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.

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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!