The GFC’s Gluten Free Guide to London

The GFC’s Gluten Free Guide to London

 

Recently, I took a trip to the UK to visit universities for the fall. As most trips to the UK tend to do, we started in London, giving ourselves a little bit of time to get acclimated to the time change in a familiar city. Based in Waterloo, we were faced with a few challenges when it came to finding me food that I could eat; my mom is not gluten free, and therefore gets to enjoy a wealth of food options that are off-limits to me.

Our hotel was perfectly located next to a few supermarkets and had a little kitchenette, which came in handy so that we didn’t have to pay through the nose for pricey London breakfasts. But that didn’t help us with lunch or dinner, so I’ve put together a small list of London locations that offer gluten free options for brunch, lunch, tea and dinner! I’ll be featuring restaurants I can give a genuine review of near the top of each category in which they’re listed, and suggestions for restaurants that I haven’t tried but know have gluten free options near the bottom of each category. Restaurants I haven’t eaten at are listed in italics. 

I’ve also included a few great places to eat at or near tourist attractions to help all my fellow GF world travelers find a quick bite to eat on location!

Restaurants:

Duck & Waffle: A beautiful, top-floor restaurant overlooking the city, Duck & Waffle has food that is as spectacular as their views. They even do a gluten free Duck & Waffle — their signature dish. I believe they do have a shared fryer, but they have many gluten free options for you to choose from, and can edit menu items to suit your dietary restrictions. Their beef tartare is amazing, as are their bacon wrapped dates.

Balance: A great little breakfast spot in Waterloo, Balance offers gluten free pancakes and occasionally also has gluten free bread and toast. I had the energy pancakes and the protein pancakes, both of which came in sizable portions, and tried the beet salad with feta cheese, which was also very fresh and tasty.

Crust Bros Pizza: Crust Bros makes a pretty decent gluten free crust. Cross-contamination is definitely a concern here, but the actual gluten free crust is tasty, if a little bit on the limper side. The ingredients are all very fresh, and the pizza is totally customizable. Watch out for the n’duja sausage — it is not gluten free.

Legerro Cafe — totally gluten free Italian dining restaurant. If I had more time I definitely would have tried to eat here.

Restaurants at/near Popular Tourist Attractions:

Antipodea (Kew Gardens): Antipodea is a gorgeous little Australian-style restaurant, though they had fewer GF options than I had thought they would. I ordered the pumpkin and coconut soup without bread, which was delicious, a side of chili grilled halloumi and bacon. It was all delicious! One note: the risotto is not gluten free!

Orangerie (at Kew Gardens): a cafeteria-style eatery at Kew Gardens, I grabbed a quick cake and tea here. I got an orange and almond cake, which was moist and delicious, and a hot cup of English Breakfast. They have a fair number of gluten free options, but cross-contamination here would likely be a risk.

The Botanical (at Kew Gardens): a more upscale location, The Botanical had a number of GF options when I ate there last, including a stuffed eggplant dish that was absolutely amazing. Ask your server for gluten free options.

Cellarium Cafe (at Westminster Abbey): The Cellarium offered a few gluten free options, but it was so cold when we were there that I got the soup and an order of gluten free bread. They also had a gluten free cake, which I did not try, but looked very tasty.

The Privy Cafe (at Hampton Court): The Privy Cafe serves some Henry VIII-style foods, including a very impressive baked potato with cheddar cheese, which I opted for. They also had gluten free soup and a few other little gluten free bits and bobs for snacking.

Henry’s Kitchen (near Hampton Court): I did not eat here, but I really wanted to! They offer gluten free bread, pasta, buns and muffins, and offer an allergen menu on request.

Chain Restaurants — UK-Wide

Gourmet Burger Kitchen: GBK offered super flavorful burgers with fresh ingredients on gluten free buns. The buns themselves were not at all crumbly or fragile, and I can safely say I’ve never had a better chain burger. Would highly recommend!

Wahaca: Wahaca is a chain urban mexican joint with a designated gluten-safe menu. They even break out their menu by level of intolerance, and offer gluten free tortilla chips. I believe they do use a shared fryer, so watch out for any fried foods.

Ask Italian: Hands down my favorite pizza in the UK (and maybe in the world). Ask has really mastered the gluten free crust, and have awesome, quality toppings.

Rossopomodoro: Rossopomodoro also has some really great gluten free Italian options, but they’re not my go-to Italian restaurant. They do offer some gluten free gnocci, which I would love to try sometime soon!

Wagamama: Wagamama is a fast-Asian restaurant with a clean, modern atmosphere. They also have a gluten free menu, and will custom-prepare dishes for GF diners. I usually get the edamame and the gluten free chicken ramen. Yum!

High Tea:

The Savoy: The Savoy hotel is one of my favorite places to get High Tea in London. Be sure to make your reservations at least a few days in advance, and tell them how many members of your party are gluten free. They do gluten free finger sandwiches, scones and mini-desserts, and I always eat way too much when I go here!

I’ll be sure to update this list as I return to London and hear suggestions from fellow travelers and GF friends in the city! Last updated March 5th, 2018.

British Airways Review: Gluten Free Meals

British Airways Review: Gluten Free Meals

Recently, I took a trip with my mom to England to take a look at a few graduate schools. One of the hardest things about traveling as a gluten intolerant or celiac person is knowing what you can or can’t eat, and there’s nothing more likely to put a damper on your trip than getting sick from something you ate. That said, researching what you can and cannot eat across international borders can be not only challenging, but almost impossible — especially if you’re going somewhere where your native language isn’t the one commonly spoken.

Thankfully, that wasn’t a concern I had on this trip. I’ve been to England a number of times before, and spent a year living there (pre-discovery of my gluten intolerance), and with each successive trip I’ve become more and more impressed with the gluten free options available. I’ll be writing more on this in subsequent blog posts, including a few reviews or recommendations for restaurants with great gluten free demarcation or options, but first I want to get to cover the one thing that everyone, gluten free or not, dreads.

The airplane meal.

On this trip we chose to fly British Airways, and we called ahead to ask for a gluten free meal option for me for my outgoing and return flights. It’s imperative to request gluten free meals as soon as possible when you’re booking long-haul flights; most airlines require 48 hours advance notice, but I would recommend requesting as early as you possibly can to ensure availability. Prior to my flight I also was sure to stock up on plenty of gluten free snack options, just in case they happened to forget my gluten free meal on board. As someone who suffers from perpetual hangriness if I don’t eat often enough, it always pays for me to be prepared.

So now onto the good stuff: the food. Overall, I’d give British Airways a solid B- for their gluten free options; on the way out I got a meal that seemed to be combo gluten and dairy free, with the main dish being chicken with tomato rice and broccoli, diced red pepper and carrot. It also came with a gluten free dinner roll, which was pretty good, a box of fresh berries, a side salad and two bottles of red wine.

IMG_2679.jpg

The entree itself was pretty passable, in my opinion, but I was thrilled about the dinner roll (still a bread addict, even if it’s not wheat-based!), and the fresh options were a great addition that added a lot of color to my food. I supplemented my meal with a little cheese from my mom’s dinner because cheese, and a few snacks that we brought on the plane with us. (Hint: the snacks involved…more cheese. I have a problem, I know.)

Breakfast on the outbound flight was pretty depressing: I got some plain yogurt and a little cup of water. Inspiring. The breakfast of dreams. I didn’t even open the yogurt as there was nothing to sweeten it with, and try as I might I just know that I’m never going to be a yogurt purist capable of eating unsweetened yogurt on its own.

Our return flight was markedly better, and I wonder if that’s because the food was sourced from UK producers instead of American ones. A trend I noticed (and loved) overall in the UK was that their producers have really mastered the art of the gluten free bread. Sure, there’s still a little bit to be desired when most restaurants provide you with their GF bread, but in comparison to the United States the difference is astounding. Bread in England is actually bread sized, instead of the little half-slices you get in a standard American gluten free loaf. But back to the meal.

The first meal I was provided with was actually unbelievably good for airline food: where my first meal had been a C, this one was definitely almost an A. If you’re pretending that you’ve never actually had real food in your life, it would definitely be an A. By airline standards, this was a pretty awesome meal. I was served a little hot packet of chicken with a smoky roasted red pepper sauce, broccoli and…cauliflower rice. I’ve never had cauliflower rice before, and I have to say that British Airlines might have out-ritz’d me on this one. The cauliflower rice wasn’t just passable, it was good. The smoked red pepper sauce was also pretty awesome, and I think this is the only time I’ve ever demolished an airline meal out of choice rather than necessity.

In addition to the main course I also got another roll (BFree brand), some lentil salad which was not great, three cherry tomatoes and a bowl of fresh fruit.

The second meal on the return flight was an egg and mayonnaise sandwich, and even though ham and cheese might have been better it was still a pretty decent sammie. It also came with a gingerbread flavored Nakd bar, which was tasty!

Our flight home was also graced with some awesome views, which I can’t help but share below. Overall, I the BA experience was pretty great — we also got whole rows to ourselves, and a lot of free wine. The flight attendants were super attentive and friendly, and I would definitely fly (and eat!) with BA again!