Eating Out Gluten Free

Gluten Free Foodie in London

gluten-free-menuVisiting London, and wondering where to eat safely?

You might find Caz’ blog very useful. It’s called the Gluten Free Foodie, and documents places (mostly) in London where Caz has eaten.

There’s a coeliac-friendly scorecard below each post. I haven’t found one that scores 10/10 yet, though it looks as though Gordon Ramsey did pretty well with 9.5/10!

The sidebar shows the categories both by location and by type of food, which seems like an excellent idea. Caz has only been documenting restaurant experiences since last July, so there are quite a few restaurants that haven’t been covered yet, but this is a great idea, and one that is bound to be helpful to those of us from out-of-town. It’s always difficult to know where to find somewhere suitable in a new town, and it’s great to be able to rely on someone who knows the issues involved…

Next time I take my daughter to London, we’ll know where to start. Sadly, it won’t be Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons (lucky, lucky Caz) – but gluten free pizza at Hell Pizza sounds ideal, even if it is totally the wrong side of London.

Black Tie, Masks and a Smallholding

maskA couple of weeks ago we travelled down to Bath, for a family party. The party was great, but I wanted to give credit to a couple of establishments who did a great job for us.

1. Cumberwell Park Golf Club

This is where the party was held: about 100 people for a black tie & mask dinner. The children were invited, and found the whole formal dressing and mask thing very exciting. We’d told the club in advance that there would be a coeliac in our group, and introduced ourselves to the manager on arrival, so that the team knew who we were – and they did a great job of ensuring that our daughter’s meal was virtually indistinguishable from everyone else’s.

We started with some tasty nibbles: hummous on tiny toasts, olives and breadsticks. She was provided with her own plate of hummous on gluten free toast (no breadsticks, but that was fine), and her own dish of olives (exactly the same, just in a dedicated dish), to avoid crumb transfer. Later, the manager discreetly came over and told us that both main course choices on the menu that evening were gluten free – so she chose a Thai curry. And then – still very discreetly – we were told that although the chocolate brownie was not OK, the lemon meringue roulade was fine, because they’d used cornflour.

Praise is due to the Cumberwell Park Golf Club, because not only did they cater well for her, they did it discreetly and without fuss, so that there was no embarrassment involved. Hurrah!

2. The Garden Room Bed & Breakfast

bandbAnd this is where we stayed: delightful self-contained en-suite studio accommodation in a small village outside Bath. If I said it was in a garden – or even a smallholding – that wouldn’t be too far wrong. It was lovely: friendly, welcoming, clean, and comfortable, and plenty big enough for the five of us. It was even stocked with some films for us to watch. We were completely self-contained, as there was a small kitchen area so we could prepare breakfast for ourselves. And this is, of course, the benefit for people who need to be gluten free: we could manage the diet without embarrassment or difficulty.

What a breakfast they’d provided: a range of cereals, fruit, croissants, toast, butter and preserves, eggs, bacon and sausages, fruit juices and milk. We don’t all eat meat, but those that do had a wonderful breakfast – and the meat was from their own pigs. Usually the eggs are from their chickens, but the chickens aren’t laying at the moment.

Our hosts didn’t know we had a coeliac in the family, but because they provided a small cooker, we could cook her gluten free pain au chocolat and bread at will – and she enjoyed the rest of the breakfast. (Not the meat – and I didn’t ask whether the sausages were gluten free).

It was fab. If you’re planning on visiting the Bath area, I can recommend this as a place to stay.

Motorway jams with a silver lining – gluten free

Remember the half-term holidays? I know, only last week, but already it seems like a long time ago, doesn’t it… Did you enjoy it?

We drove south, and spent a few days visiting relatives – which was lovely – but then had a hideous journey home. All motorways were blocked. Eventually, we headed cross-country only to find that our last remaining route was also blocked, so we decided to take a break and hope that the roads would be clearer in a couple of hours.

So, not expecting much, we pulled off the country roads at Bicester, and trekked into the Bicester Retail Village. This was due to close for the night in a couple of hours, so we really weren’t optimistic, and there wasn’t a lot of choice.

A typical distress purchase, in fact.

carlucciosHowever – and you knew this was going to end up well, didn’t you? – we walked into Carluccio’s. We’ve not been there before, though we know of it, of course: it’s an Italian foodshop with a cafe attached, isn’t it?

Turns out to be rather more than that.

Could they feed us? Yes. Even though one of us was a coeliac? Yes – tell your waitress.

So we sat, and did the usual picking out of items that might possibly be acceptable, only to discover a note that said they had a dedicated gluten free menu. Could we see that?

Oh the joy.

3 starters; 4 salads; 6 different pasta dishes (yes – pasta!); 2 meat-based dishes; and 6 side dishes.

Such a delight to go somewhere where my daughter has a choice – and more than a choice of salad, salmon or baked potato. And the staff were delightful: helpful when we needed it, and sincerely apologetic when the children’s choice of dessert wasn’t available.

We loved it. All five of us chose a different pasta dish; my coeliac daughter chose a simple tomato and basil one – gluten free. Perhaps next time she’ll choose something more adventurous now they’ve earned her trust.

Because we’ll be back. Not only as part of our north-south travels – because Bicester is ideally placed halfway – but also to Carluccio’s other branches. There’s one in the Trafford Centre…

The only thing I’d suggest for improvement is that they develop a gluten free dessert menu as well, as the current dessert menu isn’t clearly marked up for GF or not.

If you’d like to know more, to download the gluten free menu, or to find out if there’s a Carluccio’s near you, visit the Carluccio’s website.

You do know its Coeliac Awareness Week, don’t you?

Free For Tea?Free for tea?

That’s the branding for this year’s awareness week, organised by Coeliac UK.

One of the best elements of this year’s arrangements is the focus on being able to go out for the day and have a cup of tea and a cake with a friend. The National Trust and National Trust for Scotland are supporting the campaign, so you could go for a day out, explore some of the beautiful gardens, historic buildings or natural landscapes of Britain and have a gluten free cake or biscuit to celebrate.

This is one of the things that we struggle with – we go out as a family for an explore, fancy a drink and a snack, and find that while everyone else can have a delicious cake, our coeliac daughter either has nothing, something we brought with us, or yet another packet of crisps. Very far from ideal. So hurrah for CUK and the National Trust.

Check if there’s a National Trust property involved near you.

And if you’ve got questions for Coeliac UK, you’ll find them at many of our most beautiful places this week.

Coeliac UK are hosting tea-parties in the Westminster Houses of Parliament, and in the Scottish Parliament this week, and there are many other activities and offers available. Visit the Coeliac UK site to learn more. (Scroll down to see all the offers available).

So – line up in twos by the front door, and let’s go out for tea and cake …

El Piano: gluten free and vegan

El Piano, in Grape Lane, York, is the first restaurant in the UK to go 100 per cent vegan and gluten-free. Don’t you think that’s amazing?

El Piano: gluten free and vegan

Eggs, dairy products, meat, wheat, rye, barley and oats are all now off the menu. The restaurant’s speciality is apparently Thai Thai, a spicy coconut cream with red pepper, baby potatoes, lime leaves, lemon grass and wild rice.

And El Piano is now getting ready to open a brand new sister restaurant in March, in Granada, Spain, which will also be 100 per cent vegan, gluten-free – and also nut-free.

How does falafel, hummus, onion bhaji, corn fritters, mexislaw, millet cous-cous and a gluten free ‘bread’ assortment sound? Perhaps followed by sticky toffee pudding or cheesecake?

Sounds great to me.

El Piano offer cookery classes, too, in York and in Spain. How about Cooking with Children, for adult/child pairs? Or Desserts for Restricted Diets? Both sound good, but perhaps Cooking with Children would be the one for us. We’ll have to be quick, though, because my coeliac daughter is already 12, and the children’s cookery classes only go up to age 12. I suppose she would count as able to cope with an adult cookery class in a few months …

If all that is sounding like good news, you can find El Piano at 15/17 Grape Lane, in York, and find more details and their current menu at their website.