Eating out when you’re gluten free, dairy free, soy free or any other kind of free can be stressful – I’ve already had to become that person who reviews menus before I will confirm I can attend said restaurant! Navigating the menu is just the starting point, then discovering that the waiter/waitress doesn’t actually know what’s in the sauce, or if the fish is fried in butter makes the ordeal so awkward, you think you may as well just stay at home.
BUT NEVER FEAR! I am on a one stop mission to find the best hidden gems of allergy eating in London. See my previous post with four other amazing restaurants Eating out – May favourites– and these next three are a real treat!
WAG Free Kitchen
Price range: £
When my boyfriend proposed this for dinner, I raised my eyebrows too. Why are you taking me to a ‘WAG’ Free Kitchen? Of course, WAG in fact stands for ‘Wheat and Gluten’ and I’m so glad he discovered this buried in the listings of Time Out’s Top Gluten Free restaurants. It’s in Brixton market, a tiny shop with probably only around 10 or 12 tables. The menu was simple British food with a Brazilian twist – burgers, chicken escalope, fresh soups and quinao salads – something for everyone!

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WAG’s venison burger

As soon as I saw the menu I knew I had to take advantage of the rarity of gluten free bread, so I went straight in for the venison burger with crispy wedges, home made mayo and a gluten free bun. It was gorgeous – so simple and so delicious. I was told they usually have a chef there who makes the gluten free bread fresh on site – but unfortunately he was on holiday when we visited. This of course means I have to go back again to try it! At £20 a head, including a Brazilian caipirinha and a gluten free beer for the boyf, this is a totally affordable dinner destination.
NAMA
Price range: £££
NAMA is the home of the raw – artisan raw to be precise. Everything on the menu is totally vegan, gluten free and raw, which means nothing is heated above 46C. Tucked in a small street about ten minutes walk away from Notting Hill, it isn’t in the most easy to find location but the trek is totally worth it. I was firstly impressed by the menu and the descriptions of every dish, for example you can take your pick of ‘Pizza’ or ‘Italian Pizza’, or even ‘Pad Thai’ – old favourites with a raw twist. Originally a small cafe, NAMA is only open for dinner Thursday to Saturday and I attended with a friend who knew the restaurant well.
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On recommendation I went for the Italian pasta – courgette noodles tossed in tomato sauce, with marinaded mushrooms, caramelised onions, black olives, sundried tomatoes and almond parmesan – sounds amazing right?? We also ordered the kale salad as a side to share. Both dishes were delicious and it was definitely an experience eating raw dishes that shared so many similarities with classic dishes I love. The kale salad was so good we ordered another!! Although to be honest, the real highlight of the meal was dessert. A blueberry cheesecake – they’re most popular dish. IT WAS AMAZING! So unbelievably smooth and creamy. I would go back a thousand times over for that cheesecake.
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The creme de la creme of NAMA

At around £35 a head, this is at the upper end of allergy eating and I have to say, I found myself hungry again later in the evening. I would go back to try some of the other dishes but be prepared to spend more – and I would pick this as a perfect cake and coffee place!
Indigo at One Aldwych 
Price range: ££££
Indigo at central London hotel One Aldwych was a find whilst watching Masterchef (yes, I am equally obsessed with watching food programmes). It is a completely dairy free and gluten free restaurant and I was so excited to try it when I saw the celebrities create some of their dishes on the most recent series.
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Starters and main course

The menu is full of so many British classics – gnocci, pasta, fish and chips and steak. We went for lunch set menu, which came to £27 for three courses. I chose the rabbit terrine whilst my Mum had the smoked mackerel gravalax. The rabbit terrine was good – if not a little dry but Mum’s mackerel was delicious. Extremely delicate and tasty, although the portion was tiny! The highlight of this meal was definitely the main course – my steak bavette with fondant potatoes was cooked to perfection and Mum’s aubergine cannelloni was divine. The presentation was incredible, such intricate designs in the courgette flower arranged on top of the rolls, stuffed with a light mushroom tapenade.
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Aubergine cannelloni

Unfortunately the desserts were not as sublime as NAMA – I had a blueberry panna cotta which was light and coconutty and I was happy to finish the lot off. My Mum had a ‘apricot fool’, which turned out to be a very underwhelming coulis with coconut yogurt.
With a glass of prosecco and a mint tea to finished, the bill came to an eye watering £50 a head but it was a overall delicious meal in a gorgeous hotel atmosphere. I would definitely return and would be intrigued to try some of the dishes off the set menu, including the gnocci and the beer battered fish.
Happy allergy dining!!!
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bryonyhopkins

This is a skill that I have been forced to learn – and boy, has it taken some years. Arguably, learning to listen to your body is the most important step to keeping

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I was completely in tune with my body when I decided to take on the liquid diet. I knew it was the best option for me over steroids.

your body and soul happy and healthy. Yet most people I have spoken to admit they do know their body and the warning signs when things are about to go south – but they struggle to actually do anything about it. Listening to your body is completely useless unless you actually respond to it. Responding is pivotal- and really can work wonders (I am living proof of this!) Let me explain.
What do you mean when you say ‘listen to your body’?
Listening to your body is being in tune with your physical and emotional needs, and learning what you can do to feed and nourish them. On a basic level, this is eating when you’re hungry; sleeping when you’re tired. Yet there are so many levels above this and learning to hear them is a source of great power. It is fact that your body will always give you signs when it is struggling. That niggling cold for example, is the first sign that your body is in distress. Those tears you shed, is a sign that your soul is sad. Equally, it will also tell you when it is flourishing – those endorphins when you see the person you love or the excitement at an upcoming trip or event. Whilst this may seem blindingly obvious – why do we so often ignore these signs? The answer is one word – life.
Life is busy. Too busy. We work hard and long hours. We are constantly tapped into the digital world; social media, work emails, news outlets and celebrity culture. So it is unsurprising that amongst all this noise, our bodies are ignored. It’s boring to rest/take downtime/acknowledge home truths that require unwanted action.
I will hold my hands up and admit I have been the queen of ignoring my body in the past – particularly during university. This has resulted in some disastrous outcomes – including weeks laid up in bed due to fatigue, surgery, flare ups and on one particularly memorable occasion, contracting Mumps (despite having had the jab!!) My body was tired and vulnerable. Unfortunately, that is just through working hard and having a social life. A home truth which I still find extremely hard to acknowledge.
How do I respond to my body?
On feeling warning signs it’s important to evaluate what you can do to stop things escalating. If you have the beginnings of a cold, take time to rest and make sure you get lots of sleep. If you’re feeling tearful – acknowledge why you’re feeling sad and what you can do about it. Unhappy in your job? Find ways to love it or move. Unhappy in your relationship? Address it or leave. Find something that gives you some ME time – yoga, mindfulness, running or cooking. Whilst my examples may be extreme and you probably won’t end up having surgery if you ignore your body, you may end up getting sick, physically or emotionally – and why let it get to that?
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Taking time out on holiday is one my fave ways to unwind and refresh (unfortunately, my bank balance doesn’t allow this to happen as regularly as I’d like!)

I now know that I have to rest when I start getting warning signs – and sometimes I still get it wrong. I have just had to take four days of enforced rest as my body started rejecting all my food – a tell tale sign for me that my body is at breaking point. Utterly exhausted, I knew that if I had pushed through it (which I so often did at university), I would have ended up in a far worse position than just a couple of days off work.
The first step
Is to figure out what makes your body tick and what your body needs to bloom. This could be SO MANY THINGS! It could be a particular diet or exercise. It could be a hobby or spending time with particular people. It could be working a job you love, going on an amazing trip or having a social media detox. In deciphering this – you will also find the things that your body struggles with.For me, it is relentless work and social plans, meaning I have to prioritise how I spend my energy and know when it is time to stop. It is also eating foods that work for me and knowing that my health is THE most important thing. Even more important than the party I really really want to go to!
 
Believe me – I don’t say any of this lightly. It is difficult – but so worth it if you can find your body formula.
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bryonyhopkins

Before I start, this is a gushing post. You’ve been warned!
I’m documenting the ultimate cornerstone to my entire liquid diet journey. This post in fact deserves the biggest chapter heading in the tale of Bryony Hopkins. Last week, I had my first doctors appointment with my specialist consultant since I finished my liquid diet. The same consultant who was determined that steroids were my only option and I opted for the complete opposite – a month intense liquid diet.
I have to say I was extremely nervous for the consultation. I worked it up in my head and the very thought of it reduced me to a near tearful wreck. Why you might ask? I obviously feel 1000x better than I did before the liquid diet, but the

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At the start of the liquid diet, April 2016

fact is, that not all of my symptoms have completely 100% disappeared, like I thought they miraculously would. What I didn’t know was that this is part of a longer healing process and as my consultant pointed out to me today, I am in a million times better place than I was before. I am pain free and able to control this through my diet. I am able to work full time, I am fulfilling all my social plans AND I’m training for a 10k. Pre liquid diet, I was just about able to get out of bed without being doubled over in pain. Yet I had completely forgotten how bad things were before until I sat in front of my consultant. He said ‘last time you came here Bryony you said you couldn’t carry on like this. You were at your wits end’. And I was – I had just forgotten. I was so focused on the fact I wasn’t completely ‘cured’ that I lost sight of the journey I’ve had and the transformation my body has gone through. The transformation that I allowed my body to go through and the work I have done to get it here.
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I can still eat deliciously good food! Black bean brownie and matcha latte courtesy of Ethos Foods.

It feels amazing. I actually can’t stop smiling. After I chose the liquid diet, I was rife with uncertainty. I had absolute no clue that I was doing the right thing or just being a stubborn cow. I am just over the moon it has worked out and been recognised by the most hard to please doctor! Whilst I am still on adlimumab injections, I am wholly optimistic that one day I could be drug free. It’s hard to believe how much things have changed just through one month of pure elemental.
For anyone who also suffers with Crohns & Colitis, I urge you to give the liquid diet a try if you’re ever at a treatment crossroad. Yes, it’s hard. Yes, it’ll mentally challenge you in ways you couldn’t have ever imagined. Yes, you’ll be hungry and angry for a few days. But my god – is it worth it! It’s a clean way to let your body heal – no chemicals, no side effects. Just you and your willpower.
My journeIMG_3837y is by no means over. I still have many food groups to reintroduce (this has all slightly stalled since I started a new job which is completely exhausting) and I have a job on my hands to manage my stress levels to keep my pain at bay. But the point is that’s all in my hands. I’m back in control.
This makes me even more determined to raise as much money as possible for Crohns & Colitis UK in my 10k run this Sunday. If you have any pennies to spare, I would be so eternally grateful – every pound means more than I can put into words! Click here to donate.
I feel like celebrating with a gluten free and dairy free brownie!!!!!
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Apart from cooking, my other major love in life is going out for dinner. In fact, not just dinner – make that lunch, brunch and breakfast too! Yes, I am that person who Instagrams all my meals out! IMG_2812I absolutely love eating out and it was obviously a bit of a shock when I first went out to dinner after the liquid diet to discover how little I could eat on restaurant menus. It was a complete minefield – especially when you are faced with a menu of which you can barely eat anything and the waiter/waitress doesn’t have a clue either!
In my first few meals out, I was going to my usual favourite food chains. You know, Pizza Express, Cote, Revolution Bar etc and my local pubs/cafes. At first I thought it would be easy enough to just have chips if all else fails – but soon learnt that sometimes chips have a gluten batter. WHAT? Chips in my eyes are just potato and oil!! And so my knowledge of vast food manufacturers expanded and I realised that there is a tonne of hidden ingredients in a multitude of foods you eat in restaurants. I mean really – why do we need a gluten batter on a potato?
I’m still off gluten, dairy, beans & lentils and most grains such as quinoa and buckwheat. So as you can see, options are slim! After several dinners out with friends and family where there was no other option other than sit there with a side salad, it became clear I had to scrutinise every menu in advance.
Mid May, I went out with my flatmates and I (rather bolshily) said I would research all our nearby eateries and make a decision about where we should eat. Enter Pho….
PHO
Price range: £
Pho is a Vietnamese chain restaurant. I was unbelievably happy to see that their entire menu was certified gluten free by the Coeliac Society, apart from their beers and chocolate cake (this is understandable!) Their menu is plentiful, so many amazing starters including lettuce and meat wraps, vegetable rice spring rolls, crispy prawn crackers and obviously the most famIMG_3092ous dish, Pho – a Vietnamese soup dish. I ordered vegetable spring rolls and the prawn ‘Bun’ noodles, which is vermicelli rice noodles with a lemongrass and chilli wok-fried topping. Served with fresh herbs, beansprouts, veggie spring roll and peanuts. It was amazing to be able to choose out of anything on the menu!
In excitement, I returned a week after. This time I tried to order a curry – turns out these are not dairy free, containing condensed milk. So if you’re dairy free as well as gluten free, its worth asking about the curry options. Would definitely recommend for a delicious but casual meal with lots of choice and it’s not a meal that’s going to break the bank!

 
PING PONG
Price range: £
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Keeping with the oriental theme, my next recent favourite is Ping Pong, a chain specialising in dim sum, cocktails and chinese tea. I was at some midweek after work drinks with a friend, when we started getting seriously hungry. IMG_3320Ping Pong was next door and initially, I just thought no. No way, there won’t be anything on the menu I can eat. I thought dim sum and thought instantly gluten. However, on further investigation, it turns out they have a
selection of gluten and dairy free options.Granted, the list wasn’t as expansive as Pho, but their menu was clearly marked. They even gave me a special ‘dairy free menu’, which also had gluten free options marked off. I was so impressed with this. Especially as I’ve been given so many ‘nutrition charts’ in restaurants where you have to work out each individual ingredient in each dish.  I went for the Seafood Dumpling and the Har Gau – so delicious!! Find Ping Pong chains across the UK.
 
MAE DELI
Price range: ££
Mae Deli is the brain child of Deliciously Ella – an extremely prominent health and food blogger. Deliciously Ella believes in a gluten free and vegan way of life and I loved creating some of the recipes in her book. So I was really excited to find that her deli was only twenty minutes from work! I ventured there on a day off in centraIMG_3233l London. The deli is small but the range of products on offer is amazing. They have a wide range of salads and hot dishes, all made of completely natural and whole ingredients. Although I have to be honest, it wasn’t this that got me excited. It was the MASSIVE RANGE OF CAKES! I hadn’t eaten a proper cake in eight weeks when I went in there and I completely zoned in on a strawberry and coconut cake, resembling a victoria sponge. There were numerous options on the drink list too – a whole smoothie bar in fact. I went for a matcha latte to go with my cake, as I’d never tried one and opted to have it with coconut milk. The cake was delicious, as was the latte. I even purchased a couple of cacao and nut energy balls for a snack later! I would definitely go back to get a takeaway salad or sample some of the hot dish for dinner. Be prepared to spend the dollar here though – a cake and a latte came to £8. Which in comparison to your usual coffee chains, is fairly pricy. At the moment there is only one deli in London – find the address here.
ETHOS FOODS
Price range: £££
IMG_3296 (1)On my exploration for gluten and dairy free dining, I found Ethos Foods. A completely meat free restaurant in the heart of central London, serving a wide range of dairy free, gluten free, vegan and refined sugar free options. The spread was amazing – more breathtaking than Mae Deli. Massive bowls of salads, humous, fresh dips, fresh bread, hot dishes and a HUGE STAND of sweet treats. It wasn’t just the quantity of options on show, it was the creativity of the dishes. Delicious sweet potato scotch eggs and miso aubergine, potato and pesto salad. DAIRY FREE FRESH PESTO! The cake stand was another level, full of energy balls, cookies and huge chocolate cakes. The idea is you take a plate it and load it with whatever you want. Although at £2.80 per 100g, it does work out quite expensive. I filled my plate and had a fresh juice, with the bill coming to £14.09. Having said that, Ethos is by far the favourite restaurant I’ve visited. It is worth the journey if you’re coming into London and is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. YUMMMM!
 
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bryonyhopkins

I’ve been shamefully quiet here for the past week and for that I must apologise. I’ve just started a new job and I feel like I blinked and missed this week passing! I have however still managed to get in the kitchen and experiment with more gorgeous gluten free and dairy free delights – of which I will be sharing with you soon!
Apart from starting the new job, I have just got involved with a really exciting project. Some weeks ago, during the liquid diet fandango, I was invited to get in touch with the GCASFM team. gcasfmStanding for ‘Give Crohns a Slap From Me’, the project works to raise awareness and money for Crohns & Colitis UK through articles by contributing writers, as well as art, culture and music events. Founder, Matt Strutt, created GCASFM in a eureka moment during remission (he told me!) when he received 2000 UPS postal labels from a friend in the US. With a keen interest in graffiti and street art, he sent the stickers across the globe to artists, inviting them to create a sticker (‘a slap’) to raise awareness of Crohn’s Disease.
Two years on and the project has gone from strength to strength with many contributors. So I’m really excited to now be one of them! Have a read of my first article, just click here. The article also features an interview I did for BBC News two years ago – something I haven’t yet shared on this blog!
bryony bbc news
Keep your eyes peeled for more delicious recipes to come! See below for GASFM social media sites.
GCASFM online
GFASFM Twitter
GCASFM Facebook
GCASFM Insta
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