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! I 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….
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 famous 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!
Price range: £
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. Ping 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.
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 central 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.
Price range: £££
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!