Gluten Free Dublin – Part Two

As mentioned in the first half of this post on gluten free restaurants in Dublin, my boyfriend and I took a trip over for the recent May Bank Holiday. While I probably could have lived just on the lunches we ate (detailed in the first post), that wasn’t even half of the exciting gluten free food I found! We tried three different restaurants for dinner, all of which were great for coeliacs and ran the gamut of restaurant options in Dublin.

For the first night for dinner we went hipster and met up with some friends at Neon, on Camden Street. Neon does Vietnamese street food in a cafeteria-style restaurant (you order at the front but they bring the food to you). Their menu has a fair number of gluten free options. I had the chicken massaman curry, which was not too spicy but very tasty. All the food came in takeaway boxes to the table, on very cute trays. Neon’s other hook is that you get a free soft-serve ice cream cone at the end, but sadly this is not gluten free.

Takeaway boxes on a great tray.

           Takeaway boxes on a great tray.

For dinner on Saturday night we moved well away from the hipster restaurants and went to Beshoff Bros. Beshoffs is a small chain of fish and chip shops, some of which do gluten free! (They seem to change which ones do gluten free, so check before you go) We went to the one on Dame Street, near Dublin Castle. We happened to be there when people started leaving Dublin Castle after the results of the marriage referendum were announced so we got to see lots of happy rainbow-covered people, which was awesome. What was also awesome was the food. I’m not actually a huge fan of fish so was delighted to see chicken goujons on the gluten free menu. And, what my boyfriend insists is a Dublin tradition, battered sausages! The gluten free menu was very clear at the front and I could see a sign on one of the fryers that said ‘gluten free products only’. They also gave me separate sauces because the ketchup had gluten in it, and when my food arrived it had tiny gluten free flags!

The full meal, with proud gluten free flags!

The full meal, with proud gluten free flags!

The batter on the chicken and sausage was really light and crisp, proper fried batter. The chips were also proper chip shop chips (say that fast) and there was a ton of food. The sausages were tasty, if a heart attack waiting to happen, and I thoroughly enjoyed everything.

The glory of battered sausages.

The glory of battered sausages.

Even though we could barely eat by Sunday evening I was determined to go to Manifesto, slightly outside Dublin city centre in Rathmines (by Dublin standards, not London ones) because it had got great reviews from a number of coeliacs. We luckily had made a reservation because it was packed on Sunday evening, possibly because they had a three-course plus drink deal for 25 euros! I didn’t do the deal because I wanted to try a different starter but it was available gluten free.

For starter I had beetroot gnocchi in a cream sauce with chicken. Which, as you can see, was pretty much a main all in itself! The beetroot added a nice colour to the gnocchi, although I’m not sure it added flavour after it was topped with cream sauce, but it’s something I will be trying for a dinner party or to add vegetables to my meal. The starter overall was very tasty, if filling as a appetizer before pizza.

The gnocchi. The chicken breast was separate on a board.

The gnocchi. The chicken breast was separate on a board.

My pizza came from a separate kitchen so I wasn’t worried about contamination. It looked like it had been cooked on a proper pizza stone, with actual brown bits, but was a bit underdone in the middle. My boyfriend found the same with his regular pizza so maybe they were just in a rush that night. My pizza had Italian sausage and roast potatoes on it, which sounds weird but was tasty. And even tastier the next morning for breakfast because I was too full to eat it all at the time.

Actual cooking marks on a gluten free pizza!

Actual cooking marks on a gluten free pizza!

But not too full for some of the panna cotta which came with the set menu, which my boyfriend had tried. The waitress had asked if we wanted it gluten free when my boyfriend ordered, which was reassuring. As you can see it arrived on a very fancy plate. The panna cotta itself was a great texture, I don’t like them too gelatine-y.

Pannacotta with raspberry sauce, cocoa bites (confirmed gf) and lots of squiggles.

Panna cotta with raspberry sauce, cocoa bites (confirmed gf) and lots of squiggles.

Pretty much everything on the menu at Manifesto was gluten free or could be made gluten free and I didn’t feel ‘weird’ at all. I thought the food was good but the service was a bit rushed, probably because there seemed to only be two waitstaff for a full restaurant. I would go back on another trip to Dublin because of the choice of gluten free options, and would definitely recommend it to anyone living there.

For anyone who followed my instagram/twitter while I was away you will have seen multiple goodies from Antoinette’s Bakery, a completely gluten free bakery just off Camden Street. I went three times in four days so I could be sure to sample everything! I will write a full review with lots of photos soon, but here are a few to excite your taste buds for now.

Awesome and huge chocolate chip cookie.

Awesome and huge chocolate chip cookie.

The apple cinnamon cake I ate three times for breakfast...

The apple cinnamon cake I ate three times for breakfast…

I am a shameless planner and spent lots of time before this trip looking into the exciting gluten free options. The blogs, Twitter accounts and lists of restaurants that I used the most to plan my trip included:

Dublin Gluten Free (on twitter as @dubglutenfree)

Gluten Free Cailin (on twitter as @gfcailin)

Gluten Free Dublin, especially the restaurant list

Gluten Free Ireland (on twitter as @gfireland)

Lovin Dublin list of restaurants

Coeliac Ireland twitter account

I thoroughly enjoyed my trip to Dublin and was very happy with the gluten free choices. I have many more on my list to try, so will have to go back! Definitely a good option for any coeliac looking for a holiday.

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Gluten Free Dublin – Part One

My boyfriend is Irish and lived in Dublin for almost ten years, so for the recent Bank Holiday we took a cheeky trip over to see his friends. I have been to Dublin multiple times but only once since diagnosis, about three years ago, so it was great to explore the new gluten free options. Ireland has a high percentage of diagnosed coeliacs and more restaurants seem to label gluten free on their menu. Often it’s even marked with a ‘c’ for ‘coeliac’ rather than just ‘gf’. Obviously contamination can still be a risk but it’s nice to see awareness of coeliacs and medical intolerances.

On my previous trip I as a coeliac ate at Lemon Jelly, Yamamori and Credo Pizza. Unfortunately photos do not exist! Credo has a separate gluten free kitchen so is definitely a good option for those worried about contamination. However it has been a long time since my last visits so I would confirm with the restaurants about gluten free options before going.

On this trip there was a mix of hipster restaurants and old-school Dublin institutions. It was really nice that a lot of the ‘cool’ restaurants offered gluten free because I didn’t have to feel like I was forcing the group to eat places they wouldn’t normally.

I was going to write this as one post but realised that it was stretching on, and nobody needed 21 photos at once! So I’m going to arbitrarily divide it into what I ate for lunches and dinners, although most of the places we went serve both. Lunches are below, and dinners will follow.

The 'menu' at Bunsen.

The ‘menu’ at Bunsen.

Our first lunch was at Bunsen on Camden Street, Dublin’s answer to Honest Burger in London. The menu only comes on as a business card and consists of nothing but burgers and fries. I went for a cheeseburger and sweet potato fries. I love the Honest onion rings, but could be swayed by the Bunsen sweet potato fries as favourite burger accompaniment. The burger itself was tasty, and the bun held its structural integrity well. We did originally try to go at 1pm on a Friday and the queue was out the door. Going away and waiting until 2pm instead meant we got a seat immediately.

Almost acceptable without a plate since it is a burger restaurant.

Almost acceptable without a plate since it is a burger restaurant.

The burger itself. Bun is looking good!

The burger itself. Bun is looking good!

For lunch on Saturday we went to Itsa Bagel, a chain of bagel stores around Dublin that have gluten free bagels. They will make the gluten free bagels in a separate area if you ask, minimising the risk of contamination. I had the Californian bagel, with bacon, mozzarella, avocado, lettuce and basil mayo. A combination I will be trying on my own sandwiches soon! The bagel (they used to be Udi’s but not sure anymore, forgot to ask) was fine, but definitely more of a vehicle for the fillings rather than an amazing bagel. We actually ended up going to Itsa again on Monday before the airport because we were so full from eating out over the weekend!

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Slightly blurry bagel. Too excited to eat it!

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The very tasty fillings.

On our way to lunch we also popped into Brown Thomas, THE fancy department store in Dublin, so I could check out the cake & crumb, who have a stall there on Saturdays to sell their mixes. I bought one of the bread mixes and hope to try it soon, the sample bread was lovely.

The stall at Brown Thomas

the cake & crumb stall at Brown Thomas

Lunch on Sunday was actually a picnic by the seaside. I’d been to Dublin 5 or 6 times but never made it outside the city nor seen the sea, which is quite sad since it’s a coastal port! So we took the DART (commuter rail) out to Howth, a seaside suburb about 30 minutes from downtown. Howth is on a peninsula with a large hill at its centre and there is supposed to be a lovely walk around the hill. Unfortunately I was hobbling all weekend after damaging my foot on the Coeliac UK Awareness Week walk the week before so we cheated and took the bus to the top. We had stopped at a Tesco in town before getting on the train and brought hummus, salami and cheese to put on BFree Foods bread. The bread was a great size for large sandwiches, a good texture, and refreshingly hole-free! Dessert was a beautifully zingy lemon muffin from Pure Bred. With surprise lemon curd inside! Even my boyfriend, who hates lemon cake that isn’t lemony, thought there was a good amount here. And there was a beautiful view to go with it.

Very tasty BFree Foods sandwich

Very tasty BFree Foods sandwich

Bright muffin, bright view!

Bright muffin, bright view!

Those were the lunches I ate in Dublin, as you can see there was a good mix of options available. Reviews of the places we tried for dinner are available in Part Two, and a detailed look at the awesome and fully gluten free Antoinette’s Bakery will follow in the next few days.

Artisan Gluten Free Bakery – Review

UPDATE – Since I wrote this review Romeo’s Gluten Free Bakery has changed their name to Artisan Gluten Free Bakery. Their website can now be found here. Their bread is also now available at Whole Foods in London (I’ve found it in Picadilly Circus and Richmond), and (as of May 2016) they should be starting mail orders soon. I haven’t been back to the cafe in a few months but I know they’ve been working on the menu and staff. Will report back when I finally get a chance to pop by! In the mean time, I will continue buying their bread wherever I find it. It’s best fresh, untoasted, with butter…

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I live and work near Angel so I am lucky enough to have the fully-gluten free Romeo’s Gluten Free Bakery pretty close by. The bakery is at the Highbury end of Upper Street, near Islington Town Hall. There is a Romeo’s Sugar Free Bakery a few doors further down, so make sure you go to the right one! Romeo’s opened about 18 months ago and has gained a reputation within the gluten free community for their fantastic bread. There is an eat-in cafe, serving sandwiches, brunch and lunch mains, as well as a large assortment of breads and baked goods to take away.

The AMAZING avocado, bacon, cheese and salad sandwich. Personal favourite.

The AMAZING avocado, bacon, cheese and salad sandwich. Personal favourite.

I have been to Romeo’s many times and I have always enjoyed my food. However this is a review of two parts. The first is that the bread, sandwiches and baked goods at Romeo’s are awesome (if expensive) and I would highly recommend it. The second, unfortunately, is that the service is bafflingly incompetent sometimes. I still go to Romeo’s frequently because I really enjoy their food, but you do have to be prepared.

The best part of Romeo’s is the bread. It comes in a variety of flavours, including my favourites: onion, and cheese and chive. It is soft and squidgy and everything you could want in bread. It’s great toasted and EVEN BETTER fresh. Anyone who’s eaten gluten free bread knows that this is the Holy Grail. It’s expensive but worth it for an occasional treat. The sandwiches however are very good value, with great bread and a lot of fillings, so I would recommend them even more.

Sunday brunch using Romeo's onion bread.

Sunday brunch using Romeo’s onion bread.

The cakes and brownies from Romeo’s are also very good. There’s usually a large selection of cakes by the slice, including chocolate with Nutella icing, banana with salted caramel, red velvet, and a chocolate vegan cake for those who are gluten and dairy free.

Banana cake with salted caramel icing.

Banana cake with salted caramel icing.

In addition to my own visits I went to Romeo’s for a Gluten Free Gathering in April (full review of GF Gatherings to come!). It was the first time they’d held an event but I thought they did relatively well. They originally served the bread toasted, but when we said we preferred it untoasted they brought out a huge supply for us to try. We were also allowed to choose our dessert item from the entire range of Romeo’s baked goods that they had out, which I thought was an inspired touch. However the main courses did not live up to the bread and cake. I had the quiche and thought that the pastry was quite rubbery, a sentiment echoed by others. The breaded escalope got better reviews. This was the first time I tried anything at Romeo’s other than a sandwich or the pancakes and I thought it wasn’t worth it.

Red velvet cake and banana cake at the Gathering, with a cameo appearance by the lovely Issi of Gluten Free in London!

Red velvet cake and banana cake at the Gathering, with a cameo appearance by the lovely Issi of Gluten Free in London!

There are however some major problems with the service at Romeo’s. Supposedly they are having problems retaining front of house staff, and there does seem to have been a lot of turnover through the times I’ve been. They also have a baffling system for the staff, whereby all the front of house staff (of which there are never enough) take the orders from takeaway and seated customers, then make the drinks associated with that order (including made to order juices that seem an afterthought), then take the food orders downstairs, then get the baked goods out. This means that if there are a lot of takeaway customers or a lot of drink orders it can take forever to be served if you are sitting down.

I think Romeo’s would be better off focusing on bread and baked goods, rather than having a choice of main meals. Their sandwiches are just so good that they don’t really need anything else on the menu, except the pancakes for brunch purposes… They would also be better off not serving the juices and having one staff member dedicated to making coffee/tea and one for takeaway customers.

The pancakes can definitely stay on the menu.

The pancakes can definitely stay on the menu.

Also a warning that the kitchen does not stay open as late as the bakery, but nowhere do they say when it will shut! I’ve been stuck without a dinner option before when I went at 5pm, and last time we were there they were turning people away at 4pm because they couldn’t make sandwiches anymore.

I would definitely recommend Romeo’s for anyone looking for a gluten free sandwich, treat, or bread. Just be warned that the service might not be great, and I would stay away from the extraneous main meals. However the bread and cake makes up for it all!

My Coeliac Diagnosis – Part 2

Welcome back to my diagnosis story! See Part One for the story of my symptoms and journey up until the blood test. This post won’t have many exciting photos because you probably don’t want to see photos of my couch or internal organs…

‘Well, your B12 is low but not horrible. But you have coeliac disease.’

My GP’s words obviously stopped me in my tracks. I had gone in expecting a vitamin jab and walked out with an autoimmune disease. Luckily I had at least heard of coeliac disease before, even if I had no idea what it fully meant.

After a few moments of shock I hit the internet. Research tendencies run strong in my family, so both my mother and I probably spent the entire week (and a lot of time since!) tracking down all the information we could about coeliac disease. Although it did take my mother a few hours more to start than me, as she was in Cuba at the time and didn’t have phone or internet access! Supposedly she got part of a text from me saying ‘Good news: my B12 is okay. Bad news:…’ and the rest didn’t load. Not a great text for a mother to receive from a daughter who already lives 3000 miles from home.

Of course one of my first questions was: ‘When and how do I start feeling better?’ Everyone said that coeliac was more easily treatable (in comparison to diabetes or Crohn’s disease) once you could go on the gluten free diet. My GP had told me that even though my bloods were very high I would still need the endoscopy as the ‘gold standard’ of diagnosis.

Which started 3 months of investigating the labyrinth systems of the NHS from my couch.

I will be eternally grateful to the NHS and my GP for running the blood test and diagnosing me. I know that I experienced so much less hassle and run-around in the first stages of my coeliac journey than many who complained of severe symptoms to their doctors for years. But the pressures on the NHS for services that fall between ‘routine’ and ‘immediately life threatening’ were very apparent in my journey to getting the endoscopy. While my private healthcare in the USA might never have diagnosed me, I would have been able to get an endoscopy within 24-48 hours of the blood results. Shows that no system is perfect!

The period between diagnosis and the endoscopy are now (thankfully) a bit of a haze. My doctor had me up my gluten consumption to ensure that the endoscopy would be valid. This of course knocked me out completely. I was fortunate to be in my second year of PhD at this time and was able to spend 3 months on the couch attempting to clamber through the brain fog, exhaustion and bloating. I have since regretted not using this time to catch up on lots of box sets, but instead watched a lot of BBC1 daytime programming (shout out to Homes Under the Hammer and Bargain Hunt). I did a lot of research into coeliac disease and started collecting recipes. Having spoken to others since who had already gone gluten free before coeliac was mentioned I am also very glad that my doctor told me to continue eating gluten and to get the endoscopy, even if it seemed awful at the time.

Photo of the last gluten-filled cake I made. Not my best effort!

Photo of the last gluten-filled cake I made. Not my best effort.

I also got the normal ‘newly diagnosed’ medical fun: new vaccines and an osteoporosis test. It was at the bone density scan, held at Addenbrooke’s in Cambridge, that I discovered exactly how long it might take me to get my endoscopy. The test itself was already over a month after the blood results, and I had an appointment scheduled in another department for two weeks later. I assumed the second appointment was for the endoscopy itself but had received no information about fasting or preparation. While at Addenbrooke’s I went to the gastro department to check about preparation only to find out that the first appointment was with an administrator to establish why I needed an endoscopy, and that the endoscopy itself would be weeks after that appointment. I promptly burst into tears and told the (thankfully very sympathetic) receptionist that I desperately needed this endoscopy because I was in constant pain and already knew why! Luckily she managed to find me an appointment with the administrator that week, so I managed to move the entire process forward by a few weeks.

The endoscopy itself was fine. I was all about the drugs so got both the injected Valium and the throat-numbing spray. The nurses could tell that the Valium was working when they used the spray and my first comment was ‘This tastes like bananas. Is that someone’s job? Does someone just taste medicines?’ (Serious question: Does anyone actually know if this job exists?)

In addition to confirming that my villi were completely destroyed, the endoscopy also discovered that I have ‘ectopic pancreatic tissue’, or ‘pancreatic rest’. Supposedly this is when there are some pancreatic cells in your stomach, and it’s not uncommon but hardly anyone ever finds out unless they have an endoscopy! Of course I was completely out on drugs when they told me this, so had to do some Googling when I got home to see if I had imagined it or not.

That endoscopy was now three years ago and I have been gluten free ever since. It’s not been easy but I’ve had oodles of support from my family and friends, as well as the awesome coeliac internet community. This blog will be my way of helping others, both newly and oldly diagnosed, with the musings and wanderings of my daily life as a coeliac.

If you are looking for further information about being diagnosed, other brave bloggers have shared their stories. Or look at the #CoeliacUKAwarenessWeek hashtag on Twitter for more!

Gluten Free B

Fabulously Free From

Positively Coeliac

The Happy Coeliac

Not A Trace

Gluten Free By the Sea

Gluten Free Cuppa Tea (in video!)

Gluten Dude (with lots of reader stories)

Great article by David, posted on Little Missed Gluten, about coeliac and depression

My Coeliac Diagnosis – Part 1

One of the most interesting things about coeliac disease is the multitude of symptoms and the unending variation in how people were diagnosed. Everyone has their own story and tribulations. This is mine! If you’d like to know more about me and the blog generally, please visit my ‘About Me‘ page.

I know I didn’t have coeliac before puberty, because I was definitely not a ‘failure to thrive’ child! I was always in the back row of class photos through primary school, and have been the same height since around the age of 11. Unfortunately that height is 5’4 so I was soon relegated to the front rows.

Standing next to the same fireplace at 12 and 25. Not much height difference!

Standing next to the same fireplace at 12 and 25. Not much height difference!

It is difficult now to know what triggered my coeliac disease or when exactly I started showing symptoms. There are two things that might have caused it: puberty or glandular fever (aka mono).

During my teenage years I was ill a lot and was constantly in need of sleep. I suffered from depression and was diagnosed with anaemia for a few years, both coeliac symptoms. However it is impossible to know if these were just ‘normal teenage growing pains’ or a sign of coeliac disease. Certainly no doctor thought to test me for it at this time!

The second possible trigger was a bad case of glandular fever during my first year at university. I probably caught it from my sister at Christmas, but was tested before returning to uni and told it was negative. Fast forward two terms of exhaustion, and two weeks of intensive internships, before I went back to the doctor to be told I’d had glandular fever for over six months. Being in my first year at university I had not necessarily been treating my health as well as I could have been anyway, which just exacerbated the effects of the glandular fever. In the end I was in bed for 3 months over the summer and spent another year exhausted.

It is hard to differentiate the exhaustion caused by illness and that caused by coeliac disease. I never fully recovered from the glandular fever and the years leading up to my diagnosis seem a bit of a haze of tiredness and brain fog. But I don’t know when these were the symptoms of glandular fever, and when they were of coeliac!

I also spent the 4.5 years between glandular fever and my diagnosis at university, first as an undergraduate then through masters and into my PhD. I attributed most of my tiredness and digestive problems to being a student, because everyone didn’t get enough sleep and didn’t eat right. Even when I bloated enough to look 5 months pregnant I assumed this was normal.

Me about a month before diagnosis, looking puffy and exhausted.

Me about a month before diagnosis, looking puffy and exhausted.

Things finally came to a head in January of my second year of PhD. Throughout this entire period I was receiving yearly physicals through my private healthcare in the USA. My doctor had flagged up Vitamin B12 deficiencies for a number of years but never asked about other possible symptoms or ran a coeliac blood test. (After diagnosis I discovered this was because I hadn’t had bad gastro problems, so my insurance wouldn’t have covered the test. I informed her that I would have happily paid for the 3-4 years of extra health if she’d ever given me the option.) I assumed that the NHS was unlikely to give out vitamin jabs when multi-vitamins were available so had never followed up in the UK. However at this time I was living with a housemate who was a fantastic baker and I decided to do more baking of my own. Within a few weeks I was on the couch most days unable to concentrate or wake up. I read about B12 anaemia and discovered that the NHS would give some jabs, so decided to go to my GP and try my luck.

When I arrived at my GP and explained that I needed B12 jabs he, very fortunately, decided to run a full set of bloods to rule out anything else. After a quite traumatic blood-taking (photo at bottom if you’re not squeamish!) I arrived back a week later to hear the results.

‘Well, your B12 is low but not horrible. But you have coeliac disease.’

See Part Two for the journey from diagnosis to endoscopy! (Coming soon)

This post was written for Coeliac Awareness Week 2015. If you think you have any symptoms of coeliac disease (including fatigue, bloating, ‘brain fog’, depression, gastro unrest) please visit https://www.isitcoeliacdisease.org.uk to take the self-assessment.

WARNING: Photo of traumatic blood-taking

Took a photo to send to my parents in case I was bleeding internally. (I was not on my best form)

Took a photo to send to my parents in case I was bleeding internally. I was not on my best form at that time.