Hawksmoor, Guildhall

Hawksmoor is always a great option for coeliacs, especially if you want a to treat yourself to a high quality steak.  Having previously been to the Air Street restaurant, this time I got to try Guildhall for my friend Grant’s birthday lunch.

As always, the waiting staff were able to take me through the menu and tell me what I can and can’t have. We decided to order from the Express Menu (3 courses for £28) because it’s such a bargain.

I went for the Salcombe crab on toast as a starter and the chef substituted the toast for some sliced beef tomatoes.

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I absolutely love fish and seafood and this crab was up there with some of the best I’ve ever had.

For my main course, I decided to pay the £5 supplement and ordered the fillet steak (rare) with triple cooked chips.

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Hawksmoor really knows how to do steak well and my fillet was no exception – it was perfectly cooked and extremely delicious.

For dessert I had the special, a lemon meringue sundae which was the surprise winner of the meal.

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This dessert was sooo good, it’s one of those dishes you can’t stop thinking about once you’ve tried it. I hope they include it on the menu again soon.

As always, Hawksmoor delivers great gluten free food and I hope to visit all the restaurants at some point!

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Lardo

Before going to see the excellent Lost in the Riots at The Brewhouse Venue in Hackney, my friend Matt and I had some dinner at Lardo to try out their gluten free pizza bases.

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Lardo is a cool Italian in The Arthaus Building on Richmond Road and is very popular. Although it looks quiet in the photo, by about 6.30pm is was packed, so booking is recommended.

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Lardo does the whole Italian shebang, spuntini, anitpasti, primi, secondi etc. etc. I ordered the spicy seafood marinara pizza on a gluten free base.

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The topping was lovely but unfortunately the base was no where near as good as the Theos standard. Matt didn’t really enjoy his regular pizza either and considering how expensive they are, we probably won’t go back again.

Yosma

Back in July I had the pleasure of visiting Yosma, a Turkish small plates restaurant on Baker Street. I’m not usually one for small plates but I saw a great review of Yosma and decided to give it a go.

Like most Turkish restaurants, there was a lots of meaty, gluten free options so I knew I wouldn’t go hungry despite the size of the portions.

While we were deciding on what to have, my friend Matt ordered some Clay Oven Bread. Obviously I couldn’t have any, but once I’d told the waiting staff I was a coeliac they bought me over some gluten free bread so I didn’t miss out.

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We ordered four small plates each – one cold meze, one hot meze and two mangal dishes.

First up, the Salt Cured Mackerel (Çiroz) with pickled shallot, apple and dill, which was absolutely delicious. Meaty mackerel, perfectly cured – we were off to a good start!

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Calamari next, battered using chickpea flour so it’s completely gluten free!

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This was followed by the Turkish Meatballs (Köfte) – Lamb shoulder köfte, steamed potato and muhammara sauce. I’m not a huge fan of köfte usually, it reminds me of those greasy sticks of meat you get at crap office parties. Yosma’s köfte however, is superb and the sauce a rich, tasty version of the chilli sauce you get with your doner kebabs!

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The star of the show next, Chicken (Tavuk) – corn-fed chicken breast, charred corn, green pepper and tahini sauce.

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This is one of the best chicken dishes I have ever had and the reason I’ll be going back to Yosma asap.

Unfortunately there wasn’t much in the way of gluten free dessert, so sadly I had to go without.

I definitely recommend Yosma as a great gluten free option, in an area that is rife with chains and tourists. Not only was the food amazing, the staff were knowledgeable, friendly and very accommodating.

Lepelblad, Ghent

I recently had the pleasure of spending the weekend in Ghent, a lovely city in Belgium which I can’t recommend enough.

Lepelblad was just around the corner from our airbnb, in a great shopping and foodie area of the city.

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The menu was in Flemish but thankfully the waitress spoke English, so I was able to tell her that I was a coeliac and ask about the food. Amazingly, she said that I could order anything I wanted and they’d be able to make it gluten free (apart from the pasta because they’d run out their gf version). This was the best start to my trip possible!

I ordered lamb meatball tomato curry and rice, not a traditional Belgium cuisine but bloody hell it was nice. One of the best curries I’ve had, ever.

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We didn’t have time for dessert unfortunately but if you find yourself in Ghent, I’d highly recommend trying Lepelblad – the food is great and EVERYTHING can be made gluten free!

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Caravan, Kings Cross

Caravan, located in the beautiful Granary Square near Kings Cross station, is another great option for the gluten-free (especially when the queues for Dishoom are too long). Caravan does tapas style small plates, hearty but interesting mains and pizzas.

I asked for the gluten free menu on arrival and was pleased to see that I had plenty of options amongst the ‘small plates’. Pizza is obviously out and most of the mains I sadly couldn’t have, so on the advice of the waitress I ordered 3 of the smalls.

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I went for the burrata with ancho chilli, pan-fried mackerel and the brown shrimp with grits.

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Having recently enjoyed some amazing burrata when I was in Italy and at the Camberwell Arms, I was very excited about this plate. Unfortunately it didn’t quite meet my expectations. It wasn’t as creamy as I had hoped and the salsa didn’t pack the punch I was after. It was still nice, just not as nice as I wanted it to be.

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The mackerel on the other hand, was delicious. The pine nuts and sultanas worked perfectly with the fish, which was fresh and juicy. My one criticism is that the skin wasn’t as crispy as I like it to be.

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Another dish which came with high expectations after my New York experience, but again left me a disappointed. Shrimp and grits are always a winning combo so I shouldn’t really complain but…the grits were a little sloppy rather than fluffy and the shrimp was a bit too sweet rather than salty. I still ate and enjoyed it all with a spoon though!

Even after 3, not so small plates, I still had room for a pudding. So I ordered the coconut panna cotta with passion fruit coulis, which was fabulous.

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I feel like I’ve been a bit harsh on Caravan purely because I got my hopes up. It’s actually a really lovely restaurant, with great food, loads of gluten free options in an awesome location. Judge it for yourself, booking is necessary because they are always busy!

Caravan has three locations now – Kings Cross, Exmouth Market and Bankside.

Castel del Piano, Tuscany

A couple of weekends ago I was lucky enough to spend a few days hanging out with friends at the wonderfully rustic Cenno, in a beautiful Tuscan town called Castel del Piano.

Initially I worried about holidaying in the land of pasta and pizza (or Wheataly as some might say), but in the end I had absolutely nothing to fear. It seems the more a country likes it’s gluten, the better they are at catering for those who don’t.

Castello Banfi – La Taverna

Banfi is a beautiful winery and hillside vineyard with incredible views of the surrounding Grosseto province. It also has a lovely restaurant based within the ancient barrel cellars of Brunello castle.

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We booked to have lunch here not only for all the reasons I just mentioned but also because their sample menus clearly identify allergens, which is always a good sign.

When we arrived we were greeted with a selection of bread and a gluteny amuse-bouche. I mentioned to the waitress that I was gluten-free and she rushed off to the kitchen to tell the chef, returning with a basket of gf breads, crackers and an amended amuse-bouche. Happy days!

There were plenty of starters for me to choose from, some naturally gluten free, some gluten free with alterations. I went for the selection of cinta senese cured meats without the mixed crostini.

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When the absolutely massive portion arrived, they’d unexpectedly swapped the crostini with some gluten-free crackers so I could properly enjoy the rich pate and tomato salsa. The meat itself was excellent – fresh and flavoursome, a million times better than the packaged stuff you get here.

Unfortunately I had to skip ‘primi’, as this is the pasta course. But not worry, moving on to ‘secondi’, I chose to have the cod with chickpea, vegetables and red onion.

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The cod was so beautifully cooked it was falling apart on the plate, I really don’t think I’ve ever had a better cooked piece of fish – subtly salty and not overpowered by the onion or chickpea. Very, very impressive and much needed after my meaty starter.

Unfortunately there was only one dessert option that I was able to have – tangerine sorbet and fruit. This isn’t something I’d usually order but thought it was bound to be good in a country that specialises in gelato and granita, and I wasn’t wrong.

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The fruit salad was presented so beautifully I felt guilty tucking in, but the tangerine sorbet was out of this world. I have never tasted an ice-cream that had such flavour, it was so remarkable I wasn’t even jealous of my friends’ chocolate fondants!

We finished off the meal with a delicious dessert wine called Banfi Rosa Regale which I recommend you all immediately go out and buy.

10/10 La Taverna, I hope to visit again some day.

Del Dombi

After wandering around Castel del Piano looking for somewhere to have dinner, we stumbled across Del Dombi, a great family run restaurant serving Italian classics for a very reasonable price.

If you’re looking for something fancy, Del Dombi probably isn’t for you, but it was just what we needed after a day floating around the Saturnia thermal springs.

This restaurant is so Italian, no one speaks English and there were no helpfully translated menus, so we had to rely on Google to decipher them.

For a starter I ordered cozze e vongole con burro all’aglio (mussels and clams with garlic butter).

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The mussels were absolutely enormous, juicy and fresh and the clams the same. For such a back to basics restaurant, I was really impressed with how great this starter was. Special mention to the amazingly garlicky butter sauce, which the rest of my group took turns in dipping their bread in to.

As a main I went for bistecca alla griglia (grilled steak) with a side of melanzane grigliate (grilled aubergine) – usually I’d have fries with a steak but I didn’t have the language skills to explain what having coeliac disease means!

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It arrived just seared and deliciously rare, just how a like it! I’m not sure what the cut of beef was, it certainly wasn’t a fillet as it had quite a bit of fat to navigate but for the price it was delicious and great quality.

For dessert I decided to go full Italy and have a panna cotta con creme caramel (I probably don’t need to translate that one). Another unusual choice for me but I’m so glad I did, it was by far the best part of the meal, despite what it looks like.

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The whole meal including a bottle of prosecco and a carafe of wine cost only €30 each and the food was great, definitely worth a visit.

Coop

Coop or co-op is Castel del Piano’s local supermarket and thought it was worth a mention because it has the BEST gluten free section ever.

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This meant not only did I get to enjoy cheese with lots of crackers but also Nutella cake, fresh pasta, and surprisingly gluten free Tenants lager!

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Peter

This week I was away for work in glamorous Loughborough, so as always I went to Google to research potential dinner venues. Not much was coming up other than the usual Pizza Express, Nandos etc and a few cafes that closed too early. Then I stumbled across Peter, a cool looking pizza place that does gluten free bases.

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The menu had a good selection, nothing too out of the ordinary but thankfully not a pineapple chunk in sight!

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I ordered the Diavola on a gluten free base and a glass of house white. I’m always relieved when you order gluten free alternatives and the waiters don’t flinch or look confused, it’s very reassuring. Thanks Peter staff!

The kitchen was open and I was sat next to the pizza oven, which was lovely as it was 0 degrees outside and all the regular pizzas being cooked looked delicious, so I had high hopes.

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It arrived with the look of a high quality gluten free pizza, however when I cut in to it I was disappointed. I’m not sure if the base was under-cooked or it just wasn’t very good but the centre of the pizza was very dry and gritty.

I probably would have complained if I wasn’t so hungry, so instead I ate the outer edge and the topping, which was actually very good.

I think Peter just suffered from a bad base because all the other customers were happily dining and the ingredients they used for the toppings were clearly great. If I were to find myself in Loughborough again, I’d give Peter a second chance and actually say something if I found the base under-cooked. Plus, your bill is delivered by a cute little dragon which is worth a repeat visit alone.

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Peter also has a branch in Leicester if you are an East Midlands resident and fancy giving it a go.

Le Petite Bretagne

Whenever I have lunch with my friend James, we always meet somewhere in between Tooting and Camberwell for convenience, so the day before I started frantically researching gluten free lunch options around Clapham.

I came across Le Petite Bretagne on Clapham Park Road, a creperie that specialises in savoury buckwheat (gluten and wheat free) crepes – perfect!

The restaurant itself is modern and spacious and the waiting staff are very attentive, we were seated immediately by the window and the menus explained.

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It’s a two step process, first you choose a savoury crepe and then a side salad. I went for a ‘Savoyard’ (cheese, ham, gherkin, potato and onion) and ‘Sergent pepper’ salad (peppers, pine nuts, Parmesan, olives and basil).

When our food arrived we were astonished by how big the portion sizes were (my photos don’t do them justice). They certainly don’t scrimp on crepe fillings or bulk out the salad with lettuce, ideal as we’d both been for long runs earlier that morning.

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Savoyard
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Sergent pepper

The pancake itself was delicious, buckwheat works so well for savoury pancakes. The combination of cheese, ham, gherkins, onions and potatoes was excellent (obviously) and it was great having the salad to offset the huge amounts of melted cheese.

We both decided to have dessert too, because we’d earned the extra calories from running.

I ordered the banana split and James the Nutella and banana waffle (sadly there were no gf waffle options).

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The banana split was massive, consisting of two chocolate chip and vanilla ice cream scoops, chopped banana, whipped cream and chocolate sauce. I had to give the wafer to James but the rest I took my time over and finished. Well worth the effort and the feeling of being unbearably full.

For all you non-special dietary requirement people out there, the waffle looked amazing too and apparently tasted incredible.

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Thanks for the photo James

I can’t wait to go back to La Petite Bretagne, the food was great and it’s so nice to have something different than the usual gluten free buns/pizza bases you often have to rely on for lunches.

Top marks to La Petite Bretagne! Clapham has suddenly become far more appealing!

There’s also a restaurant in Hammersmith on Beadon Road. Hurrah!

Arepa & Co

Ahead of a trip to Draughts with some friends, I was finding it really difficult to source a suitable place to eat around the Haggerston/Kingsland Road area. As much as I wanted to peruse the lovely Vietnamese restaurants of Kingsland, we only had an hour to eat and I didn’t fancy having to work out what I can and can’t eat and risk being hungry for board game fun.

After multiple failed ‘gluten free restaurants in Haggerston’ searches, I turned to trusty Google maps to check the menus of the restaurants nearby and that’s when I came across Arepa & Co, a Venezuelan restaurant right on the canal.

It was the first place I’d found that actually indicated allergens on the menu including cereal containing gluten, celery, eggs, fish, milk, mustard, nuts, and soya beans. Best of all, it turns out Venezuelan food is naturally pretty coeliac friendly so I booked a table straight away.

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We arrived at the small, waterside restaurant and were greeted by friendly waiting staff who seated us and quickly took our drinks order – wine for me and Venezuelan beer for everyone else.

Having never eaten Venezuelan food before I wanted to go for something authentic, so I ordered a starter of Yuka and an Arepa main.

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Yuka – Cassava fingers with granny’s recipe of garlic and parsley sauce

Cassava is a South American root vegetable, which tasted like a cross between potato and celeriac. The Yuka starter is deep fried cassava with a rich garlic dip, essentially like having some chips as an appetizer, which is all good in my books.

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Arepa with shredded beef, cheddar, black beans and plantain

Arepa is like a corn bread patty that is traditionally eaten in Columbia and Venezuela and as it’s made for maize is gluten and wheat free. I opted for the ‘Pabellón’ arepa which contains shredded beef, cheddar, black beans and plantain.

When it arrived I initially thought it was a bit on the small side but once I got started I realised just how packed full of meat, beans and cheese it was. I was completely full afterwards.

The shredded beef was incredible and the beans and cheese obviously went very well with it. The plantain was an interesting addition, adding a little sweetness to the rich beef, which I loved but I imagine might not be for everyone.

Another similar gluten free main was my friend Laura’s one – the restaurant’s signature dish of Pabellón Criollo. Also consisting of shredded beef, cheese, black beans and plantain but layered on rice and with a little flower garnish.

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Pabellon Criollo (thanks for the photo Laura)

Unfortunately there was no time for dessert but next time, and there will be a next time, I’m going to try the coconut ice cream.

Overall Arepa & Co was a great experience – the food is delicious and the service exceptional. Our waiter was very attentive, asking us about our plans for the evening, how we found out about the restaurant and chatting knowledgeably about the food and what does and doesn’t contain gluten. He also came to say goodbye when his shift ended, wishing us a good night. Lovely.

A great find in an area with little or difficult to find gluten free places to eat.

Dishoom

I’ve been a loyal customer of Dishoom since the first restaurant opened on St Martin’s Lane in 2010. Six years later and now a reluctant coeliac, I’m still as dedicated as a ever.

On Saturday, after walking the Parkland Walk, me and my friend Matt decided to refuel at the Kings Cross restaurant – the first time I’ve visited since d-day.

Miraculously there was no queue (probably because it was 3.30pm) and we were seated straight away. I asked for the gluten-free menu and was presented with one that highlighted everything gf and everything that could be modified (a sign of a great restaurant). Pleasingly there were lots of options, so we ordered lots of food:

  • Dishoom chicken tikka – OMFG
  • Gun powder potatoes – how I’m going to do all potatoes from now on
  • House black daal – not a fan of daal usually but this one is so good I make an exception
  • Chicken ruby – rich curry with a lovely warm kick
  • Kachumber – fresh salsa, perfect contrast to a spicy curry
  • Garlic naan (Matt’s order) – Me: is your garlic naan nice? Matt: Yeah, very.

The food and service never fails to impress and restaurants themselves are something to behold. If you don’t believe me, Dishoom even beat Heston Blumenthal’s Dinner to top Yelp’s best restaurant in the UK list!