Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Wahaca: Drool worthy GF Mexican street food

Oh Wahaca, you're such a cutie. You're so smart but still friendly, funky and chic but still a bit rebellious. You're like the bad boy boyfriend that I really wanted at 18, that my mother would actually let me go out with.

Welcome to a fresh, lime and zesty, even zexty interior of the Wahaca chain - all bright turquoises reminding us of those Cancun beaches we couldn't be further away from, and with a menu that takes right there.

In a casual cantina style, albeit a very stylish and minimalist one, the menu is on your paper placemat. In the three times I have been to various Wahaca's the same excellent customer service has prevailed. Namely, when I mention being gluten free the waiter or waitress has promptly leaned over and with their pen crossed out what I can't have (the quesadilla section) and crossed out the salad, with the caveat that if I wanted it they could make it gluten free on request.

This is great for two reasons. Firstly, it's so easy to see what you can actually have! Basically, everything they haven't physically crossed out in front of you. Secondly, because this has consistently happened every time I have eaten there it means, and this is the ABSOLUTE golden rule for a chain establishment, that the staff have been well trained. There has been a moment, a directive, part of the training, where gluten free/ coeliacs has been discussed and they have taught every member of wait staff what is gluten free and what isn't. The peace of mind that that gives you is in valuable.

Now, enough boring you senseless with restaurant staff training practices and on to the food, which after all is why we are here in the first place.

Fabulous, fresh, modern Mexican. And that comes from me, someone who was born in Texas and has spent their life eating copious amounts of Tex-Mex and has, up until the last few years, been genuinely upset about the foods called "mexican" in this otherwise fast improving, most excellent foodtropolis.

The food is made for sharing, served up in small tapas style plates. The tacos are soft corn tortillas with flavour packed protein morsels on top  - whether that's the Chicken Tinga or the grilled steak - it's all clean, fresh and awesomely flavourful. I'm talking lime, coriander, chillis. The Mexican good stuff.

The tostadas are crunchy, sexy little roundels, topped with the perfectly balanced sharp but still creamy seafood shrimp and scallop ceviche. All ethically sourced as well.

And don't forget the corn side dish. Heaven is a sour cream,  chilli-sugar-salt covered corn on the cob, with a squeeze on lime on top. You heard it here first. Don't forget the toothpick.

Gluten Free Knowledge: ★★★★
Gluten Free Range: ★★★★★
Taste: ★★★★
Atmosphere: ★★★★

Verdict: Modern light Mexican, perfect for most any occasion. Did  I mention the margarita? Get the margarita. 

Friday, 27 July 2012

Your Olympic London gluten free cheat sheet: Part 3 - Fish and Chips

What could be more quintessentially British than Fish and Chips?

Well folks, get ready for some fried food because several London restaurants are offering gluten free batter and dedicated friers on certain days of the week.

And do try the mushy peas.

Oliver's Fish and Chips

Oliver's is a great fish and chip shop, serving classic food but in modern environment with class. I love this place. 

They do gluten free fish and chips every Wednesday - so be sure to put it in your diary. 

This place is really worth it making a special trip out to. (Plus Belsize Park is a pretty area!)

Here are three more that I haven't tried, but have been recommended by my most excellent readers: 

Olley's Fish Experience - Herne Hill - Gluten free Tuesdays: http://www.olleys.info/

Mam's Fish and Chips - South End Green Hampstead - Gluten Free Tuesdays http://www.tipped.co.uk/listings/7719/mam-s-fish-restaurant

Belmont Bay Fish and Chips - Harrow - Gluten Free Wednesdayshttp://www.urbanspoon.com/u/map/1507931/restaurant/London/Belmont-Bay-Harrow

Looking for gluten free fish and chips in other parts of the UK? This guidebook to the best UK chippies shows which ones have gluten free! 

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Your Olympic London gluten free cheat sheet: Part 2: Sandwiches

As a coeliac we are denied many things but one that gets me surprisingly often is this: we can't have foods that you can eat at the same time as walking.

They are all bread based - people stroll between meetings munching sandwiches, wraps, panini's, even a slice of pizza or a croissant. And when you are a busy person running around town, having to stop to eat a salad can be quite frustrating. Especially when you are with a group of people who are all happy to grab a sandwich and get going.

Perhaps more accurately it's foods that you can eat without cutlery: hand held food stuffs that you can pop in your handbag and eat whenever you want.

Without further ado - places to get handheld food stuffs for all of you busy busy folk (namely Sandwiches):


Spot the tiny gluten free label! 
Thank goodness for the gluten free sandwich at Starbucks. It's saved me at airports, in train stations, and just rushing around town. 

It's subtly labeled gluten free on the packet so you have to look closely. The flavours are on rotation every three months or so. I curse it when it's the cheese and coleslaw one. But the rest - tuna, chicken and pesto and the very tasty (and quite healthy) ham and mustard are delicious. And I'm sure someone likes the cheese and coleslaw one. Anyone, anyone?  

And, obviously, there are Starbucks EVERYWHERE.

p.s. there's also a gf brownie, cake, and salad box.

Marks and Spencers 

Marks and Spencers, for those visiting from foreign climes, is a department store that has a supermarket division called "M&S Simply food". It's bigger stores have food halls within them also. 

They offer great gf sandwiches in distinct lime green packets in their sandwich section. Annoyingly the brand is called "made without wheat" but it's all gluten free. ( I mean, it's like launching a line of fruit-free drinks and calling them "made without pineapple". Would a fructose intolerant person go near that?!?!).

I like the ham salad one, and there's also an egg salad variety. 

Not all locations stock them, but I've found most London ones do. The full list is here. They also stock them in loads of train stations. Conveniency food slam dunk! 


Another british supermarket. Waitrose have plenty of london stores, and sell a prawn mayo and an egg mayo sandwich. Basically if you don't like mayo then you're screwed. But if you love mayo, then you're in heaven!

As you can see the packaging colours are different but the "gluten free" is easy to spot. 


Wasabi is a japanese chain that offers sushi and japanese curries and noodles. They do have an allergen sheet; basically the currys and noodles are a no go, the majority of the sushi is fine. BUT the BEST thing about wasabi are the ingenious Onigiri - one of which (see warning below!) is gluten free: the tuna and mustard. 

These little triangles are balls rice with a filling in the middle,  surrounded by seaweed nori that only comes into contact with the rice as you unwrap it. Thus there is the most satisfying crunch when you bite into it. Easy to hold in one hand and munch on, so even when it's pouring with rain and you have an umbrella in the other hand you can rejoice at eating on the go (I've been doing that a lot this rainy summer!)


For some reason that I cannot fathom, on the allergen sheet they have a tick saying contains gluten next to the tuna and mustard onigiri.  Now, I know that the seaweed, chicken and salmon have soy sauce in the fillings (it says so in their descriptions) , but the tuna and mustard - well, I have no idea what would have gluten in. I've asked at the counter and none of the ingredients are glutenous. Even on the allergy sheet you can see it's not soy sauce (soyabean isn't ticked, unlike the others) I've been eating them for about five years now without a reaction, but if you are very very sensitive best to avoid. 

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Your Olympics guide to gluten free London: Part 1

With everyone rolling into town for the Olympics, I thought it would be a good time to share a quick London eating on the go guide for you all.

Fellow Londoners will no doubt already know the places that are friendly for us when we are on the go looking to grab a bite to eat. I don't usually write about chain restaurants, but there are quite a few that are trying to make great gluten free strides forward, and in times of desperation can seem like gleaming beacons on the horizon, saving us all from a hungry stomach and having to make do with a packet of crisps and a chocolate bar (man how much do those moments suck?)

Without further ado, the London chain restaurant cheat sheet:


A firm lunch time favourite. A wide range of "healthy fast food", organic and locally sourced and more importantly, damned tasty. Everything is labeled on the menu with "GF" so it's easy to see what's gluten free. They have a wide range of items to choose from.

They have 11 London outlets all over the city - find them here: http://www.leonrestaurants.co.uk/restaurants/

Go for: a healthy lunchtime treat

Top dishes: Sweet potato falafel, Chicken superfood salad, Pecan pie!


I've posted about them before, but they deserve mentioning again as they deserve praise for all of the hard work they have put in to train their staff to understand gluten, making them a chain where you don't have to worry. Great, fresh and delicious Italian food. A gluten free menu is available.

There are 18 branches London wide, so you should never be far away: http://www.carluccios.com/restaurants

Go for: a long lunch or an informal dinner

Top dishes: Any of the gluten free pasta dishes!


Wagamamas is a japanese asin fusion noodle bar, essentially. They have a sheet detailing what is gluten free. The options are somewhat limited but all delicious. The chicken itame is a coconut based noodle soup with thick flat rice noodles. Tasty every time. It's a casual dining environment; you share long bench like tables and the dishes are delivered whenever they are ready.

There are 10 London branches: http://wagamama.com/locations/search/

Go for: a quick lunch or dinner pit stop.

Top dishes: I love the chicken itame!

That's it for this post, more to come tomorrow.