wandering coeliac – bagels & beans, amsterdam

okay, so i didn’t get the hype about bagels until i tried one in nyc in 2007. bagels, growing up in australia, came in packs of four from the supermarket, and tended to be a bit heavy, dry, and flavourless. experiencing the real deal has ruined me for life, and coeliac disease and the relative lack of gluten free bagels on the market has made the whole experience that much harder. 

if you’re thinking i’m about to announce that bagels & beans is your saviour… er, don’t. having said that, their gluten free bagels have neither the weight and texture of a rock, nor the general consistency of pound cake (which seem to be the two standard options in gluten free bagel-ing), so i suppose they’re still leading the gluten free pack. just don’t expect miracles.

i opted for cream cheese and smoked salmon on mine. if i had my time over, i’d probably ask them to dial back the capers and red onions a bit (pretty sure i had killer breath for a while afterwards), but overall it was reasonably tasty. hey, i’m a coeliac traveller – the bar is set pretty low, expectations-wise. i’m usually grateful to get something (a) palatable, (b) satisfying, (c) not too expensive and (d) legitimately uncontaminated. see? 

bagels & beans brunch

i also ordered an iced coffee, but was informed by the very cluey waitress that they made it with instant coffee, which as all experienced coeliacs know, tends to be a red flag. she offered to make me an iced latte instead – proper espresso, milk, and ice. sorted.

service was slow, but this seemed to be a combination of circumstances: a (very) rainy day, peak sunday brunch time, two floors of customers with only two waitstaff and one more on food and drink prep. in spite of this, service was friendly, helpful, and knowledgeable about coeliac disease.

bagels & beans have a number of outlets around amsterdam. you can find your closest one, as well as their menu, on their website. yes, they do a functional english version (hallelujah!).

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wandering coeliac – piqniq, amsterdam

would you like to have a gluten free breakfast? please ask for our special menu.

i breathe a sigh of relief. they get it. autoimmune-cum-allergies can make meals on the road physically and mentally exhausting, and knowing i don’t have to explain the extent of my restrictions is guaranteed to make my entire body immediately un-clench with the relief of it.

piqniq menu

i flag down the waitress and request the special menu. “oh, we don’t have one. we just figured out how to make a gluten-free version of everything on the menu.” i blink. everything. on. the. menu. not a single option i have to stare at longingly, wishing i could partake. this is my new favourite place in amsterdam.

i was sorely tempted to push the claim and ask for the full piqniq breakfast, but really, i’m a sucker for pancakes at brekkie time. and hey, i’m on holidays, not on the job as a restaurant reviewer. pancakes it is. and milk coffee** (which is somehow neither a latte or a flat white, but somewhere in between).

coffee piqniq

my pancake seems to be made from a blend of flours – possibly buckwheat and rice, maybe some flax or almond meal. it wasn’t as dense as the pure buckwheat ones my parents used to make, nor as light and insubstantial as the horrid pre-mixed packet ones from the supermarket. had we not been dining with friends visiting from sydney, i probably would have thought to ask for the ingredients. it came doused in honey, with banana, a wedge of lime, and crispy walnuts (which i gather had been roasted) on top. i’ve never been a big fan of honey, and prefer maple syrup on pancakes, but the balance of flavours was actually everything i didn’t know i needed until that moment – fresh, light, and not overpowering.

pancakes piqniq

as we stood at the counter to pay, my friends pointed out a gluten-free snickers bar slice in the cake display, and i couldn’t resist getting one to take away. i sort of forgot i had it until we got on the train to berlin that afternoon, so perhaps it would be unfair to review it, as it was a bit worse for wear after being bounced around in my bag for half a day. that said, it was still pretty tasty. 

piqniq also do a pretty solid gluten free lunch menu, with at least one gluten free soup, salad, and cake available every day, as well as a good range of sandwiches. service was friendly and coeliac-aware. they’re located in the jordaan district, which is only 10-15 minutes walk from amsterdam centraal (it would have be faster if not for the zigzagging around canals – jordaan is less geometric than other parts of the city). mentally worn out from gluten-hypervigilance? give this place a go.

their website has the menu available, but only in dutch (even when you click the flag for english). chrome does a decent job of in-page translation, though.

** i know a lot of coeliacs have cross-reaction issues with coffee, but i’ve been (blood) tested for gluten reactivity, and coffee was one of the only things that came up entirely in the clear. weird. i still avoid it at home, because it’s hard on the adrenals and makes my tmj kick up a bit, but holidays are a time to cut loose a little.