29 May 2017

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 May 29, 2017
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Bermuda Logo GF Guide to Bermuda

Being married to a Bermudian, Bermuda has become a second home over the years and I always look forward to visiting family and friends.  Now you might not automatically associate Bermuda with gluten-free but it has actually become increasingly easier over the years to find a host of great options that will satisfy even the most discerning foodie. My most recent issue or GF LUXE features and entire section on Bermuda — everything from where to eat, stay and shop.

Bermuda is a British Commonwealth that most people think is in the Caribbean.  Well, that’s not quite correct.  You see, Bermuda actually lies in the Mid-Atlantic Ocean parallel with North Carolina.  It enjoys the benefits of a warm Gulfsteam keeping temperatures moderate even in the Winter months.  It is a quick hour and a half flight from New York making it ideal for a quick getaway.  The fact that you also clear U.S. Customs in Bermuda on the return makes it even more appealing for a fast foreign getaway as you arrive back in the States as a domestic flight. JetBlue is my preferred way to get to Bermuda and they recently upped their frequency from JFK during the high season not to mention they have upgauged the regular E-190 service to the larger A-320 full-time.

I have been visiting regularly for close to twenty years to visit family and friends and from a Celiac perspective have seen great changes in the gluten-free landscape on the islands (yes, Bermuda is actually made up of several islands).  This is not to say that Bermuda was in the gluten-free Dark Ages because that was certainly not the case.  I never went hungry in the past but I feel that it has really grown as of late and gluten-free has mainstreamed and still continues to gain momentum.  Bermuda, from a product availability standpoint benefits from the importation of goods primarily from both the United Kingdom and the United States – as well as other countries making for a nice mix of gluten-free products.

 

When In Rome

Now when traveling, the first thing I do is look for local markets in the area that carry gluten-free items.  Bermuda, despite being a small place actually has quite a few options for the celiac traveler.  There are food markets such as Miles Market, Harrington Hundreds (Smith’s Parish), and the food shop at Marks & Spencer (where I typically score GF Christmas pudding, Mince Pies, and fruit cake).

Additionally, there are pharmacies (Phoenix Stores and Woodbourne Chemist which is part of the Phoenix Group) that carry a range of gluten-free snacks for munching.  Snacks imported from the U.K. actually have “Suitable for Coeliacs” printed right on the package making them easy to identify.  If staying in Hamilton, Miles Market is just next door to the Fairmont Hamilton Princess on Pitts Bay Road and has a range of gluten-free products.  The entrance is kind of hidden if you are a first-time visitor so look for signs directing you to the store.  Food is in Bermuda is expensive as most items have to be imported but if you are from a major metropolitan area like New York or Los Angeles, the prices are really on-par with what you are used to.

It is important to note that tourists are not allowed to rent cars in Bermuda but can rent bicycles (Bermudian for scooters) though in all my years I have yet to ride on one.  Depending on where you stay may impact the level of mobility and options you have access to.  Taxis are expensive but could be well worth it for a one-off trip to a market to pick-up a few gluten-free goodies.

 

Dining Out

Dining out in Bermuda can also be expensive but there are more and more gluten-free options popping-up.  For Italian there is Little Venice (which is part of a larger restaurant group with several restaurants including La Trattoria) which serves up fantastic gluten-free pasta.  I recommend calling ahead to make sure that they have it in stock and then making a reservation so they can note your request.  I did have a conversation with our waitress who did say that if they do run out of traditional pasta they usually can substitute with rice noodles but I got the impression those might be more of the Asian variety but again, that would be in a pinch.  I called last minute and they had gluten-free pasta on offer.  Just tell your server of your dietary restrictions and they will be more than happy to walk you through the menu and let you know what will or will not work.

There are two Fairmont hotels in Bermuda – the Hamilton Princess and the Southampton Princess.  The Hamilton Princess is located, surprise, in Hamilton and provides easy access to shopping and restaurants in Hamilton proper.  The Southampton Princess is more of a resort location with private beach and golf course.  The Hamilton Princess recently launched a new beach club of their own at the old Sonesta location and provide transportation to and from the club which also features a bar and cafe.  The newly renovated Fairmont Gold rooms and lounge are very well-done with the lounge offering multiple food presentations throughout the day – including gluten-free options.  The lounge itself is expansive with a large outdoor terrace overlooking the harbor.

Both locations, as do all Fairmont hotels, now offer Fairmont’s Lifestyle Cuisine Plus menus that cater to a range of dietary restrictions and preferences including gluten-free, vegan, and diabetic.  Be sure to ask for the separate menu (it is different than the Lifestyle Cuisine notations on the regular menus) that offers a starter, main course, and dessert focusing on local ingredients for each specific diet type.  It takes the guesswork out of what to order but as it is Bermuda many of the items are made with local fish or shellfish which I am also allergic too.  But fear not, just talk to your server and they have always worked with me and the kitchen to identify and recommend what will work based on my individual needs.  I can honestly say that I have never had any issue at any Fairmont I’ve visited around the world because the staff is well-trained and very accommodating in working with food allergic or restricted guests.

The Hamilton Princess also offers Bermuda’s first celebrity chef outpost courtesy of Marcus Samuelsson’s Marcus’ Restaurant which can accommodate diners with celiac disease and food allergies.  The menu is an eclectic mix of flavors that focuses on using local ingredients.  You can read about my visit to Marcus’ here.

The Southampton Princess offers more dining options than its sister in Hamilton and Bacci – the Italian restaurant – offers some delicious gluten-free risottos and pasta on its Lifestyle Cuisine Plus menu.  Also, all of the restaurants have individual Lifestyle Cuisine Plus menus so there is a huge selection of gluten-free items.  You could stay a week and never eat the same gluten-free item.

The Hamilton Princess offers a range of dining options including its seasonal outdoor 1609 restaurant that provides lovely views of Hamilton Harbor and serves both lunch and dinner but also mixes a great cocktail.  There is also the Crown and Anchor located in the lobby that also has outdoor seating in the hotels gardens.  It is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner with a range of menu items – from light bites and salads to hearty main courses that incorporate local flavors and ingredients.  All of these locations offer gluten-free bread for sandwiches and I have been known to order off-menu – definitely go for a gluten-free BLT – they make a fantastic version.

One of the newer dining options is Marcus Samuelsson’s Marcus’ restaurant.  I was able to give it a try soon after they opened and was impressed with the attention to detail when it came to accommodating guests with special dietary needs.

The Café Lido restaurant at the Elbow Beach Hotel is another solid gluten-free option.   From the moment I mentioned to our server that I had Celiac disease and asked if they had any gluten-free items and he responded Why yes, we have a gluten-free menu and handed it to me it was one of those great gluten-free moments when you hear angels singing in the background.  You can read about my experience in a previous post and my most recent visit here.

First, the location of the Lido is stunning.  Perched just above the rocks you feel like you are eating on the beach but without having to actually sit outside.  Second, the service is impeccable but not intrusive – it just happens in the background as it should and from start to finish you are well looked after.  Servers were extremely knowledgeable and offered great recommendations.  Third, they mix a mean cocktail and have an extensive wine list (which we of course partook of and enjoyed a great Umbrian red).  While all of those are important, the food is really where the Lido shines.  While all of those are important, the food is really where the Lido shines.  The gluten-free menu offers a range of options for a variety of appetites, tastes, and meal preferences (breakfast, lunch and dinner).

There is no shortage of restaurants in Bermuda and an increasing number have gluten-free options or are more than willing to deal with specific dietary restrictions.  For Indian there is House of India which is allergy-friendly and most items are already gluten-free but also point out ingredients on the menu.  A favorite local place for great food is the Mad Hatters which has a very knowledgeable staff and many items that are already gluten-free.

Harry’s, located in the Waterfront Complex on Pitts Bay Road is very gluten-free friendly with items clearly marked on the menu and they offer gluten-free breads as an option for any sandwiches.  They also serve Sir Kensington’s condiments which are the only items I use at home – so it was nice to see them featured.  If you want to sit outside it can get busy – so reserve ahead but the dining room is also very well-laid out offering a fair amount of privacy.

Ascot’s Restaurant is an award-winning restaurant that has been a staple on the Island from more than twenty years.  While there is no separate gluten-free menu, the staff are well-versed and can guide you through the menu to accommodate your needs.  Another local spot offering gluten-free options is Angelo’s Bistro.  offer traditional Italian fare with the infusion of local flavors and ingredients.  While there are many items on the regular menu that are naturally gluten-free, they also have an extensive stand-alone gluten-free menu.

 

Cuisine

Bermuda is known for its fish and seafood as well as some more British-influenced foods.  There is no shortage of restaurants ranging from reasonable pub-fare to fine dining.  It is relatively easy to dine gluten-free when you keep to simply prepared grilled dishes.  Some not to miss local gluten-free favorites are fish chowder (don’t forget the sherry pepper sauce);  Hoppin’ John (a rice and bean dish); cassava pie (seasonal and my favorite at Chirstmas); Pawpaw Montespan (unripened papaya casserole, here is my mother-in-laws recipe); and Codfish and Potatoes (a popular breakfast or brunch item) – just to name a few.  On the cocktail front no visit to Bermuda is complete without the Dark & Stormy (Gosling’s Black Seal Rum and Ginger Beer) or Rum Swizzle (often referred to as the national drink of Bermuda).

Bermuda has a rich heritage and influences from the U.K., Caribbean, and the Portuguese.  Don’t be shy and give some of the local favorites a try.  Just be sure to always ask for the ingredients as everyone does things to their own recipe and what may typically be gluten-free one place might not be in another.

Bermuda makes for a great long weekend getaway from the East Coast so next time you are looking for a quick trip why not give Bermuda a try.

 

Departure

Pre-clearance of U.S. Customs makes the journey all the more convenient and with the addition of Duty Free items know available after security you can now easily purchase alcohol (among other items) without having to re-pack it in your checked bag before security (which was the case previously).  U.S. Immigration is located just behind check-in and I have rarely experienced any long lines as I tend to arrive at check-in as soon as it opens.  Once you clear immigration you drop your bag for x-ray and then head through local security before making your way into the waiting area.

The main waiting area has a few shopping and dining options but if you are traveling on a premium fare ticket or have a credit card with lounge access there is a private lounge that while rather large is sparse in amenities with an extremely limited food and beverage selection.  It does provide a quiet respite from the bustle of the terminal so if you get in for free it is of course worth it.

So if you are looking for a little fun in the sun on an island that is truly like no other, then jet on over to Bermuda and give it a go.  I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.  This brief guide is just some of my favorite places from over the years.  There are of course even more gluten-free and friendly options as well.

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