Monday, 12 November 2007

Swanky gluten-free goodness

I ate out at two tres posh restaurants this weekend - and both had a lot of things that were gluten-free on their menu... the first was Chez Kristof in Hammersmith, where I had three courses of really good food. I had mentioned when I booked the table that I had allergies and quite soon after we sat down a waitress came over and asked me about it and then told me what I could and couldn't have on the menu, which was helpful - avoided the normal delay of having to ask if something is OK then waiting for them to find out from the kitchen...
I had a really good roasted butternut squash, goats' cheese and pine nut salad to start with, followed by mussels and chips, then a poached pear with cinnamon ice cream - the only mistake they made was that the ice cream came in a brandy snap basket (I didn't actually ask if it had flour in, but as they 99% do I avoided it...). Was really good food and is a cool place.
On Saturday night, I went to Alloro - a swanky Italian in Mayfair. Again, the waiter was really attentive and we got a different amuse bouche than the table next to us, which I presumed was to cater for me, which was nice - especially as they didn't mention it or make a fuss... (we had delicious asparagus with pesto rather than a mini fishcake) I then had baby mozzarella and 'aubergine caviar' (which was huge!), then roasted sea bream with braised fennel. For pudding I had creme brulee.
Both places were really nice and it seemed like they really made an effort to make sure I was catered for, but without making a big song and dance about it. If you fancy a swankadero meal, or are celebrating something, I'd definitely recommend either of these...

Monday, 29 October 2007

Winning gluten-free muesli!

The days of powdery, plastic-tasting gluten-free muesli are over - hooray! A Scottish company (who are extremely friendly) called Spoff sent me some samples recently and they were winning.
They do a range of normal mueslis, as well as wheat-free and gluten-free ones and the ones I tried (all g-f, of course) were really good.
I am a particular fan of the Gluten-Free Highland Muesli with Date, Walnut and Sunflower Seed - there is no added sugar but there is a natural sweetness due to the spices they add - I think this one had some cinnamon in, but I may be wrong... I also made porridge out of one of the other samples, which, instead of having that slightly strange taste I've noticed when I've tried heating up other g-f mueslis, had a really subtle (but NOT bland!) hint of spice and all the ingredients just melted into each other to make a really warming and delicious breakfast.
They also do rice flakes for making plain porridge and, joy of all joys, a chocolate version - again no added sugar which is a bonus - just rice flakes and cocoa - perfect for the wintry days ahead...
You can order online, a few independent shops stock their products - and, even more convenient, some Waitrose stores have just got some in so make sure you get hold of a bag somehow - I would say this is the best gluten-free muesli I've ever had - and, believe me, I've tried a few, and even made my own! I'll be leaving it to the experts from now on...

Monday, 24 September 2007

Gluten-free Italian - Covent Garden

There is a lovely Italian restaurant on Endell St, near Covent Garden tube (almost opposite swanky media hang-out The Hospital) which does gluten-free pasta. It's called Da Mario and is totally authentic and seems to have been transported straight from Florence to London, complete with comedic waiters. The food is really good and they offer gluten-free linguine or penne and you can have most of the sauces. They also have specials which change regularly - when I went last there was a risotto which was also gluten-free. For pudding there is creme brulee on the menu and also ice creams and sorbets which are gluten-free.

It's pretty reasonably priced too - between £6.50 and £10-ish for pasta dishes and then a bit more for meat/fish mains.

At last - pasta in a restaurant (that isn't a chain...) - hooray! They don't have a website but if you search for Da Mario Endell St you'll find plenty of reviews...

Highly recommended for a girly supper.

Wednesday, 15 August 2007

Muffins galore

I headed to Covent Garden the other day to find a muffin shop that I'd read about online that does gluten-free muffins - Muffinskis. I found it and it was certainly worth the walk from work as they indeed do make gluten-free ones and the one I had was seriously good! There was blueberry and white chocolate and raspberry and white chocolate on offer - I went for the blueberry. It was pretty fricking tasty - crunchy on top and filled with loads of blueberries so gooey inside - great texture and delicious - hooray! The man behind the counter, who I think is possibly the owner, was really friendly too and knew what was in the muffins (no soya flour, thank God) which is always useful. DEFINITELY worth a visit. My trip there inspired me to come up with a better recipe for my own muffins which I did and I have to say they were seriously winning (banana ones). I will post the recipe shortly...

So visit Muffinskis - you can eat in or take away so a good place to meet friends for tea as, for once, you won't have to miss out on the cakes - yay!

Thursday, 9 August 2007

Gluten-free Indian food in Soho

Rasa will always be my favourite Indian restaurant in London, but for lunchtime take-aways I have a new best friend - Imli. As a restaurant that introduced 'Indian tapas' to London, I have always been suspicious of it and never ventured in, but after Googling "best dal in Soho" and seeing it I thought I'd check out the menu on the website. I then discovered that they do take-away AND that on the Imli To Go menu they mark what is gluten-free - amazing!
I went there to pick up some lunch today and had some of the best tadka dal I've ever had, some rice and a delcious passion fruit lassi - all for £5.97 (you get a 10% discount if you pick it up rather than have it delivered) - bargain!
It really was good and they do three desserts which are all gluten-free, starters, mains and sides. No gluten-free bread available but you get free poppadums with your order anyway. A winner.

Vegan, vegetarian - and gluten-free!

Having just started working in Soho, after a lengthy spell of lunchtime-option nothingness in Queen's Park, I have been like a child in a (gluten-free) sweet shop - running around trying all the different options on my lunch hour. I did some Googling to see what came up and found a review for Beatroot - a tiny cafe practically opposite my new office. It has a range of hot and cold options to choose from and three different-sized containers to put them in - ranging from £3.70 - £5.70.
The staff are really friendly and knowledgeable about what's in the food and there are loads of gluten-free options - they even use gluten-free soy sauce in their stir-fries. It's all vegetarian and I think they do lots of vegan things too - including nut/dried fruit cakes etc.
The food I had (dal, rice and some tofu stir-fry) was all really good, simple and nutritious - if I had one complaint it would be that it was slightly bland as not much salt - however, that's good for me so I shouldn't really make an issue out of it...!
Definitely somewhere I'll be returning too - especially as summer dissolves into the cooler months and warming food is on the agenda...

Monday, 4 June 2007


Wagamama is a cheap, easy, quick option and they have a gluten-free menu (you can see it online too so can plan what you want - online menu). There are a couple of delicious things on the menu that are naturally gluten-free and then there are a few other things they will adapt for you. I've found the one near Leicester Square the best for the waitress really knowing what she was talking about when it came to allergies but they are all very accommodating.

Friday, 11 May 2007

Arbutus and Andrew Edmunds

I recently ate out at both Arbutus and Andrew Edmunds in Soho.
Went for a Saturday lunch in Arubutus (they do a great value lunch menu, although in the end I ordered off the normal menu) - the food was good but the main reason I'm posting about them is because the waiter was really thoughtful about what I could and couldn't eat. He checked with the chef what I could eat off the menu etc and was pretty speedy about it so there wasn't the frustrating waiting around that there often is before you can make your order...
The nicest thing though was that he checked what puddings I could have BEFORE bringing the dessert menu, so I was able to just order straight away - made a real difference for a waiter to be so thoughtful - it's the little things...

Andrew Edmunds is a great restaurant that is really good value - an absolutely delicious meal for two (two or three courses each and half a bottle of wine is about £50 plus service) - and the food is really delicious. Simple ingredients combined to be seriously tasty without being fussy. They have plenty on the menu that is naturally gluten-free as they use fresh ingredients etc. I love their dressed crab and they do a great risotto and some lovely fish dishes. The menu changes daily and is hand-written and there are specials on a blackboard inside. Really friendly staff and a lovely atmosphere mean it's always pretty busy... They don't have a website but their number is 0207 437 5708 if you want to book a table sometime... I would.

Wednesday, 9 May 2007

Honeybuns cakes

Honeybuns make absolutely delicious (although quite heavy - but in a good way!) gluten-free shortbread cakes etc.
I am a particular fan of Millionaire's Shortbread and that is something I have really been missing but they do one! It's really good and there are versions with nuts etc on top too - sort of like a rocky road with added polenta/almond shortbread base...
You can get them in loads of places but John Lewis' 'The Place To Eat' is a good bet if you have one of those in your hometown...
I was also particularly excited to discover that they have a stall at Glastonbury so now I don't have to worry about what I can eat for breakfast - woohoo!
They also do brownies and other stuff and you can mail order them from sites like Goodness Direct.

Wednesday, 4 April 2007

Absolutely amazing salads!

My new favourite place is Rainforest Cuisine. I first tried some of their aboslutely delicious salads/flans (which are all gluten-free, sugar-free etc - just lots of seriously tasty vegetables/salads all bound together with themselves) at the farmers market in Lyric Square in Hammersmith one Thursday, and then I discovered that they do Spitalfields on Wednesdays and Sundays and seeing as how I work near there it's become my Wednesday treat!
The food is all so colourful - a lot of it is Caribbean - and it's also all raw and organic and living so it's incredibly healthy...
They also do great cakes - again all gluten/sugar-free etc - made from bananas, dates, cashews, coconut, sultanas etc.
They also do Chelsea market on Saturdays, Alexandra Palace on Sundays and Wednesdays at Swiss Cottage.
If you live anywhere near any of these places, or even if you don't, you should definitely try some of their stuff. The mung bean and lentil salad is especially good.
It's £5 for a salad box, or a (huge) piece of flan and 3 different salads - topped with wonderful homemade hummus and either tomato or spicy sauce.

Sunday, 1 April 2007

Leon add gluten-free labels

Just a quick update - Leon have added the symbol 'GF' to their menu so that you can easily and quickly see what is gluten-free, as well as wheat-free, dairy-free etc... hooray! Makes it even easier to decide what to have off their extensive and coeliac-friendly menu - yay!
Also - they have just changed from the winter menu to the spring one and there are loads of new things to try - delicious.

Thursday, 15 March 2007

Sainsbury's add new stuff to Free From range...

Sainsbury's have added some great new stuff to their Free From range... Unfortunately they don't seem to still be doing the pitta breads (which were perfect for making a sandwich if I was going on a train journey or something) but they have added frozen fish fingers which I'm very excited about...! They have also now got lots of frozen Free From ready-meals, which are not something I'm a fan of, but it's nice to have the option...
They also stock the Dietary Specials frozen pizza, which, if you add your own toppings, is a pretty good Friday-night-in-with-a-movie option.
They have also re-introduced their pizza bases, but they are now half the size and you get two in a packet... so not ideal for taking to Strada (as mentioned in my last post) but maybe you could take two...
The Sainsbury's near Clapham Common tube has a great selection of all this stuff but you can get a good list of most of the stuff that's available online...
If we're on the subject of supermarkets, I would add that Waitrose always has reallly good selections of Free From stuff in most of their stores, some Sainsbury's have a great selection, some don't (the Angel one didn't last time I checked) and bigger Tesco's are also good.
However, small branches like the Locals or Expresses are generally rubbish and don't stock any Free From stuff. I'm campaigning for this to change (it's not like people with allergies don't suddenly need a loaf of bread or whatever, albeit different bread, or want to be able to nip in somewhere central on the way home or something) so if anyone else wants to email supermarkets to help the cause, please feel free!

Tuesday, 13 March 2007

Strada - you can take your own pizza base!

I lived in Italy for a year and when I came back to London, Strada was the place I went for pizza as theirs were the closest thing to the real deal that I could find (this was before I discovered I was Coeliac). When I found out that I was allergic to gluten/wheat, pizza was one of the things I dreaded not being able to eat most - as I love good pizza (particularly Italian).
However, all was not lost - Strada allow you to take your own pizza base which they will then add delicious toppings to and cook in the wood-burning oven! Amazing!
It's always best to ring the branch you're going to beforehand to check that it's OK, and some of them ask you to bring some gluten-free flour with you too so that they can dust the base to stop it sticking, but they are so lovely that they don't even charge you for a whole pizza - just the toppings that you have!
It is so nice to be able to go out and eat pizza in a restaurant.
However, I am now at a bit of a loss as Sainsbury's, whose bases I found best for this, seem to have stopped doing them since they introduced their new range of Free From foods...
I haven't tried with any others yet as have been making my own and staying in (I'm not sure what the Strada policy is on having to use a sealed base rather than a homemade one as I guess they need to know exactly what's in things in case you claim food-poisoning or something) but am sure there are other good ones out there - suggestions welcome! My problem is that they're all so small and thick...
However, if you're ever in New York you can get the best gluten-free pizza in the whole world ever at this amazing gluten-free Italian (which also does toasted focaccia paninis and cupcakes and stuff - all gluten-free!!) on Bleecker St called Risotteria.
Seriously, it's my new favourite place in the world, but Strada is a pretty good back-up for when you're not in NYC...

Monday, 12 March 2007

Amazing Indian food - with gluten-free bread!

Rasa has a few restaurants in London (I don't want to label them a 'chain' as it has the wrong connotations for these friendly, small, lovely places) - I've so far visited the one on Charlotte Street, W1 and the one just behind Oxford St, W1.
The food is really, reallly good and the Charlotte Street one specialises in fish dishes - all of which are absolutely delicious - and there is a vegetarian one in Stoke Newington, which is the original venue.
There is a delicious rice-flour bread, which has onions and garlic and other tasty things in too, and the basket of traditional, crunchy starters are all made with gram or lentil or rice flour so are all gluten-free! Woohoo!
Seriously, if you want a great curry and want to be able to enjoy all the sides that you would have to miss out on in other places, give Rasa a go.
The fish one and the one off Oxford St are pretty reasonable (main curries about £12 - worth it) and the vegetarian one is positiviely bargainous, with delicious vegetable curries for about £6.
Lots of choice for puddings too for Coeliacs - traditional Indian rice pudding and kulfi are winning.
Mmmm mmmm.

Tuesday, 6 March 2007

Best burgers in town

The best burgers I've had so far in London are from Hache, in Camden. The restaurant itself is quite small and decorated in a very cosy, intimate way. The burgers are 100% beef and are seriously tasty. There are loads of different options and most are gluten-free (without the bun obviously). If you ask for no bun you get extra salad, which is always good, and in this case particularly good as the salad dressing is delicious.
Unfortunately, if you're vegetarian and coeliac you won't fare so well on the burger front, as the veggie burgers (there are a couple of different ones) aren't gluten-free, but if you eat fish there is a tuna steak, and there are vegetarian salad options.
The skinny fries are also the best I've ever had (and I've heard the chunky ones are good too but I don't like fat chips so haven't tried them).
I've also never indulged in the puddings as am always too full after the burger, but they do a range of ice creams which I'm sure would be gluten-free as they use really good, fresh ingredients for everything.
It's also very reasonable which is always a plus - I mean we're not talking McDonalds prices, but burgers are under £10 and you get enough chips in one portion to share (and that's coming from someone who loves chips and usually hates sharing them).
Hache is on Inverness St, really near the tube and the market so if you're tired and hungry after shopping, or in need of sustenance before a gig in the Barfly or something, make your way here - you won't be disappointed.

Leon does dinner

Since my last post, I have been to Leon to try out their dinner menu - they have some of the same big dishes but then a whole host of different hot and cold mezze that don't feature on the lunch menu.
As expected, it was award-winningly good.
And you can have the gluten-free brownie hot with delicious vanilla ice-cream.
Well worth a visit.

Wednesday, 28 February 2007

Leon - my favourite place to eat lunch

Leon has been touted by any critic who's ever eaten there as the best place to get healthy fast food, but I would say that even using the phrase "fast food" doesn't do it justice, as, in my mind, that instantly creates an image of those despicable golden arches.
Leon is all about really tasty, organic food that will certainly keep hunger more locked up than that evil monster in the Shreddies adverts.
There are superfood salads, snack-size portions of the main meals, soups, wraps and 'big dishes' - delicious grilled chicken, cauliflower and sweet potato curry, meatballs etc - all served with brown rice (with added seeds and spices) and soy-based slaw.
There is also a plethora of drinks on offer - from their winter cold-buster of hot ginger and lemon, to truly thick and wonderful ice cream shakes, and plenty of smoothies, teas and coffees too.
You can eat breakfast, lunch and dinner here and if I was made of money, I would.
The best thing about Leon is that so much of their food is gluten/wheat-free - because it's all freshly made with simple, delicious and nutritious ingredients. The brownies (with a hint of orange oil) and the ginger-lemon crunch cake are both gluten/wheat-free and I can't recommend them more highly.
They are the best brownies I've ever had (and I used to make some pretty good ones) and non-Coeliacs would never notice that they were any different to usual (they're made with ground almonds instead of flour).
Seriously, if you've never been to a Leon, give it a go - you won't be disappointed. It's not cheap but it's totally reasonable for what you're getting.
Such is my dedication to Leon, I will always have a link to their website on the left so click away. I've only visited the Carnaby St and Spitalfields branches but there are more (and I think they're expanding as we speak). Enjoy.