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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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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The Red Lion

Lovely Barnes, one of my favourite areas of London. Great for runs, bike rides, bird watching and visiting my friend Louise. It also just happens to have a fantastic pub, The Red Lion, which makes for an excellent post-exercise pit stop.

On this occasion I had just finished the Putney and Fulham half marathon so I was in desperate need for some refuelling.

The menu changes regularly and although they don’t indicate the allergens, the staff are very friendly and happy to find out what is or isn’t suitable for coeliacs. On the Sunday I was there, I treated myself to steak, chips a red wine.

As always the food was lovely, my steak perfectly rare and chips fluffy and massive, and the red wine was the perfect finisher. Unfortunately The Red Lion doesn’t do gluten free beer but who cares when you’re eating steak!

When in Barnes, visit The Red Lion, I really need to go there more often.

The Camberwell Arms

The Camberwell Arms is one of my favourite pubs in London and just so happens to be very, very good at food. I hadn’t been back since I got diagnosed, until last Sunday to welcome my friend Matt to south east London.

The menu changes daily, so I had a quick look beforehand and there seemed to be a couple of options for me. When we arrived though, lots of the items had run out (top tip: get there before 2pm on a Sunday) so I asked our waiter if they had a gluten free menu. He took the menu and spoke to the chef, returning with a redacted version for me to order from. Great service!

We decided to have the Hereford sirloin, Bearnaise, roast potatoes and watercress for two and because we were sat at the bar overlooking the kitchen, we got to see the beast being flame grilled right in front of us. Amazing!

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The huge cut of beef was absolutely perfect – rare, juicy and beautifully seasoned. The roasties were a bit tough but we found dipping them in the meat juice softened them up a treat. The watercress salad was a lovely, fresh accompaniment.

I had meringue, peaches and cream (think Eton mess with peach) for dessert which was a great end to an amazing Sunday lunch. I cannot wait to go back again!

I Sea Pasta

Last week the lovely people at Seamore sent me some I Sea Pasta to try out. So this weekend, with no idea what to expect from pasta made out of seaweed, I rustled up a sauce from stuff I had in the fridge and tested it out.

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Just like regular pasta the seaweed comes dried, so to cook it you can either pop it in boiling water for 15 minutes, or soak it in hot water for about 20. I decided to boil it for ease.

I wasn’t sure about the quantities so I just cooked it all, hoping to save some leftover for lunch.

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At this point I was feeling a little sceptical about the whole thing as it didn’t exactly look appetising but I persevered and made up my sauce. Here’s my recipe, should you want to have a go yourself:

Protein Packed Pasta Sauce

  • Bunch of spring onions (sliced)
  • 1 clove of garlic (crushed)
  • 2 rashers of bacon (diced)
  • 1 can of tuna
  • handful of frozen peas
  • 1 can of chopped tomatoes
  • a couple of slices of mozzarella .

In a large pan, heat a dash of olive oil and sauté the bacon, onions and garlic until cooked. Stir in the tomatoes and tuna and leave to simmer for about 7 minutes (or for as long as it takes for the pasta to cook). Throw in the peas and continue to simmer for another 3 minutes. Season with pepper (I didn’t add salt because the tuna and bacon are naturally salty) and you’re ready to plate up. Once the pasta is done, drain it and top with the sauce. Sprinkle the mozzarella on top for a cheesy finish.

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My sauce aside, I LOVED sea pasta. It’s firm and tasty, such a pleasant surprise. A really great alternative to gluten free pasta and the endless volumes of rice us coeliacs have to endure. It keeps excellently too, I managed to get 2 days worth of lunch out of it and it was great cold.

You can buy it directly form the Seamore website or at Whole Foods (London), Planet Organic and The Grocery (Kingsland Road). So now I have an amazing excuse for a lunchtime trip to WholeFoods!

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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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!

Beyond Bread

Since I was diagnosed with coeliac disease I can’t count how many hundreds of people have told me about Beyond Bread, and so when I found myself in Fitzrovia at lunchtime last week, I finally decided to try it out.

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I was so impressed with the sheer volume of beautiful cakes, pastries, sandwiches, toasties etc. in such a small bakery and all gluten free. It’s a coeliac’s dream!

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I went for a ‘wild thing’ baguette (salami, spinach, mozzarella and artichokes) and a chocolate chip muffin for good measure.

The sandwich was delicious, the baguette itself was one of the best gluten free ones I’ve had, it was way more ‘normal’ than all the usual gluten free alternatives, and the fillings were clearly of a very high standard and yummy.

The muffin tasted just like a regular chocolate chip muffin, which is high praise indeed as gluten free muffins are usually the worst.

A word of warning though, Beyond Bread is very expensive, it was £4.75 for a half size baguette (£5.70 if you eat in). Throw in the £2 muffin and I managed to spend £6.75 on what ended up being a pretty small lunch, albeit a tasty one.

I’ll definitely be getting my lunch from Beyond Bread again but maybe just on pay day.

Beyond Bread have two locations in London, Charlotte Place and Upper Street.

Poncho8

I LOVE burritos but sadly there aren’t many places that do gluten free tortillas, so I’ve been sampling the alternatives around London and Poncho8 is the winner so far.

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Unlike the Chilango, Poncho8 has a handy allergens list so it’s easy to choose what to have in your burrito box.

On my most recent visit to the New Street Square branch, I went for spicy pork with tomato rice, peppers and onions (instead of beans), salad, grated cheese, jalapenos, medium and hot sauce, finished off with a sprinkling of fried chorizo bits.

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It may not look pretty but it tastes incredible!

Poncho8’s spicy pork is my absolute favourite filling. It’s so tender having been marinaded overnight, rich in flavour and mildly spicy. I also love that Poncho8  does fried chorizo as an extra, it really adds to the already deep flavour of the pork and even though it’s an extra £1, it’s totally worth it.

I highly recommend Poncho8 if you’re after a really tasty, filling lunch without any gluten worries. The food here also works miracles on hangovers. Enjoy!

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!

Hawksmoor

I’d always wanted to eat at Hawksmoor before being diagnosed so I was delighted when I read about it’s ‘proper GF menu’ on The Coeliac Plate. So as a birthday treat a couple of months ago, I celebrated over lunch at the Air Street branch.

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We all opted to order from the very reasonable ‘express menu‘ (two courses – £25 or three courses – £28) and upon advising the waiting staff that there was not one but two coeliacs in the party, they were very quick to let us know what our options were.

What separates great restaurants from average ones, are when they can accommodate alterations to meals. Nothing pisses me off more than when a dish is deemed not suitable for coeliacs just because it’s served with a slice of bread. Hawksmooor is a great restaurant though and makes it very clear what is gluten free and what can be modified, happily this meant I could have the triple cooked chips (sans vinegar) with my fillet steak worry free.

I had burrata with peas, broad beans and asparagus to start followed by fillet steak and chips. Both courses were amazing and attempting to describe them wouldn’t really do them justice. I’d happily eat at Hawksmoor everyday if I had the money!

Unfortunately none of the desserts on the express menu were gluten free (or could be modified) so we called it a day and headed back to mine for some birthday flourless chocolate cake (this recipe is ridiculously good).

Overall Hawksmoor was a great experience and I highly recommend it to everyone. I hope to visit again very soon.