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.

 

Advertisements

Gluten Free Dublin – Part 3

Antoinette Gluten Free Dublin

Antoinette’s Bakery is that Holy Grail for coeliacs – a fully gluten-free bakery. And with tasty treats to purchase. It’s just off Camden Street, near St Patrick’s Cathedral and St Stephen’s Green. I always make a pilgrimmage when I’m in Dublin to stock up. They also seem to do very good coffee, but that’s not something I can comment on personally. Highlights from my visits include cinnamon cakes, cookies, lemon cake, and a ‘Yes’ cupcake from the gay marriage referendum. And world’s most awesome bag for life.

img_9303

My most recent trip to Dublin included dinner at Green 19, also on Camden Street. I’d been years ago before I was diagnosed with coeliac disease and enjoyed their food, so was delighted to see that they had gluten free listed right on their menu. There’s even gluten free beer (Bru Lager). It’s another great place for coeliacs who don’t want to feel like they’re dragging their friends to a random restaurant just because it serves gluten free food. Our Dublin friends go there even when I’m not around. And the food is amazingly tasty. I had some awesome pork belly with potatoes and vegetables, a description which does not do the meal justice. The chocolate brownie, while usually the stereotypical gluten free offering, was a hit with my ‘normal’ friends and definitely worth a try. Apologies for the bad photos, it’s a problem of hipster restaurants that there’s never enough light…

Looking for more Dublin reviews? Check out parts one and two of my Dublin posts.

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.

img_3314

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.

img_3441

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.)

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.

IMG_0014

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!

 

Niche – Gluten Free Restaurant Review

Words to bring joy to the heart of any London coeliac: ‘fully gluten free restaurant’. They’re multiplying! Now embracing the wonders of a completely gluten free restaurant is Niche, next to Sadler’s Wells theatre and on the border between Farringdon and Angel.

If you are anyone eating gluten free in London (or can come down for any sort of visit), you must visit Niche. The restaurant itself was light and airy, the staff were friendly, the menu had a great range of choice, and the food was fantastic.

FullSizeRender

I had been meaning to try Niche for weeks, since hearing that it was now all gluten free and checking out their awesome menu, but even though I live and work a 10 minute walk away I hadn’t quite gotten through the door. So with a free weekend I was determined to make it for brunch. Niche serves brunch Saturday and Sunday until 3pm and, in a rarity for the hipster brunch spots of Clerkenwell and Islington, takes reservations. I should note that this is a completely independent review. I received nothing from Niche except tasty food, but I’m about to use enough superlatives that my independence might be doubted…

First up was parmesan and cheddar doughnuts. Just the name on the menu sounds awesome. And when they arrived it was literally fried cheese. Very tasty fried cheese. They were served with a tomato and red pepper sauce, which my boyfriend enjoyed, but I just went straight for the cheese.

Fried cheese doughnuts. One of the few times I'll allow something served in a basket.

Fried cheese doughnuts. One of the few times I’ll allow something served in a basket.

The inside of the fried cheese.

The inside of the fried cheese.

For the mains we went for typical brunch options. My poor boyfriend even had to wait to eat his food so I could photograph it, only happens in a gluten free restaurant! He had a full English and I had eggs Benedict. Full English got a thumbs up, especially the sausages. Eggs Benedict was also awesome, with a really thick Hollandaise and crispy bacon. We both agreed that the eggs were the right consistency and with the right seasoning, which is rare at a brunch spot.

Full English, fully gluten free.

Full English, fully gluten free.

Eggs Benedict (scrambled because I don't like poached) with a side of avocado and awesome hollandaise.

Eggs Benedict (scrambled because I don’t like poached) with a side of avocado and awesome hollandaise.

Because we hadn’t eaten enough tasty things already, I insisted on dessert. Because who can resist a peanut butter and white chocolate blondie?! (Except my boyfriend. Who is weird and doesn’t like peanut butter, so only ate the ice cream. MORE FOR ME.) It was squidgy and rich and awesome. I noticed on the way out that they’re available for takeaway too…

WHITE CHOCOLATE AND PEANUT BUTTER BLONDIE. So many good words together.

WHITE CHOCOLATE AND PEANUT BUTTER BLONDIE. So many good words together.

But I resisted the takeaway blondie this time and instead got a chocolate chip cookie, which I later ate in the sun. Cookie was the right amount of baked (ie almost not), and the chocolate had remained gooey in the sun. It got the highest praise of ‘You wouldn’t know the difference’ from the gluten eater.

Cookie in the sun.

Cookie in the sun.

As you might be able to tell, I loved Niche. Couldn’t find anything to fault it on my first visit, and hope that will remain the same on my sure-to-be-lots of subsequent visits. Any and all gluten free people of London must visit. And take your ‘normal’ friends, they’ll never know the difference. The food is just good, in addition to being gluten free.

I decided to go for a typical brunch main on this visit but spent a long time agonising over my decision. I will have to go back many times, as I really wanted to try the cauliflower steak, the superfood salad, the beef and chorizo pie, and pretty much everything else on the menu. I will update this review as I try more. I have discovered that they do takeaway and Deliveroo, which may be great for tastiness but bad for my bank balance.

We had had brunch the day before at a hipster spot in Hackney. Where we paid a lot more for a dark restaurant, unseasoned food, and no gluten free carbs on the menu whatsoever. I will only be returning to one brunch place that I tried this weekend, and it is most definitely Niche.

La Polenteria – Gluten Free Restaurant Review

London can often feel full of chain restaurants, which can be both good and bad as a coeliac. I am often grateful for the large number of Pizza Expresses available, especially with the never-ending supply of vouchers, but I also like to support independent restaurants and eat something different! Luckily Soho has a large number of independent restaurants with gluten free options, including one of my favourites: La Polenteria.

On one visit they had balloons that you could write on. This was my contribution.

On one visit they had balloons that you could write on. This was my contribution.

La Polenteria does nothing but polenta, as might be gathered by the name, but in a huge variety of ways. Pressed and grilled polenta slices are used in place of bread for bruschetta, soft polenta is used as a base for stew, there is polenta pasta, and even desserts baked with polenta. Everything on the menu can now be gluten free, although this isn’t labelled and can be confusing, and they have been accredited by Coeliac UK.

I have been to La Polenteria numerous times over the last year so have had a thorough peruse of the menu. They have experimented with different options, including salads, sandwiches and pasta, but always have a selection of vegan, vegetarian and meat-based dishes served directly on polenta.

If you arrive before a certain time of the evening (I think 7) they do a happy hour, with small polenta tasters and fruit-based champagne cocktails to start.

Mini happy hour polenta bites.

Mini happy hour polenta bites.

Rose champagne cocktail with flower petal.

Champagne cocktail with flower petal.

I have also had the full portion of bruschetta as a starter. The polenta worked really well as a base for the tomatoes and this is definitely something I will try myself at home for parties.

IMG_3872

My favourite mains have been the ones with soft polenta and lots of cheese. They are very generous portions with great quality toppings. The toppings vary based on season, with more stews in the winter and vegetables in the summer, and are always tasty. And you can’t go wrong with this much cheese.

Polenta with tomatoes and an entire ball of mozzarella. Perfect for summer.

Polenta with tomatoes and an entire ball of mozzarella. Perfect for summer.

Polenta with a huge wedge of grilled cheese, very tasty Italian ham, and raspberries. So much cheese.

Polenta with a huge wedge of grilled cheese, very tasty Italian ham, and raspberries. So much cheese.

On my last visit I also tried their fresh pasta, getting the gnocchi with red pesto. I thought it was very tasty, and nice to have fresh gluten free pasta! However I think I will go back to the soft polenta next time because it’s a bit more unusual and not something I would do to the same standard at home because of the awesome toppings.

FullSizeRender_2

Sometimes I have even had room for dessert (or gotten something to go…) and my favourite is this chocolate and coconut bar which is exactly like a coconut gluten free Nanaimo bar, for any other coeliac Canadians in London. (Please get in touch if you are out there, I can’t be the only one!) For those uninitiated into such delights, it’s a chocolate base (cooked with polenta here), with a coconut cream filling and chocolate ganache on top. Highly recommended.

FullSizeRender_4

Word has obviously been spreading about La Polenteria, including a mention in Time Out last week, and on my last few visits it has been getting busier and busier. It’s a small location in a bustling area so I would definitely make a reservation for dinner, especially on a weekend night.

Overall I would highly recommend La Polenteria to anyone looking for a non-chain gluten free restaurant in London!