First off, I have been visiting this region at least once a year now for the previous few years. The increase in awareness for Celiac disease in just a few short years has truly amazed me. My earlier visits, while wonderful, required far more effort on my part to ensure that I would not have any issues when dining out. Even then, I was still met on occasion by people who just could not grasp why I needed to eat a certain way – nor was it easy to get to the bottom of potential ingredients that could cause a problem – and I speak fluent French, German, and Italian – so communication was not the problem – education on Celiac was.
Fast forward just a few years and dining out has truly become a dream – quite literally a dream. So, you are likely wondering what’s good gluten-free on the shores of Lac Leman?
Fairmont Le Montreux Palace, Le Palmeraie
My first morning I was presented with a silver tray laden with a selection of gluten-free breakfast items. Cereals, bread, cookies – you name it, it was on there. But as past experience demonstrated, the pièce de résistance is not on the tray. What might that be you ask? Well, it is the famed gluten-free croissants that I quite literally dream about. Both plain and chocolate varieties are on hand. There is also a selection of gluten –free bread and rolls that are available as well.
The “normal” part of the full-breakfast is an impressive host of items both hot and cold, sweet and savory that also includes some naturally gluten-free items as well. There is also a made-to-order station where omelets and eggs are available. This is the first proper breakfast that likely has just as much for gluten-free diners as it does for those with no restrictions.
Fairmont Le Montreux Palace, Harry’s New York Bar
This is my all-time go-to place when in Montreux. If I am not there at least once an evening I am there twice. Now, hands down the bartenders mix the best cocktails in town but Harry’s also serves a full menu ranging from snack-type nibbles to proper dinners. As it is part of the Palace (though you must enter from outside the hotel) it offers the Fairmont Lifestyle Cuisine Plus menu which I talked about last year on MSBNC.com. This menu is available at all Fairmonts around the globe and caters to a range of dietary restrictions such as gluten-free, vegan, diabetic, etc.
Unfortunately, in my experience, the gluten-free options often contain wither fish or shellfish which I am hyper-allergic to. But fear not, each restaurant can work with you to ensure that your meal will be safe given your needs. I had two meals this time around and both were amazing.
The real standout though was when I was presented with a WARM bread basket filled with assorted gluten-free rolls. As they know me there, I didn’t even need to ask for the special menu or the bread – they simply remember and spring into action. More importantly they will answer any question you might have and go to the kitchen to speak with the chefs to ensure that you can dine without worry – even offering up recommendations.
Le Palais Oriental
Quai E. Ansermet, 6
You cannot miss the building that houses the restaurant that boast a bit of Near East architecture on the outside and impressively detailed touches inside. It truly feels like you are nowhere near the shores of Lake Leman despite the impressive views the locale affords.
Some people say that service here is a bit cold or standoffish but I have always found service to be efficient and attentive which makes me a happy camper. Don’t be put-off if you receive a somewhat cold reception, it will get warmer (slightly).
The food here definitely makes up for any service inconsistencies offering a delicious sampling of authentic regional dishes – many of which just happen to be gluten-free by nature. I opted for a mixed salad, which was quite impressive and delicious with a simple vinaigrette dressing as my starter. For my main course I went with the chicken kebab that was beautifully presented and equally as delicious. The meat was so flavorful, tender, and moist. It was served with a range of condiments and sauces and a side of light and airy basmati rice.
Some other Montreux favorites include:
Rue du Theatre, 11 in the Eden Palace au Lac Hotel (Really along the Quai E. Ansermet facing the Lake)
Idyllic al fresco dining along the shore of the Lake. Lovely ambience, good service and food. Service staff understood food restrictions. No gluten-free menu but a range of menu items either gluten-fre eor made to order gluten-free. Perfect to be seated just before sundown and enjoy the show.
Rue de la Gare, 40
Just as the name states this is a fondue (meat and cheese varieties) located in the very cool cellar of the Montreux Museum. The gratin potatoes are NOT to be missed. Traditional Swiss fondue at its finest. Excellent food and service in a unique atmosphere.
Avenue des Alpes 45 in the Grand Hotel Suisse-Majestic
This is a relative newcomer that offers an eclectic menu and, wait for it, gluten-free rolls (that appeared after I went though my Celiac and food allergy spiel). Features a large terrace with panoramic views of the Lake. Excellent food and service.
Grand Rue, 38
Street-level terrace if you prefer outside but in busy location. Good Italian that was able to meet my needs. Very good mushroom risotto. Service spotty.
Le Grand Quai
Quai Général-Guisan, 34 in the Swissôtel Metropole
Only had one night in Geneva this trip so had to make it count. This was a true delight and fantastic culinary experience. My food restrictions were addressed wonderfully by our extremely attentive server who ensured that we were so very well taken care of. While not formal gluten-free menu my server consulted with the chef to find what would work and what would not – though “no” was never uttered and it was all about what they could do for me. It was a lovely feeling.
The food was amazing – something I do not often say. Traditional favorites such as a Salad Caprese which was served three ways: frozen; soup, and multicolored tomato tower. My main course of roast chicken paired with chanterelles was delicious and dessert of a raspberry jelly atop a bed or meringue push me right into food coma territory. While the décor in the dining room is lovely, we chose to eat outside to enjoy the warm evening.
Rue des Alpes, 19
A gem of a market that while not exclusively gluten-free has an incredible variety of gluten-free goods. Everything from croissants to snacks to breads is on hand and the prices are actually pretty decent (remember this is Geneva though). Definitely worth a visit if nothing else than to pick-up a few nibbles for your hotel room.