Blighty India Cafe

Last Saturday I found myself in Seven Sisters looking for somewhere to have brunch, when I stumbled across Blighty India Cafe.

Although Blighty specialises in lovely, freshly baked bread, they also do gluten free sliced white so I didn’t miss out on toast with my fry-up.

I went for a full English with gf bread and it did not disappoint. The sausage was removed due to its gluten content but it didn’t matter – the breakfast arrived with a side of spicy beans, 2 fried eggs, 3 rashers of bacon, tomatoes, mushrooms and black pudding!

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The baked beans were definitely the highlight, especially because I could mop up all the sauce with the bread, a luxury I don’t usually have! The rest was great too, good quality and fresh, up there with the best fry-ups I’ve had.

Should I end up in Seven Sisters again I will definitely be making a return visit to Blighty.

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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.

Canal

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.

New York

Having learnt from my trip to Berlin, research is key when you’re a coeliac travelling abroad. So before flying out I Googled ‘best gluten free restaurants in New York’ and the results were awesome! So many options it was impossible for me to take note of them all. New York is a very accommodating city.

So this list is by no means exhaustive but hopefully will help you navigate the huge city a bit.

Restaurants

Jacob’s Pickles (Upper West Side)

Specialising in beer and biscuits as well as pickles I was a little worried there wouldn’t be anything I’d be able to eat but Jacob’s didn’t disappoint. The waiting staff were knowledgeable and helpful, checking with the chef if they weren’t sure about the ingredients.

We shared a selection pickles to start, which were spicy, sour, crisp and delicious!

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As a main I went for shrimp, bacon and cheese grits (a porridge-like ground corn mash). The portion size was mammoth so I couldn’t finish it but grits is definitely something I’ll have again, especially when it’s whipped with cheese.

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As well as great food and interesting cocktails (try The Brooklyn Gin if you like a kick of chilli) Jacob’s also came with a cute British bulldog!

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ABV (Upper East Side)

ABV is a chilled, warehouse style wine bar and has a modern European menu, including homemade charcuterie.

Although the menu doesn’t indicate what is gluten free the staff know everything there is to know about the food and the chefs are very happy to modify dishes accordingly.

We shared a selection of snacks as we were still pretty full from our Jacob’s brunch. We ordered oysters, Edwards Surryano Ham and the Burrata & Brussels Sprouts. All of which were fresh, really well presented and absolutely delicious.

To be honest, I didn’t have a bad meal for the entire trip. New York is very, very good at food!

The Wayland (East Village)

Here we found the happy hour jackpot! New York is expensive, more expensive than London once you add on tax and a tip, so we took full advantage of every happy hour we could find and The Wayland’s one included $1 oysters!

This relaxed bar has a generous 3 hours of happiness which includes $7 wine and cocktails and $4 beer (although no gf options). We spent a couple of hours getting rounds of oysters and booze, whilst sitting in a window overlooking the beautiful community garden on Avenue C.

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Although we didn’t eat from the full menu (which changes daily) I had a look at it and there were a few things that I assume would be gluten free, including fancy brussel sprouts and of course, a trusty cheese platter.

The Grey Dog (Nolita)

We were a little confused by The Grey Dog, it is a kind of pub/restaurant/bakery/deli thing with really loud music, definitely not the best place we’d been to in the city.

Nevertheless they have many gluten free substitutes across the menu and were happy to talk me through it. Having said that, for a place that prides itself in being coeliac friendly they use the same fryers for all the food they cook. I took the risk and ordered some potentially cross-contaminated fries – big mistake! The next day was testing to say the least.

The Grey Dog is recommended on various ‘best brunch’ websites so it might be worth another shot if you’re stupid enough to risk contaminated fries like me!

Rubirosa Ristorante (Nolita)

Highly recommended on every website I looked at and not just for having a gluten free menu, it’s popularity was clear when we arrived and were greeted with a two hour wait. We took the hit, went to a local dive bar and after a few drinks (as you can see from my photography skills below) we got the text to say our table was ready.

Rubirosa’s gluten free menu includes pizza, so I ordered the Fresca with extra anchovies and roasted garlic. When the pizzas arrived, mine was (as expected) half the size of the one made with normal dough – it should be noted that a ‘half the size pizza’ in America is still bigger than a normal UK portion!

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Unfortunately my pizza was a little disappointing, the dough was very sticky and there was so much tomato sauce on it I think it suffered even more. Embarrassingly I prefer the gf bases they use in Pizza Express! Having said that, the mozzarella, garlic and anchovies were very good – fresh ingredients that you definitely wouldn’t get at Pizza Express.

The Cornelia Street Cafe (Greenwich Village)

After walking The High Line and then down to Greenwich Village we were desperate for a big American lunch. Everything we walked past on Bleeker seemed to be either posh French, Mexican or gluten heavy until we reached Cornelia Street. Without realising it, we had stumbled across a New York institution which has been going since 1977 and is a lovely cafe as well as a theatre and gallery.

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The menu shows the meals that are gluten free and the waiting staff were very accommodating. I went for the $25 ‘prix fixe’ menu which includes pastries (I had a fruit salad instead), tea/coffee/soft drink, a main meal and an alcoholic drink. Very good value.

I ordered the ‘omelette du jour’ as my main (squash, pepper, onions and cheese) which came with garlic potatoes and salad. Needless to say the portion was huge and the omelette itself, light and fluffy – they clearly know how to cook good eggs.

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La Palapa (East Village)

I am SO gutted I haven’t got any photos from this restaurant as it was my absolute favourite one from the whole trip but it was far too dark for the photos to come out well.

Mexican food in New York is a million times better than in London and because the tortillas and tacos are made from corn (take note Chilango and Poncho 8) there a loads of options for coeliacs.

I ordered the ‘enchiladas de pollos verdes’, which consisted of pulled chicken in a corn tortilla covered in tomatillo salsa with queso fresco, mexican crema and onion. You know those meals that you can’t stop thinking about? This is one of them. I would go back to La Palapa in a heartbeat.

Mable’s Smokehouse (Williamsburg)

Our native New Yorker friend Liz recommended Mable’s if we were looking for a shitload of dirty barbecued meat, which of course we were!

Again, the staff were really friendly and knowledgeable about what does and doesn’t contain gluten, including the sauces. I was extremely pleased to find out that I could eat all the meat, the majority of the sides and the bbq sauce. Happy days!

Off the back of the incredible chicken I had at La Palapa, I opted for the pulled chicken with a side of bbq beans and candied yams.

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The yams were a little weird but in a good way, I’m tempted to roast all my veg with marshmallows from now on! Everything else tasted great too, although they were a bit stingey with the chicken, especially compared to my friend Louise’s massive rack of ribs.

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Bars

Disappointingly only one of the bars we went to served gluten free beer. Although my New York bartender friend Ste did tell me that it’s pretty commonplace now a days, so I must have just been unlucky.

Venus & Marc (Upper East Side)

Despite the strange velvety, lounge décor you get in a lots of American bars, Venus & Marc was another place with an excellent happy hour (4 hours to be precise)! We enjoyed free poured and therefore very large glasses of wine for $7 and chatted to the bartender, who gave us lots of recommendations for our trip.

Spring Lounge (Nolita)

A local dive bar whose motto is ‘Life is short. Drink early’, what’s not to like about that?! Apparently it was been going since the 1920s, its quirky, wooden interior and lively atmosphere make for a perfect session venue, plus they show sport (baseball whilst we were there).

Holiday Cocktail Lounge (East Village)

Ste recommended this one as a place to go for unusual cocktails. It’s loungey vibe with small, low-lit tables is offset by loud, cheesey music and a bar full of people singing along – a very fun place to party.  The drinks are really good quality even if topped with cocktail umbrellas and glacier cherries.

The Scratcher (East Village – 209 E 5th Street, just off Bowery)

This is the most pub-like bar we went to and is such a hidden gem, it doesn’t even have a website. Pretty accurately described as a ‘rustic watering hole with a traditional Irish vibe down to the Guinness on tap & whiskey drinks’ on Google, The Scratcher serves beer by the pint (for those who can drink it) and decent wine from little cups. I really liked how down-to-earth this bar was, it doesn’t close until 4am and there were plenty of tables – a great pub to go to if you want to have a long drunken chat with your mates.

The Levee (Williamsburg)

My favourite bar not only because it sold Redbridge, one of the best gf beers I’ve had but also because as a big fan of the dive bar, this one was brilliant. With a jukebox playing awesome punky American, Celtic metal (like the Dropkick Murphys crossed with Metallica), The Levee also has bowls of free cheese puffs on the bar, pool and a gigantic array of spirits to choose from.

The Whiskey Annex (Williamsburg)

Located next to the Brooklyn Brewery, The Whiskey Annex is a laid back bar serving whiskey (obviously) but also very strong cocktails by the pint! One of the great things about New York is how much they free pour drinks, no crappy 25ml measures or glasses loaded with ice in sight!

They also have a great happy hour (which we unfortunately missed) where there’s $1 off every drink and pitchers are only $4.

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Earl’s Beer & Cheese (Upper East Side)

The least coeliac friendly bar we went to in New York but I can totally see the appeal for those who can have gluten, the grilled cheese sandwiches and huge range of craft beers looked incredible. I’m including it in this post because they serve rosé in a can, which kept me happy.

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Delis and bakeries

Unlike Berlin it is pretty easy to get a gluten free lunch on the go in New York. Here are a few of the places I went during my stay.

Noglu (Upper East Side)

Pretty self-explanatory, Noglu is a bakery that makes cakes etc with no glu-ten in. Clever what they’ve done there. It’s newly opened store on 1266 Madison Avenue (91st street) is the first one outside of Paris and when I spotted it on my second day in New York, I was over the moon. Specialist gf food shops are so much better than the usual ones where you just get buckwheat substitutes.

Dean & Deluca (Upper East Side)

This fancy supermarket/deli is unbelievable. It’s like a mini Harrods food hall you can spend hours in, just looking at all that’s on offer because it’s too expensive to actually buy anything!

We treated ourselves to a Dean & Deluca picnic in Central Park early on in our stay (before we ran out of money). I had delicious chilli and lime shrimp from the deli and a fresh rice and mushroom salad. The staff know a lot about the food they sell and were happy to answer my questions, plus all the freshly prepared stuff have the full ingredients listed on the packets (even when buying from the deli counter) so it’s easy to know what you can and can’t eat.

There are six locations across New York should you fancy a treat.

Gourmet Garage (Upper East Side)

This was our local supermarket, recommended by our airbnb host as the place to go for fresh meat, fish, cheese and deli stuff. They have a large gluten free section, including cereals, crisps, health bars etc. and the deli counter served as an emergency lunch for me after Earl’s couldn’t provide. I had grilled salmon with roasted vegetables and as always the portion size was enormous and still tasted incredibly fresh, so much better than the Morrisons deli I’m used to in South East London.

There are six Gourmet Garages in Manhattan.

Fresh & Co (Upper East Side)

Having been ripped off by Fresh & Co on day 2 ($6 for a small watermelon juice) they do sell gluten free bagels, muffins, pancakes and and have a ‘make your own omelette’ menu.

There are 16 locations across Manhattan.

The Smile Newsstand (Tribeca)

This tiny café is based in the front of the Tribeca Shinola store (luxury watches and leather goods) and has a selection of gluten free cakes, brownies and cookies.

smile

The Smile have 3 other locations in New York.

I’ve barely scratched the surface of what New York offers so hopefully I’ll be able to go back again some day to carry on exploring. Overall my favourites from the places I did go were La Palapa, The Levee/Scratchers and Dean & Deluca.

Other useful information

I found the following websites helpful when I researching where to eat in NYC:

Thanks so much to Sharon and Louise for their great photos. One day I’ll buy a new phone.

Berlin

Gluten tag from Berlin!*

Before I got diagnosed with coeliac disease I booked a trip to Germany, a country famous for it’s beer, currywurst and pretzels. Not ideal for the gluten free amongst us.

To avoid any unnecessary pain, I did a lot of research ahead of my holiday and found some coeliac friendly gems, so I hope this is helpful if you are planning on visiting Berlin any time soon.

Cielo di Berlino

Specialising in freshly made buckwheat pizzas, this restaurant was a great find, not only was my pizza delicious, the staff were incredibly friendly.

I ordered a buckwheat ‘sophia’ pizza, consisting of olives, pepperoni, garlic and mozzarella, all washed down with a Lammsbräu Glutenfrei beer.

It’s important to note that in Germany ‘pepperoni’ is not  pepperoni as we know it, it’s actually pepper, which I didn’t realise until my food arrived! Not to worry though, I like peppers and these ones were fresh, crunchy and had a nice mild heat to them.

When the chef here found out I was coeliac, he gave me a list of Berlin restaurants that have gluten free options, which saved us on our second night. Big thank you to the staff at Cielo for being so amazingly helpful.

Silo Coffee

Just around the corner from where we were staying, this cool coffee shop has a great hangover curing, healthy brunch menu, with gluten free bread available on request.

I went for the ‘build your own breakfast’ option, which comes with 2 eggs (poached or scrambled) on toast and then you choose your extras. Here’s a bad photo of my creation:

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2 poached eggs on gluten free toast with streaky bacon, mushrooms and spicy beans.

The food here is lovely and very reasonably priced considering the portion sizes, plus I’ve never had a more perfectly poached egg! They also have an extensive choice of coffee but no English breakfast tea, only black, white, green or peppermint. I had a white tea after the waitress recommended it and it was incredible! I’m now trying to find out where I can get some in London.

Katz Orange

This excellent restaurant was recommended by our friend at Cielo as ‘one of the best meals I’ve ever had’ and he was right.

The restaurant itself was beautiful, at the back of a courtyard, it is set around a well stocked bar with a cosy candlelit atmosphere. Unfortunately the camera on my phone just isn’t good enough but there are some great photos on this I Heart Berlin post.

The staff were friendly and knowlegable about the food, wine and cocktails and when asked, provided me with an allergy detailed menu.

Between the three of us we shared two starters, duck sausage and calamari. The sausages were small but tasty and although the calamari came with fennel, it wasn’t overpowering like it can sometimes be.

I had the Secreto Ibérico with beetroot, grilled pear, pointed cabbage and potato gratin as my main. Although my friends were disappointed with their choice (the Duroc pork), mine was excellent. It was great to have a completely gluten free meal of such high quality which delivered on both flavour and portion size.

Apologies for the lack of photos but take my word for it, the food was delicious and  as a holiday treat, well worth the expense.

Other recommendations

It’s always worth checking opening hours, we found that many restaurants were closed during the week or only open in the evenings.

Useful information

Gluten free options certainly aren’t mainstream in Berlin but there are a few decent places you can go to have a good meal, however, planning is key. Berlin is massive and coeliac friendly eateries are spread out. I found myself having to make do with cheese platters and jacket potatoes when trying to get lunch on the fly, which isn’t very exciting or healthy but sometimes very funny.

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Jacket potato served in a foil swan

 

*pun courtesy of my friend Louise