Theo’s

Before being diagnosed with Coeliac disease, I was a Theo’s regular even attending their opening night, so I absolutely was gutted when I had to stop eating there. Then a few weeks ago, my friend and I were discussing how great it was and he mentioned they’d developed a gluten free dough!!!

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I promptly gave them a call and ordered a pizza for collection and voila, 10 minutes later I was chowing down on honestly the best gluten free pizza I have ever had.

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I went for the Napoli Salami with added aubergine on a gluten free base. The ingredients they use at Theo’s are of the highest quality, including the dough which they’ve clearly spent some time developing as it tastes just like the regular stuff. The salami was peppery and crisp, mozzarella creamy and aubergine perfectly cooked. Finished off with spicy chilli and the freshest of basil, I was an extremely happy customer and am in danger of developing a pretty severe pizza habit to make up for lost time.

Choosing to have your pizza on a gluten free base will cost you an extra £3, which is a little steep but I’m very happy to continue to pay it so they keep doing it! Occasionally Theo’s pops up on Deliveroo, so if you live in Camberwell you can get £5 off your first order with my Deliveroo link: 

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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.

The Hanbury Arms

Before going to see the wonderfully funny 2 Become 1 at the Kings Head Theatre back in December, my friends and I headed to The Hanbury Arms for a gluten free pizza.

When I arrived and asked about the gf pizza bases, the bar staff looked slightly perplexed and disappeared out the back to check the freezer. Not an ideal start to an evening. A few minutes later, they came back with the happy news that they had 1 gf base left. Thank god!

The Hanbury Arms offers a large variety of pizza, including my favourite – spicy salami with aubergine and basil. I love aubergine, so I had high hopes for this one.

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As with all gluten free pizzas, it arrived much smaller than regular ones, what I didn’t expect was just how stingey they were with the aubergine! You might just be able to make it out, it’s the tiny brown bits in between the salami. Gutted.

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Lack of aubergine aside, the pizza was really tasty, around about the Pizza Express level of quality. So if you’re looking for a decent, reasonably priced, gf pizza to fill you up, I’d definitely recommend The Hanbury Arms. If you’re looking for quality toppings, then it might not be for you. Sadly, there’s also no gluten free beer here.

Pizza Express

Before I got diagnosed with coeliac disease Pizza Express was regularly a means to an end in my life. One of the very few big chain restaurants that actually provides you with decent food at a reasonable price*, it very much served it’s purpose for me (usually to soak up too much booze).

So I’m pleased to say that ‘old faithful’ has a brilliant gluten free menu, which I tried for the first time at the Kennington branch a couple of weeks ago.

After getting carried away drinking gf beer in The Ship on Kennington Road (they sell Nick Stafford’s Hambleton Ales gluten free lager by the way), we arrived at Pizza Express starving. Unfortunately after we were seated our order wasn’t taken for so long time, my friend had to go and ask someone to come over! Once we did get some service however, the waiter was really great at explaining what I could have and that all pizzas can be made with a gluten free base. He also pointed out that they have gluten free beer and have now introduced gluten free dough balls. DOUGH BALLS!

So I ordered the dough balls to start (who doesn’t) and my usual Pollo ad Astra but with a gluten free base.

When our balls arrived I was pissed off to discover that you only get 6 gf dough balls compared to the regular 8. Absolute bullshit! I thought Pizza Express was all about consistency?! Outrageous! (This has touched a nerve with me).

Luckily the pizza itself was really good and apart from the base, no different to the regular ones I’m use to.

I will continue to use Pizza Express as and when I need to but plan on campaigning hard to get equal dough ball rights for coeliacs. Down with dough ball discrimination!

*I include Nandos and Byron in this group but have yet to eat there as a gf-er.

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.

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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.

Crate Brewery

After an incredible 6 mile walk across London’s Lee Valley, my friend Matt and I stopped for lunch at Crate. I’d heard a lot of amazing things about it on the coeliac grapevine and I can confirm, Crate is great!

Although it doesn’t have any gluten free beer, all of Crate’s pizzas can be made with gluten free bases, which is fantastic news – I miss decent pizza so much!

I went for the Spicy Salami with a gf base, which didn’t disappoint. It arrived hot, straight from the open plan oven and packed with fresh toppings. They were amazingly generous with the cheese too, which just made an already fantastic day even better.

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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