Monday 14 December 2009

Barrafina: Exquisite Tapas, naturally GF

So I know this is the second tapas post in as many posts, but man, how could I not write about the marvelousness that is Barrafina?

There are no reservations at Barrafina - it's very much a traditional tapas style restaurant where you perch at the bar. A lovely L-shaped marble bar at that.

I loved the menu. Almost everything, 85%, was naturally gluten free. The tuna tartar was worth weeping over, the jamon and spinach tortilla was the best I've ever had. I could go there just for that. After all there is a prawn and piquillo pepper (now that's the sort of alliteration I like) tortilla I have yet to try. There was something delicious involving a quail's egg that is escaping my memory - check out the menu to see everything on offer.

The fresh seafood is of a high quality and is on display for you to choose what you will - and everything I tried was cooked perfectly. The same goes for the excellent selection of spanish cold meats, which are in front of you and often carved by the waiters/barmen (a very friendly bunch).

Obiviously, this high quality tapas in a central location and at great prices (£4-8 a plate) does attract a queue, and as there are no reservations, I would advise getting there early. Hmmm... now I'm hungry just thinking about it.

Tuesday 10 November 2009

Hell Pizza: Gluten Free Pizza Heaven!

We all know one of the things us poor coeliacs miss the most is the most delicious of the gluten based guilty pleasures - pizza (along with bread, beer, and well, fried things!).

I'd known of Hell Pizza for a while, but as I live on the other side of town to all three of their restaurants ( Clapham, Shepherd's Bush), I had yet to find the time to make the trek over ('tis a little bit of a trek).

But boy am I glad I did. It was FANTASTIC. Even my non-gf companion had a gluten free base, and said although it did taste slightly different from a conventional one, it was delicious none the less, and scoffed the whole thing.

As I hadn't had a pizza in a long time I played it safe with my pre-celiac days favourite - pepperoni and mushroom. Goodness - just thinking about it now is making me salivate! The base was really thin and crispy, a great texture and a perfect platform for a generous helping of toppings and a great tomato sauce.

My friend went more adventureous, with the "Mayhem" pizza- peanut satay, sweet chilli, chicken, green peppers and onions. Now I understand that that sounds slightly disgusting (it was what I was thinking when she chose it) - but, you know what, it worked! All of the many ingredients are chopped into small pieces so that each mouthful you get the full range of flavours. I was really very impressed and think I ought to put more trust into the hands of the hell pizza genii and their crazy menu ideas next time!

I really wished I lived within their delivery zone - can you imagine? Being able to get a pizza delivery whenever you wanted! Actually, it's probably a very good thing they don't deliver to me, I would gain large quantities of weight very quickly.

The interior is very much like the design of their website - a kind of chic goth look, which I could take or leave. The pizza, however, I'm definitely taking! And at just £5.50 for the smaller snack size, it's terrific value.

Please, all you other pizza places out there - take a lesson from Hell and start making some heavenly gluten free pizzas. (sorry for the pun folks!

UPDATE: It seems that the Fulham Branch has closed!

Tuesday 27 October 2009

The Gluten Free Foodie wants your input!

Is there anywhere you really want me to review?

Are you hunting for something specific that I can cover? GF tea at the Ritz perhaps?

Post a comment and I'll do my best to make it happen.


Tierra Brindisi: Attentive GF Tapas

There is something about Tierra Brindisi I just really like. A combination of the atmosphere, helpful staff, great central location, and the decor just appeals.

Tapas as we know is a generally gf friendly cuisine anyway, but I liked the extra attention the staff here paid to my needs, so I thought it was worth a post.

When I ordered the Chorizo in cider, the manager came over afterwards just to check the type of cider they were using didn't have any barley malt in it (which it didn't). It showed knowledge and thoughtfulness, and he didn't make me feel uncomfortable in the least.

The quality of the tapas was excellent. The octopus was simply delicious, as was the complimentary chicken liver pate at the start (which, yes, I ate on it's own with my fork!). The Spanish omelette was one of the best I've had, in or outside of Spain, being moist and moorish.

So if you are stranded in Soho, and fancy some above-average tapas, in a wonderfully gf friendly and chic restaurant, look no further than Tierra Brindisa.

Tuesday 29 September 2009

The Engineer: Gastropubbing with GF style

The Engineer in Primrose Hill is a favorite of mine, especially when it's summer and you can sit in the beautifully tended garden at the back.

I'd recommend it because of a strong gluten friendly menu, and knowledgeable and helpful staff, who are happy to cater to your needs.

I adore the vegetarian dish of crispy polenta with grilled vegetables and goats cheese. It has a bit of a chilli oil kick and is one of those perfect dishes where you could feed it to a meat and wheat eater and they'd be completely content. So all you (very brave) gluten free vegetarians out there, this is one to try.

The cheese burgers are also top notch- and I recently discover, 100% gluten free, always a treat, who needs a bun anyway?

If you fancy somewhere for brunch on the weekend and are sick of having nothing to mop up soft poached egg yolks with (is that just me?), then the added sauted potatoes with their eggs benedict/florentine/royale will be a welcome treat.

Next stop is getting in gluten free beer in bottles so be able to sit in the sunshine with..... I'm working on it - watch this space!

Monday 27 July 2009

La Porchetta: Woohoo - edible GF pasta!

Well done to the folks running La Porchetta- they have gluten free pasta on the menu, and, more astonishingly - it actually tastes good!

I was absolutely delighted upon reading the menu at this cheap and cheerful restaurant in Camden to see that I wasn't limited to the usual Italian restaurant "I-can-only-eat-a-salad" scenario (salads can be so tedious, can't they? I'll just munch away gratefully on some leaves whilst watching melted cheese from your fresh baked pepperoni pizza dribble down your chin. Lucky me!).

That great big honking pasta section that is usually an irritating waste of space? Add in a gf pasta option and it's transformed like magic into a thing of beauty! The amount of gf pasta sauce options were excellent, unlike the unfortunate Carluccio's situation. I had the Rigatoni Sofia - spinach, ricotta and tomato sauce. Scrumptious! The pasta didn't taste gluten free at all, in fact, it was so good that I couldn't believe it was true and asked the waiter to check that it was actually gluten free (making a bit of a PITAC fool out of myself!).

I'm looking forward to going back to try out some of their other sauces - there's a salmon and cream one, and another that has chorizo and prawns. And at under £7 a dish, it's a place you can eat at on a regular basis.

And for those of you not in the Camden area there are four other branches; Islington, Clerkenwell, Holborn and Finsbury Park.

Next stop - gf pizza bases? If I ask nicely? Pretty please?

For now, go and enjoy the world of gluten free pasta in a restaurant, my coeliac friends!

Friday 17 July 2009

Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons: The Ultimate Decadance for a GF Foodie

Okay, Okay, so it's not exactly somewhere that you could go once a month, or even once a year! But Raymond Blanc's Michelin starred, Les Manoir aux Quat'Saisons near Oxford, is superb, and worth every, of the very many, pennies.

I did let them know in advance about me being a coeliac, as it is only fair when there is a tasting menu that will have to be tailored. But boy did they tailor it!

Situated in the countryside, Le Manoir is a beautiful building with amazing gardens.

While the rest of the group shared their canapes out on the terrace, I had a whole plate of gluten free canapes just for me. It's the only time I think that having a gluten allergy has been a bonus! Little spoons with crab and infused jelly, gf toast with foie gras on top; so many exquisite little things with complex and sensational flavours. I really could live just off canapes like that for the rest of my life.

The five course tasting menu was astonishing. Every dish was perfect. The asparagus with duck egg and parmasan, the red mullet with its own little soup, the poached chicken (I know, chicken?! But it was the best, most flavourful chicken I've ever had) with morel mushrooms, and the most amazing strawberry dessert. I've never had anything that tasted so much of strawberries; pure, sweet, intense strawberries. Certainly the best gf dessert I've ever had.

They had warmed gluten free bread for me throughout the meal, which was a nice touch.

And with the coffees afterwards came the chocolate petit fours, and it was a repeat of the canape situation. Score! My delicious gf selection included the world's smallest pavlova, some sort of sweet lemon ball and miniature chocolates filled with ice cream. Yum.

Totally amazing, one of the finest meals you will ever have, gluten free or not. I couldn't recommend it enough. Now, all that's left to figure out is how am I going to make my millions so that I can buy a helicopter and pop to Les Manoirs for lunch every day? Any ideas, let me know!

Thursday 16 July 2009

Gluten Free en Paris; C'est pas possible, non?

Mais oui, c'est vrai!

Enough of the franglais now. It is true, the notoriously coeliac unfriendly French do indeed have their first gluten free restaurant in Paris. Hoorah! It's called Des Di et Des Mets, and is up near the fashionable Monmarte district.

I've not been yet, but I thought it was definitely worth a post in case any of you coeliacs find yourself up a french creek without a gluten free paddle, so to speak.

If anyone's been, please let me know what it's like!

Hache: Fancy a gluten free burger anyone?

I stumbled upon the burger restaurant Hache in Camden Town a couple of months ago.

They are purveyors of excellent burgers, excellent gluten free burgers to be precise! Made from 100% beef (or whatever other meat you choose) they contain no fillers. There is an option at the top of the menu to switch out the bun for a salad. And hey, when it comes to burgers who needs the bun anyway?

The selection and variety on the menu is stunning. Anyone for a venison burger topped with melted brie? Or how about a Morrocan Lamb burger, complete with coriander and smoked Paprika?

Even if you just head for a plain "Steak au Naturel", it is absoultely delicious, and there is no chance of you being treated like a pain-in-the-ass-coeliac here! There is also another branch in Fulham, for those of you living out West.

Gluten Friendliness: 9/10

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Wednesday 15 July 2009

The Wolseley: A Sensational GF Brunch!

The Wolseley as a venue is as stunning as they come. Add on top of that the best brunch in London, with gluten free bread on the menu as well, and it's a winner!

I adore the vast open and glamourous 1920's dining room, and I adore their perfect Eggs Benedict even more! The eggs are expertly poached, and because you have (high quality) gf bread to mop up the sauce with, you can finally appreciate a runny yolk. Just sublime.

All the produce is fresh and well cooked, the simple classic dishes are all excellent. My fresh squeezed orange juice and soy latte were well worth the money.

It's open very early and it's central location makes it perfect for a breakfast meeting on a weekday or a luxurious weekend brunch.

Gluten Friendliness: 8/10

Tuesday 14 July 2009

The Horseshoe: Delicious GF Sunday Roasts

The Horseshoe gastropub in Hampstead is simple, elegant, and very very tasty.

They have an excellent Sunday Roast, with a delicious and meaty gf gravy. Hooray!

I love the decor - lots of white walls and light wood , offsetting the more colorful old school chairs. The wine list is extensive and you can order carafes, which is great if you don't want a whole bottle (not usually a problem for me!).

The staff are very happy and helpful, and put in the extra effort.

A Sunday favourite, but the normal menu is simple and well thought out also, but not a huge selection of gluten free options.

Gluten Friendliness: 7.5/10

Strada: A solution to the elusive GF pizza?

Well, not quite.

But of all of the pizza/Italian chains they are definitely the most gf friendly, with plenty of starters and mains that fine. The polenta and mushroom starter is always tasty, and the carpaccio of beef ain't half bad either.

Back to the pizza point; you can bring your own gf base and they will use it for toppings of your choice. It's worth mentioning to the waitress that gf bases need a bit longer to cook. But it was a pleasure to eat a pizza out for a change, though I couldn't be bothered to carry around a pizza base in my bag very often!

If it' s a choice between the useless Pizza Express (where you can only have salad), and the boring Ask Pizza, or Strada, it's got to be Strada every time.

Apparently a New Zealand pizza restaurant chain called Hell Pizza, which has opened in Fulham and Shepherd's Bush has GF pizza on the menu- and they even deliver! I'll try it soon and let you know how it is!

Gluten Friendliness: 7/10

Monday 13 July 2009

E & O: Flexible Fusion, with Gluten Free Menus

A absolutely adore E & O , a funky Asian Fusion restaurant in Notting Hill.

They have the best menu system I've seen yet. There is a special gluten free menu that is colour coded: Red means it's got gluten and can't be changed, Green means it's GF, and Blue means that it does have gluten, but they can make it GF on request. Note to other restaurants - make your menus like this!

It's a great system and maximizes your choices. There's nothing worse than being told you can't have something when one simple change (e.g. leave off the croutons) would make it palatable.

The food itself is fantastic. The duck, watermelon and cashew salad is a favourite; crunchy, sweet and savoury all at the same time. The chilli salt squid is GF and is fried with cornflour on the outside. Hmm, like gf calamari! Delicious. And the sushi isn't bad either.

The decor is chic, black walls, white table cloths, dark reclaimed wood floor, with a great bar at the front (always the bars with me.... I'm beginning to think I might have a problem!).

The best element is great staff - they almost seem pleased that you are a celiac! No pain-in-the-ass-celiac feeling here. Heaven.

Gluten Friendliness: 10/10

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Carluccio's: Close but no dice

The poor folks at Carluccio's. They want to be friends of celiacs, but alas, have missed the point. Allow me to elaborate.

Imagine my excitement at seeing, underneath the pasta list, "Gluten Free Pasta on Request". Yippee! Then looking at all of the above pasta choices, my heart sank. Almost none of the sauces were gluten free! Redundant much? Bechamel sauce (the devil), Fried spinach balls (non gf), pre-prepared Lasagna, Italian sausage (flour in the sausage meat), Tortellini, gnocci, and ravioli!

I then ordered the grilled seabass with salsa verde and new potatoes, and when it arrived it had that distinctly golden crispy outer layer that comes from dusting it with flour prior to pan frying. One conversation with a grumpy waitress later, and it was confirmed to be wheat. I chowed down on the safe parma ham plate while another order was made. Put it on the menu people, put it on the menu. That's all I'm asking.

Speaking of, I did discover that their website has a gf menu (see, they are at least trying to be friends). As you can see the pasta section is limited- although not as much as on the normal menu, where pesto and tomato and basil sauces don't feature. Huh. I'll have to try to see if they can do that next time I'm there.

For the most part I stick with Carluccio's risottos, which are always gluten free. Definitely a place where you are forced to be the dreaded "pain-in-the-ass-celiac" (PITAC, as I call it). Always check in with the kitchen before ordering, despite the grumpy stares of the staff.

Gluten Friendliness: 5/10

The York and Albany; Gluten Free with Flair

I thought I'd begin with a favourite of mine that has upped it's game recently; The York and Albany near Regent's Park.

Having been there a few times I've always been impressed by the mostly gf menu, exquisite food, and the knowledgeable and friendly staff.

At a lunch there the other day I was particularly pleased when they brought out fresh gf bread for me unprompted, after I mentioned being gf while ordering. To get to eat warm bread and butter before a meal - such a treat!

When I ordered a meal that had a wheaty side dish, they offered me three other gf choices instead, especially prepared for me, and didn't make a fuss about it.

They also have fantastic Sunday roasts, the beef is always perfectly cooked, kept lovely and pink and the best thing - they don't thicken their sauces with flour! And that's throughout the menu. Gf gravy heaven.

Not to mention the beautiful 1920's - esque bar..... and of course a Bellini is always gluten free!

Gluten Friendliness: 9.5/10

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