Living in London for just nearly 8 years, and being as obsessed with food as I am, searching out the best places to eat, I am often asked for recommendations. Having Coeliac disease, as I have mentioned before has caused me to change my approach to eating out slightly, but I still enjoy discovering new places (which can confidently cater to my gluten free needs) and old favourites who I totally trust, discovering some of the best places to eat in the capital.
The list that follows has been built up over years of eating out, hours of research and minutes reviewing menus before I chose to bless them with my presence. I have written before about my approach to eating out safely, however I think I would take the same steps when visiting a new restaurant regardless of my disease. What I look for in a place is good food, cooked with the seasons in mind, complemented by straightforward informative service. I’ll tell you now I am not one for Michelin stars or empire building chefs such as Mr Ramsey, although I have been to many such places and enjoyed the experience. They are just not places I chose to spend my own money. I am looking for an independent spirit, specialisation (as you will see below) and an interesting wine list.
So whether you are gluten free, a plain old tourist or a local looking for a new place to try, have a look. And let me know whether you agree with my brief summary. Did they cater to your requests, gluten free or not satisfactorily? Have you been before? Would you go again? Are there other recommendations for gluten free places that I should try?
Barafina – Limited by the number of seats at the counter, this authentic Spanish no reservation tapas bar is one of my most favourite places in London. We sometimes pop along for Sunday lunch, lazing the day away with small plates cooked in front of us, complemented by stunning all Spanish wines and finished off with a seasonal fruit pudding and a sticky glass of sherry. By no means cheap, this place is a complete treat...and we languish over the meal as long as possible. Most of the dishes are gluten free when they don’t come with bread, I have never had an issue.
Vinoteca – Another one of my favourite places in London, I used to go here the moment they opened after work round the corner and sip from their incredible, unusual wine list and a plate of marcona almonds whilst waiting for Jack to join me. Technically they are a wine bar serving food, so they too have no reservations which I like... only room for the dedicated. Seasonal cooking with spot on wine recommendations, they have confidently modified daily changing menu to my diet and there are often puds I can eat too. If there isn’t there are always the intense chocolate truffles to send us on our way.
Carluccios – Not one I expected to put here, but a recent experience blew really surprised me. When leaving the UK for this Indian trip, Jack and I had dinner before a tearful farewell, and the only decent option was Carluccios. I have often sat at their communal tables for a coffee or rich hot chocolate, but when I asked about gluten free options at the Terminal 5 branch I was given a dedicated menu. Whilst this in itself is not too remarkable, I was impressed by the option of gluten free pasta. So a good one for when you need a value for money fresh cooked bite to eat, I would recommend the parma ham plate to start – far better than any parma ham I have experienced in Italy to date!
Leon – If I am near a branch of this fast healthy food joint, I always have to swing buy for a treat. Their brownies and lemon crunch bar are stated gluten free and are on a par with my own home baked creations. Paired with their well made coffees it makes the perfect stop gap. Their entire menu is labelled for gluten free and vegetarian, and the Aloo gobi with brown rice is a hearty, bargain of a meal.
Le Pain Quotidien – Strange if you consider the name that this bread shop and cafe should feature on a gluten free list, however this French chain operates in the French way of having bread (wheat-y stuff) on the side. This give lots of seasonal salads, mains and even brunch options and there is even a “wheat free” chocolate cake for those less sensitive that Coeliacs. Also found in Paris I use these places when I am looking for a quick, cheap bite or drink... a handy option much better than McDonalds (which I have been reduced to on numerous occasions).
Wright Brothers – Based in the bustling Borough market, this is a lovely place for incredible fresh seafood and oysters served in all manner of ways. Many of the dishes are gluten free, and they have often advised me of suitable dishes on the menu. I like to be sat at the bar where you can catch the action... grilled scallops and a pint of prawns with homemade garlic mayo are a must! Best to book on the weekends!
Tapas Brindisa – Another Spanish restaurant which probably reflects the growth in interest in London, they too are based in Borough market with one or two other branches. Selections of cured meats, small tapas plates and salads make great gluten free things to share... and you can always ask for more. If you want to eat at the market branch book ahead!
Watch this space for part 2 of London’s best (naturally gluten free) places to eat... there is so much more to discover!!!