This post comes a little later than I had originally planned, but here it is, none the less. Better late than never. An account of my favorite gluten-free eats from my fall trip to London (and a few from Leeds, too).
I have to say, having traveled to London about 15 years ago, I had a slight amount of trepidation around the food scene there. From my previous travels, I recall lots of traditional pub food, meat and potatoes, lots of beer and cider but not a whole lots that really knocked my socks off. Could be I was a broke 20-something that didn’t have a clue how to find good food or possibly that London was a tad late to the foodie game. I was also slightly concerned about the level of awareness and accommodation for gluten-free eaters.
I have NEVER ever visited a city more gluten-free accommodating and aware than London. Even the smallest of restaurants and cafes in the middle of nowhere not only had an extreme awareness and concern for gluten-free eaters, but every single place stocked locally baked gluten-free breads that impressed the shit of out of this 12-year strong gluten-free eater. Beyond the gluten-free awareness and options, I was also just incredibly impressed by how much London had stepped up it’s culinary game since my previous visit. I still dream of many of these meals and in fact have been experimenting with recreating some of my most favorites so I can continue to enjoy them without the 10 hour flight.
Gluten-free in London:
Niche Gluten-free Dining // London – Islington My favorite restaurant of the trip, this 100% gluten-free restaurant is London’s first Coeliac UK accredited 100% gluten free restaurant (they also very clearly mark the dishes that are dairy-free). Serving up honest British comfort food with a modern twist our meal at Niche on our final night, was the perfect way to end our time in the UK. We started with the NFC, which is their Niche Fried Chicken! Buttermilk free-range chicken served with aioli & BBQ dips. Since we both were really feeling the British vibes we each opted for a wintery, cozy comforting beef pot pie, with the most incredible flakey crust ever!! It was loaded with a rich gravy and I had a big pile of greens on the side. I seriously cannot believe, to this day that it was all gluten free! While we decided not to indulge they had quite an extensive dessert selection, as well.
Bird // Multiple Locations This was one of those finds that makes me so grateful for Yelp. We had gotten to the hotel far later than we ever planned. We were hungry, tired, delirious and a little emotionally drained (see this IG post for why). I did what I do in these situations, opened Yelp and typed in “gluten-free”. Yelp told me that Bird was right around the corner from the Ace Hotel, where we were staying in the Shoreditch neighborhood and that virtually the entire menu was gluten-free, more specifically ALL of their free range fried chicken was 100% gluten-free, coated in their house seasoned gluten-free mix and made in a dedicated fryer. WHAT? Now, as a nutritional therapist, I cannot speak to the quality of the oils used (I can only imagine they are of the usual variety), but let us just celebrate a dedicated fryer and the opportunity to eat crispy fried chicken, shall we? It was incredible! Be sure to inquire about what items are safe and which are not, some of the sauces are not GF, as well as the waffles and other bread products and of course to check on the fryer, as I am sure this could change and may also differ by location.
Forge & Co. // London – Shoreditch Neighborhood Located just across the street from the Ace Hotel where we were staying, this beautiful restaurant is so much more than your usual eatery. An all-day dining and social workspace Forge has great vibes, a super friendly staff and an even better weekday breakfast menu. Like most London eateries, they stocked delicious GF bread along with a wonderful awareness and care for my eating preferences. Forge & Co brings modern British classics with a contemporary twist, cooked with expertly-sourced ingredients, plus the extra bonus is that Forge offers a workspace from desks throughout to private, enclosed studios. A solid option for those who work on the road.
All Star Lanes // London – Multiple Locations – With more of a focus on indulgent, American-influenced eats, this bowling alley, restaurant and bar isn’t a place I would traditionally visit for a meal, but since my hubby had plans to meet a few podcast listeners at the Brick Lane location, I tagged along. We had already eaten dinner so it was more of a cocktail and dessert situation, but I did of course take a gander at the full menu and they had a fairly extensive list of gluten-free options, labeled very clearly on the main menu. For those that enjoy libations and adult bevies, they had a beautiful and super fun cocktail menu and they even rock a large list of milkshakes and adult spiked milkshakes. While the rest of the crew opted to bring all the boys to the yard with boozy and non-boozy milkshakes, my classy-ass went to a bowling alley and ordered a tasty Slow Rose Sour, which featured Lanique Rose liqueur, Haymans Sloe Gin, lemon and egg white – made in the sour style with plum bitters. I could definitely see this place being a super fun night out of grubbin’, drinkin’ and bowlin’.
NOPI // London – SoHo Neighborhood – If you aren’t familiar with Ottelenghi’s food, check yourself! Ottolenghi and his staff approach food with a strong Mediterranean influence but more it’s about beautiful, seasonally-inspired, locally-sourced, freshly focused food for the soul. As they say “It’s full of harmonious contradictions: it’s vibrant and bold yet familiar and comforting; it’s beautiful to look at yet close to its original form; it’s full of surprising drama yet always comes together as one; it’s noisy yet peaceful, lip-smacking yet warm, simple yet daring.” While they don’t have a specifically marked or dedicated gluten-free menu, because everything is beautiful crafted from scratch and by hand, they are quite knowledgeable and accommodating. If nothing else, hit up NOPI at brunch just for the shaksuka, holy wow it’s literally life changing.
Boundary // London – Shoreditch Neighborhood – Chic contemporary, elegant dining, exposed brick walls and the full service experience. Part of an upscale boutique hotel with multiple levels, Boundary’s restaurant is located on the bottom level and offers a unique and romantic vibe. You can also find their casual cafe at street level and a roof top bar/eatery. On an evening where I had one restaurant in mind (see Dishoom below) that had a line nearly down the block, since waiting 2 hours for dinner is just not something I do, we began to walk the neighborhood and peep Yelp to find another dining option that would equally “wow” us. We came across Boundary and decided to give it a go. It had a very romantic, more fine dining vibe, they were extremely accommodating to gluten-free, with a menu that was very simple, fresh and seasonally focused. I had a delicious sea bass with in-season vegetables and it was everything.
Farm Girl // London – Notting Hill – With an extensive menu with loads of gluten-free and dairy-free options, Farm Girl is a dream come true for this holistic, real-food loving’ foodie. Farm Girl is rocking the Australian Cafe Culture with cozy, warm and welcoming vibes and a massive focus on fresh, nutritionally nurturing ingredients. Lots of house made baked goods, a solid selection of coffee, tea and other hot drinks. I had their hot chocolate made with coconut milk, raw cacao and sweetened with date syrup and after a chilly fall day of walking the streets of London, it was perfection. They also have a wonderful selection of other beverages including cold-pressed juices, kombucha, brunch, sweets and more. We opted for their incredible berry-loaded gluten-free pancakes. Bonus: you have the option to sprinkle superfoods on basically any dish: maca, hemp, bee pollen, chia seeds, turmeric, flaxseed, chlorophyll or spirulina! LOVE IT.
Dishoom // Multiple Locations – Let me just start by saying this is by far and away THE best Indian food I have ever eaten. I dream of it, very often – it’s life-altering. Dishoom offers Bombay café-style food as well as a very extensive gluten-free menu. The Shoreditch location get very very busy, with waits on the weekend extending near 2 hours, without the option for reservations. But there is a killer bar set up with an overly-impressive cocktail list. I sampled a few various libations and wasn’t let down, once. Boasting fun and modern takes on subcontinental street food, Dishoom is a not-to-be-missed stop on your London tour. I sampled as much as I could, but far and away, the stand out dish for me was the Chicken Ruby Murray, which I of course, promptly returned home to recreate.
Borough Market // London – London Bridge – For an incredible foodie experience, you must visit the Borough Market. Rows and rows of vendors, fresh and organic produce from local farms, meats, fish and cheeses, treats, eateries and street food – this place will literally blow your mind. It gets crazy packed on the weekends, so be prepared.
Pie Minister Pie // Locations in London, Manchester and Leeds – Award winning savory pies and comfort food made with responsibly-sourced ingredients. Pieminister has a large selection of pies, with three gluten-free options. These are made in a separate kitchen to avoid cross contamination issues and they are approved as gluten free by Coeliac UK. I went with the Gluten-free Moo. A classic British beef steak and gluten-free ale pot pie. It has a surprisingly flakey crust, and it was ultra comforting and cozy. You get to choose side dishes to go with your pie and all the sides are clearly marked as to which are gluten-free, as are the starters and the rest of the menu. I still dream of this meal and another holy shit moment. This is the ultimate in comfort food.
The Wetherby Whaler // Locations in Leeds, York, Guiseley and more – Family-owned regional chain of restaurant and takeaways that offer gluten-free traditional fish and chips. OK you guys!! A must. A major must. Drive out of your way to find a location, take the train, whatever you have to do, but make your way here and have the true British experience. This place takes gluten-free seriously using dedicated fryers, are cross contamination aware and here’s the best part, they fry everything in beef tallow instead of terrifying vegetable oils. Beyond this amazingness, there is also a strong focus and concern on sustainability, serving sustainably-sourced Icelandic haddock as well as sourcing ingredients as locally as possible. Do check with each individual restaurant location to see which serves gluten-free, as I believe they all do, but cannot guarantee that fact. Oh and don’t forget the mushy peas!
for the supportive non-gluten-free travel partner
Beigel Bake Brick Lane Bakery // London – Brick Lane – If you have an amazing, very supportive partner who doesn’t mind visiting all the gluten-free restaurants all over London with you, be a good partner back and show off your foodie skills by taking them to Beigel Bake Brick Lane Bakery, a 24 bakery and London’s oldest bagel shop serving up Jewish-style filled bagels. Encourage them to order their signature salt beef bagel. It comes jam packed with tender, salty beef as a bagel sandwich with mustard and pickles. I promise your partner will LOVE you for it! There is nothing gluten-free there and you will have extreme bagel envy, but take one for the team and reward that amazing cheerleader of yours that you drag around to gluten-free restaurants.