stumbled upon. It was literally a two minute walk away. This was a burger place so I was very happy, another treat for me! The waitress was very understanding and knowledgeable about gluten free food, Coeliac Disease and cross-contamination so I was instantly eased when ordering. Her dad even went out to get suitable chips for me that he knew were completely safe for me to eat, and they cooked these in a seperate fryer to normal.
I went for a Hawaiian burger with chicken breast, pineapple, bacon. I paid 2 Euros for the gluten free bun but my family said they liked the look of mine more than theirs (which made a change).
Check out their Facebook page here for more information.
McDonald’s, Algarve Shopping Centre, Portugal
The iconic gluten free McDonald’s was had on our first full day in Portugal. This was due to it being our only predicted rainy day and the fact that I couldn’t contain my excitement after it popping up all across Europe on my Instagram feed! Us Coeliacs aren’t that lucky in the UK yet, but to be honest, it was nice to have as a treat.
I went for the ‘McRoyal Cheese’ which I was hoping would be most similar to a quarter pounder, and it was! They even sold little garlic mayo for 30 cents extra – perfect with the chips.
Celeiro, Algarve Shopping Centre
I also found tonnes of goodies that catered for gluten free, dairy free, vegan and more in an organic health food shop. CROISSANTS. Who else misses them since being diagnosed? Or just hasn’t really seen them anywhere since Genius discontinued theirs for whatever reason? Well you’ll be sure to find Schar ones in Portugal! Here are just a few, check out my Instagram for the rest…
Thank you for reading this has been a lengthy post! I honestly am still in awe at the ‘special treatment and choices’ on offer in this beautiful place. I do hope this is helps out anybody planning on visiting the Albufeira/Vilamoura/Algarve area soon, or in the future. Or maybe even inspires you to go due to how incredible and safe my experience was. I’ll definitely be back myself.
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