Bird – Gluten Free Restaurant Review

Gluten free fried chicken

Fellow coeliacs will understand the constant sorrow of scanning a menu for gluten-filled fried things that might contaminate the deep fat frier, placing the chips/fries out of reach. And you wouldn’t normally be wrong to think that fried chicken would be one of those gluten-filled items. And then you would come to London and discover Bird. Where the chicken is coated in gluten free flour and the chips are available to all.

Gluten free fried chicken

I first discovered Bird on a Gluten Free Gathering last year, a great event which combined awesome chicken with awesome people. One of the founders of Bird also spoke to us, and told us about how Bird had come to be. It turns out that the chicken at Bird is accidentally gluten free. When trying chicken recipes the coating that worked the best was a mixture of corn and rice flour, so it was what was used. Luckily for coeliacs and gluten free people this makes it safe for us. Keeping my fingers crossed that more fried chicken places start using this batter mixture too. Fried chicken for all!

The staff are always helpful in pointing out what is gluten free, and what can be made gluten free. Unfortunately the burgers and donuts are not, but all the pieces of chicken (wings and fried) and most of the sauces/dips are. And almost all of the sides are coeliac-friendly too. While the burgers do sounds tasty, I’m really there for the fried chicken anyway. Make sure to ask each time about the sauces and sides, as they do sometimes change the menu. But the only gasto-intestinal problems I’ve ever had after Bird have been related to the large amounts of fried chicken and tasty cocktails I’ve ingested, rather than a glutening. They also now state that the chicken is gluten free on their menus, which they stopped doing for a while, which I personally always find comforting. They even had gluten free beer as the special last time I was there.

There are now four Birds around London, including at the Westfield Stratford (for when you really need a post-shopping treat). I’ve only ever been to the Shoreditch branch, but hope to try some of the others soon.

 

Honest Burgers – Gluten Free Review

It’s no secret that Honest Burgers is almost revered among the London gluten free community, but I’m a huge fan so thought I’d add my voice! Honest Burgers is a small chain that started in Brixton Market and now has 17 locations around London (they open new restaurants all the time so see the current list of locations here). It was among the earlier ‘one dish only’ restaurants in London, in this case obviously burgers. Very good burgers with their secret weapon: rosemary-salted chips (fries).

Honest Burgers gluten free

My personal favourites are the American Tribute and the vegetarian fritter. I know that ordering the vegetarian option could seem controversial in a restaurant known for their fabulous beef burgers, but it is really tasty. The onion rings are also coeliac-friendly and have a great paprika-flavoured batter. The gluten free bun holds up well and doesn’t crumble everywhere, which is necessary when you’re trying to figure out how you’re going to fit the burger in your mouth. The staff are clued up to gluten free and ask if it’s a lifestyle choice or an allergy. There’s also gluten free beer available if you so desire, as well as a small but good selection of cocktails.

Honest Burgers has saved me so many times because it’s a great option when you’re out with friends and don’t want to have to feel like you’re the ‘weird coeliac’ and can’t go anywhere fun. Everyone I’ve taken to Honest has loved it, and it feels like a hipster-ish restaurant while not being too pretentious. Would love to see more restaurants like it, and thanks Honest for being honestly awesome for coeliacs.

Boston – Gluten Free Travel

In late September my boyfriend and I were in the USA for two weeks, primarily for my sister’s wedding but also for a holiday. During that time we spent just over 24 hours in Boston to visit one of my oldest friends from school. 24 hours didn’t give me huge amounts of time to explore Boston’s gluten free options but I was determined to give it my best shot. Luckily I’d been given great recommendations (which I’ve listed at the end) so I knew that  I should be eating well.

One of the repeat recommendations I got was for The Elephant Walk, a French/Cambodian restaurant. There are two of them in the Boston area, one in Cambridge and the other in the South End, was the one we went to. My non-coeliac friend had been before and recommended it too, which is always a great sign.

Gluten free food Boston

The gluten free options were listed right on the menu, which always makes me feel better (though I always mention the coeliac disease as well). The three of us shared two gluten free starters, the Nataing and the Salade Cambodgienne. The Nataing was a ground pork dish served with rice, and the salad included chicken and shredded vegetables. As you can see from the photos, either of them could have been a main in their own right.

Gluten free food Boston

For my main I had the Poulet a la Citronelle, which was a peanutty curry quite similar to a satay. All three of the dishes I tried were really fresh and tasty. All five of the dessert options were or could be modified to be gluten free, but I resisted because I was already pretty full and I knew there was a dessert treat waiting for me two doors down…

Before we went to The Elephant Walk, we’d gone into The Gallows bar for some pre-dinner drinks. My friend had been waxing lyrical about their dessert: the ‘Stoners Delight’, made up of banana, chocolate ganache, peanut butter mousse, and bruleed marshmallow fluff. Imagine my excitement when I looked at the menu and saw the ‘gf’ beside this delight! So after dinner we obviously had to go back and order it.

Gluten free cider Boston

I also enjoyed this Downeast cider that was everywhere in Boston. Recommended if you’re in a bar.

Although the bar had been quite empty during our pre-dinner excursion (probably because we showed up 2 minutes before they opened and left after one drink), it was packed when we got back an hour later. Luckily they had one table left, but it was in their darkened dining area. So my photos of the awesome dessert are not as good as I would have liked. But you can all imagine how tasty it was. My boyfriend, unaccountably, does not like peanut butter so my friend and I shared the dessert. It was delicious, although I think my sugar rushed lasted for about 3 days. Not helped by everything I ate the next day.

The next morning we started the day with breakfast at The Friendly Toast in Back Bay. This was a very cute diner doing an very large selection of tasty-sounding food. But there was no way I was going to pass up the opportunity for gluten free pancakes. So I ordered two banana pancakes, which turned out to be the size of my head. Or probably larger. Though luckily the fresh banana was very present, so I at least felt slightly like I was eating fruit.

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We then walked the Freedom Trail, with a quick stop into Uniqlo at Faneuil Hall because the weather had dropped about 15 degrees celcius since we’d arrived in the USA, and neither of us had brought more than a cardigan. So some new fleece-lined hoodies were in order! We then decided that the only thing even more necessary to warm us up was donuts. Amazingly enough, I can’t resist a gluten free donut either. And Kane’s Donuts are famous for their regular donuts, so had to be worth a slight detour.

There were three types of gluten free donuts on the day we went: chocolate, vanilla and pumpkin spice. The donuts are made and fried separately, and were kept on their own stand. I could even see that the three trays of gluten free donuts waiting to be put out were kept on a separate tray rack from the regular ones. I tried the pumpkin spice and the chocolate donuts, though I did keep the chocolate one for breakfast the next day. And they were some of the best donuts I’ve ever had, and definitely the best since I’ve was diagnosed with coeliac disease. If you are in Boston, GO TRY THE DONUTS.

Gluten free donuts

The rack with three trays in the background is the specifcially gluten free one.

We were meant to eat lunch in the North End, further along the Freedom Trail and home to a number of Italian restaurants that were recommended to me (see below). However, as you can imagine, after all this sugar we decided that maybe we didn’t need a big pasta lunch. So we went to Boston Public Market instead, where we meant to go to pick up food for dinner on the train home anyway.

Boston Public Market has only been open since 2015, and has around 40 vendors providing produce and food from the New England area. This includes prepared food, farm stands, butchers and specialty products. And, luckily for us coeliacs, lots of it is gluten free.

The most obvious gluten free stall is Jennifer Lee’s Gourmet Bakery, which specialises in allergy-free food. Unfortunately we arrived a bit late for lunch, just after they’d stopped serving their paninis for the day. And I felt I’d had more than enough sugar for a few weeks, so resisted any of their baked goods. But it all looked interesting and worth a look if you’re in the area.

For lunch I instead went for some latkes from Inna’s Kitchen, a Jewish cafe and bakery with a large selection of gluten free options. They serve a more limited selection at the market cafe (they have another location in Newton Centre), but there were lots of tasty things. Even gluten free knishes to take away.

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Many of the speciality producers’ goods were gluten free. We bought some charcuterie and cheese for the train home, and I was sorely tempted by Q’s Nuts. Nuts can often be subject to cross contamination so it was great to see one proudly stating its gluten free-ness (though I somehow forgot to take a photo).

Obviously, 24 hours was not enough time to eat everything I wanted to in Boston. Lots of people gave me more recommendations for my trip, so thank you very much to  Gluten Free Jessica, gfreeguru, lovethingsgf and happywombelle . I’m including a list of those recommendations below in case they’re useful to anyone else!

Otto
Lucca
Terramia
Mamma Mia
Beneventos
Bostonia Public House
Crazy Doughs
Committe Boston
Legal Seafoods
Nebo

(The following recommendations are from lovethingsgf, who is gluten sensitive but not a celiac. She says that most of these are good about cross contamination but I didn’t try any of them and would recommend that celiacs contact the restaurants and take the usual precautions)

The Thinking Cup – gf sandwiches (try the Barcelona Bliss) ( there are several locations)
Sweet Green – salads and grain bowls (several locations)
Dig Inn – salads and grain bowls (Boylston Street)
Otto Pizza – gf pizza (try the mashed potatoes, scallions and bacon one!) (Cambridge)
Salvatore’s – gf pizza (Theatre District)
Bristol Lounge at the Four Seasons -gf burger (in front of the Boston Common)
Met Back Bay – gf burgers and great brunch (Newbury St.)
Joes American Grill – gf burger (Newbury St)
Chinatown restaurants – ask for fried rice without soy sauce
Antico Forno – gf pasta and pizza (North End) There are other Italian restaurants there that also offer gf pasta.
Barcelona – their tapas are incredible! Great for dinner or brunch (South End)
Paramount –  love their huevos rancheros for brunch. You cannot rsvp just go and make the line its worth it. (Beacon Hill)
Amorino – love their gelato (Newbury St.)
Georgetown cupcakes – gf cupcakes available (Newbury St.)

Eat.Sleep.Pilates and Doisy & Dam at Printworks Kitchen

One of the best parts about being forced to go gluten free has been the opportunity to meet all sorts of people who have started their own businesses around their passions.

Printworks Kitchen in Clerkenwell is one of those places. Opened last year by Catherine and Danielle, Printworks offers a range of tasty salads and proteins for weekday lunches, with the options almost always gluten free and with ever-so-tempting gluten free baked goods from Sweetcheeks (also run by Catherine). I will do a full review of Printworks at some point soon, because it’s such a great lunch option, and tasty salads deserve lots of photos.

Printworks Kitchen salads

Love the tasty salads

But about two months ago I got to enjoy those salads while also doing pilates and a chocolate tasting. Perfect evening or what?! Printworks partners with other small businesses to offer evening workshops, including flower arranging, food pop-ups, and pilates. The workshop was run by Vanisha, who set up Eat.Sleep.Pilates after doing an pilates instructor course while between jobs in banking. I do a pilates class once a week and felt that I could do all the moves without really pushing myself, but that I was still getting a workout. Vanisha was really good about explaining the moves and moving slowly if anyone was having problems. It was the right pace for me for an after-work class.

After pilates we got to eat gorgeous salads from Printworks. All of the salads were gluten free so I didn’t feel leftout at all.

 

Printworks kitchen salad

The final part of the evening was a chocolate tasting run by Nat and Alexa from Doisy & Dam. I’ve purchased some of their chocolate before on Ocado and was interested to hear more about the company and their ethos. Couldn’t believe that there are only 6 people working at Doisy & Dam, just goes to show how much can be accomplished by a small number of people. Doisy & Dan are trying to recreate the ideas of some famous commercial chocolate bars, but using good quality chocolate and superfood ingredients. For example, their Date and Himalayan Pink Sea Salt bar does taste a lot like a salted caramel chocolate bar! I was more interested in the fact that all their chocolate is gluten free, which other coeliacs will know can be difficult to find. I spoke to Nat and Alexa afterwards to tell them how important it was to me that all the chocolate was gluten free, and they said that originally it was just because the founders didn’t see the need for gluten in chocolate. I wish other chocolatiers felt the same… So hopefully Doisy & Dam will continue to make all their products gluten free in the future.

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For the chocolate tasting we got to have melted milk and dark chocolate on dairy free coconut yoghurt from The Coconut Collaborative. I’d never tried the yoghurt before but it was really good, and gluten and soy free too. It worked really well as a complete dessert with the strawberries and chocolate. We also got to put our own Doisy & Dam toppings on our chocolate. I tried cocoa nibs, pink salt, puffed quinoa and coconut.

All in all I had a great time at the Eat.Sleep.Pilates workshop at Printworks Kitchen with Doisy & Dam. I would highly recommend keeping an eye out for events run by any of the three businesses!

Camden Gluten Free Festival

Camden Market in Camden, North London, is a street food hub. Technically six markets (according to Wikipedia) the main street food market is in Camden Lock, up by the canal. You have to push your way through hordes of tourists and tat stalls to get there on weekends, especially Sundays, but it’s worth it! There are plenty of gluten free options available in the regular market, as evidenced by these reviews by The Coeliac Plate and Kim McGowan in the Londonist.

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For the last few years the lovely people at Camden Lock Market have been running a gluten free food festival over a weekend every few months. The most recent one was last weekend (14-15 May), and there will hopefully be another one either in September or at Christmas. Or if we’re really lucky, both! They rebranded this time so the festival is now called Against the Grain, with the hashtag #beigerage to emphasise colourful food. The May one is usually tied to Coeliac Awareness Week and this year included talks by the Coeliac UK Youth Group. This review will focus on the stalls I’ve visited in my last few visits to the festival, especially last weekend. If you want a review of another coeliac’s visit last year, check out Gluten Free in London. Word of warning for the festival: go hungry.

Risotto

So much risotto that I got an extra fork for my boyfriend!

For my main dish I went for risotto from Risotto2Go. They do gluten free risotto at a number of festivals, mostly music ones, and this was their first time at Camden. I was very excited to hear that they will be at Citadel Festival (Victoria Park in July) because I’m going and was very worried about finding gluten free food! I stupidly (or smartly, take your pick) didn’t check on the size of the risotto before ordering and went with a large because I was hungry. Which ended up being SO LARGE. I had the chicken and pea risotto. They also had mushroom risotto but I can’t eat mushrooms, and they were advertising arancini (fried risotto balls) but had sold out before I got there. So definitely want to try the arancini at Citadel!

 

I also had to stop by the stall of Artisan Gluten Free Bakery for some of my beloved fresh bread. They were selling bread and brownies faster than they could bring them in from Islington so I was very happy to get a loaf. And possibly a peanut butter brownie too… They’ve been at all of the Camden gluten free festivals and it’s always great to see more people enjoying their bread.

I was actually very restrained this year (mostly because we’d hosted a Eurovision party the night before and had no room in the house for more food), but I resisted buying anything other than Thornley’s spice blend. I make most of my own sauces at home but thought they would be great for a night when I was rushing. They were giving out tasters of the chili so I couldn’t resist.

Thornley's sauce mixes

There were obviously lots of other stalls that I didn’t visit. Though it could be hard to find them, the market was very crowded on Sunday lunchtime. Would be nice if they could move the gluten free area somewhere that was easier to get around/see all the stalls, it was in a narrow passage. Other stalls that I saw at this festival included: Feed Me Primal (great paleo food, they’re also at markets around London. A full review will follow); Lab Pizza; Cupcakes and Shhht; Louisiana Chilli Shack; Maize Blaze; and From the Earth.

On my last visit, in September, I visited a few of the stalls that I just mentioned. I’m trying to branch out at every festival, got to catch them all!

My main meal in September was from Louisiana Chilli Shack, when I had their white chicken chilli on nachos. The entire stall is gluten free and they do a range of chillis, including a vegan one, with nachos and rice for sides. I’m not a huge fan of tomatoes so the white chilli was amazing, really flavourful without being overly spicy. They’re going to be in Old Street Station from May 23 – June 19 and I’m definitely planning to stop by.

 

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My boyfriend went for grilled meat and potatoes from Maize Blaze. I personally would have gone for their gluten free empanadas, but if I drag him all around London for gluten free food I can’t really complain about his meal choices. Still need to try them though!

I also caved and bought myself a cupcake from Cupcakes and Shhht. They do gluten free and vegan baked goods, available in Camden all week and at their cafe in Elephant and Castle. Couldn’t resist the perfect raspberry on top.

Perfect cupcake

While there aren’t quite as many free samples as the Allergy & Free From Show I would definitely recommend the Camden gluten free festival to any coeliacs or other gluten free-ers in the London area. And I really hope they continue to do it on a regular basis!

 

Eat’n’Mess – Gluten Free Cafe

Followers of my Instagram will have realised that I am a big fan of planning long walks on weekends that JUST HAPPEN to include visits to gluten free hot spots. I’ve dragged my friends, my family and my boyfriend around a large number of places just so I can try a new or favourite place. A coeliac has to do what a coeliac has to do for gluten free food!

Last weekend, with the sun finally shining, we headed off to Sevenoaks. 30 minutes south of London in Kent, Sevenoaks is a pretty commuter town. For walking purposes it has two National Trust houses (Knole and Ightham Mote) within 5 miles. For gluten free purposes, it has Eat’n’Mess, a gluten-free cafe in the town centre. Eat’n’Mess opened in Sevenoaks in 2015, though their baked goods are also available at Broadway Market (Hackney) on Saturdays. I’ve been lucky enough to try some of their things in Hackney so was looking forward to visiting the cafe.

Gluten free baked goods

So many gluten free baked goods!

The cafe itself is very cute, and was doing a roaring take-away trade at 10.30 on Saturday morning. It is mostly baked goods, although gluten free bread loaves are now available. They also do non-gluten free, but dairy free, bread. Everything is labelled and the non-gluten free stuff is far away from the gluten free (which is all the baked goods), but just advanced warning! Breakfast is available to eat in the cafe, including eggs, bacon, beans on toast, etc. but we’d already eaten. Looked like a nice place for brunch though.

Gluten free bread

My favourite Eat’n’Mess treat is their cookie pie. Two peanut butter chocolate chip cookies, sandwiched around icing, with salted caramel sauce in the middle. YUM. The caramel makes the cookies slightly softer as you get to the middle. It is a very large amount of sugar, but if you’re out for a 10 mile walk that’s okay, right?! It is also so tasty that it would be worth it even without the 10 mile walk.

Gluten free cookie pie

In addition to their cookie pie, I also tried the gingerbread man, lemon and white chocolate cookie, and s’mores chocolate pie. (Not all in one day, I must add. Even I have a sugar limit). The cookies were both tasty, even though my poor gingerbread man fell apart in my bag before I got to him! The s’more pie wasn’t quite as good as I was hoping. My piece was an edge piece so only half covered with marshmallow, so the chocolate was a bit overwhelming. Would definitely go for the cookie pie every time.

Sevenoaks is a very quick trip out of London and made for a lovely day out. Would definitely recommend a pilgrimmage to Eat’n’Mess over the summer if you fancy some gluten free treats. Or just brave the hipsters of Hackney on a Saturday and you can get your gluten free fix without leaving London! Eat’n’Mess also do beautiful gluten free cupcakes and celebration cakes if you’re looking for something a bit special. You can see a three-tier cake in the window of the cafe in first photo on this post, and their website has photos of plenty more.

 

Salisbury – Gluten Free Travel

I’m back! And once again determined to actually publish the large number of half-finished blog posts in my queue… But starting fresh now with my gluten free trip to Salisbury (in south-west England) that I took over the Bank Holiday weekend. I did my usually thorough internet searching before we left and didn’t find huge amounts of information, so hopefully this will be helpful to other coeliacs visiting Salisbury.

Salisbury Cathedral

Salisbury Cathedral, with a hint of the windiness of the weekend in the clouds.

My first recommendation is to stay in an Airbnb. Then you know that a fridge and kitchen is available, so you can always have snacks on hand and a place to eat breakfast safely. We stayed in a beautiful one-bedroom house that I would desperately love to live in permanently.

Marks & Spencer gluten free sandwich

Staying in an Airbnb means you can have a leftover M&S BLT sandwich for breakfast!

 

On our first day we took the Stonehenge Tour bus to Stonehenge, which is about 30 minutes from the rail station. We were planning on doing some walking but the weather was very changeable and we spent a while sitting in the cafe waiting for the rain to stop! The English Heritage website says that the cafe does gluten-free sandwiches, soups, salads, cakes, etc. Unfortunately that is overstating the case quite a bit. The cafe worker looked panicked when I asked about gluten free options, and there were no sandwiches available. She said the soup was okay but there was no gluten free bread, and pointed out two of the salads (ploughman and smoked salmon). However there were no ingredients listed on any of the packaged salads. I went for the ploughman but didn’t have the dressing, just in case. In reality the plougman consisted of two large slices of cheese with a lot of leaves. Not great! Especially since I’d been expecting many more options.

Stonehenge gluten free salad

You can see how the ploughman salad was literally just cheese and leaves!

Foods of Athenry gluten free snack box

Luckily the Foods of Athenry snack box saved me.

Luckily, I am also an experienced coeliac and had planned on the cafe not having the options they had listed on the website. So I’d also brought along this Foods of Athenry snack pack that I’d purchased at the Galway Food Festival in March.It included hummus, gluten-free crackers, a fruit and nut mix, and a brownie. Not cheap but everything was tasty and it was great to have on hand. They are also available on Aer Lingus flights as the gluten free option, which is great.

In Salisbury itself we tried three restaurants. The first was The Cosy Club, a small chain that has outposts in many of the provincial cities including Salisbury, Bath, Derby, Exeter and Leicester. They have a specific gluten free menu, with the style of food being modern British-esque (they have a tapas menu but also pork belly and fish and chips). We went for dinner one night and I had the tapas tortilla to start and the pork belly for main. The tortilla came with a gluten free roll in place of the normal bread, which is always a plus.

Gluten free tapas Cosy Club

Spanish tortilla with gluten free bread

Gluten free dinner Cosy Club

Pork belly with mash, peas, shallots and lots of greens.

We also went to The Cosy Club for brunch on Sunday, as it seems like Salisbury hasn’t quite caught onto the brunch phenomenon yet! I had a bacon and fried egg sandwich, again on the same gluten free bread (possibly Genius?). The food was good, if not out-of-this-world, both times and they had tasty cocktails when we were there for dinner. Always good to see another restaurant having a separate menu and I would definitely go again.

Gluten free bacon roll

Bacon and egg roll on gluten free bread

The other non-nationwide chain restaurant in Salisbury that I tried was Greengages Cafe. It is an old-fashioned-style cafe (ie no fancy decorations or random kitchen utensils in frames on the walls) that has a huge range of gluten free, vegetarian and vegan options. They do breakfast and lunch, but unfortunately they were closed on Sunday so I only got to go once. I had a bacon, brie and cranberry sandwich, which definitely seemed to be their most popular option from the number of people around me who ordered it! Would really have liked to try more of their food and would highly recommend it to any coeliacs going to Salisbury.

Gluten free sandwich

Brie, bacon and cranberry gluten free sandwich

Gluten free sandwich

So much tasty filling…

The third restaurant that we tried in Salisbury was Prezzo. Prezzos are curiously hard to find in London, and since my last visit (about 3 years ago) they have been accredited by Coeliac UK and now do gluten free pasta as well as pizza. It was freezing and pouring on the night we went for dinner, so luckily they do very large portions! They now have a separate gluten free menu, so be sure to ask for it when you arrive. The chain restaurants can often fail on providing gluten free starters so I was very excited to try the gf garlic bread with caramelised onions and cheese. It was tasty, though maybe heavier on the caramelised onions flavour than garlic.

Gluten free garlic bread

Definitely looks like ‘normal’ restaurant garlic bread!

For my main I wanted to try some of their gluten free baked pasta, which is not something you often see on menus. Unfortunately there may be a reason for this, as after I’d ordered the manager came over and said they’d had complaints from gluten free eaters that the pasta was too dry after it had gone in the over, so they recommended serving it non-baked! There was also some concern over whether the cheese they normally use on top was gluten free, so the manager said she’d made sure the cheese was safe. It was good to have people keep checking, though also a bit concerning that they weren’t sure about the cheese. But the only after-effect was feeling ill from eating too much food over the weekend and I can only blame myself for that.

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Not quite as baked as I might have hoped for from ‘baked pasta’

The last place I would recommend for gluten free treats in Salisbury is Cupcake Heaven. They have a small but lovely selection of gluten free cupcakes, which are kept in a separate part of the counter area away from the gluten-full treats. I may have tried a number of their gluten free flavours, all of which were tasty. Especially if, like me, you’re a big fan of icing.

Overall it was easy to eat as a coeliac in Salisbury. If we’d been there longer, all of the nationwide-chains that do gluten free options (Cote, Zizzi, etc) were available. I didn’t find any other independents that did gluten free food, but please leave a comment if you know of any other options in Salisbury!