I love London. Like, literally, LOVE it. Just the sight of a Starbuck's, rush of the tube escalators, the bright lights and the sheer energy that exudes from the streets gets me all excited, like a little child in Toys R Us. To put things into perspective, for you city dwellers who think I am crazy, this is my reality at home:
Beautiful, yes. But the moo of a cow and the odd tractor convoy (yes, that really happens) is about as big and buzzing as it gets. So when PT Steve told me he was off to London for his BioSignature (more on that here) course, I thought it would be a great opportunity for me to have a few days away from the stresses of home and go exploring.
I put a shout out on Twitter and had loads of help and feedback on places to go, and with a few places already in mind, I armed myself with my Kindle and set off on a mission! Here is my full guide to surviving London gluten free. I am aware it is a bit of an epic, so here's a quick guide in case you want to jump to what takes your fancy!
Holiday Inn Express, North Acton - gluten free options
Cookies and Scream, Camden - gluten free and vegan treats
Pret A Manger - great on the go
Leon - more 'on the go' options
Whole Foods Market - literally the best place ever
Honest Burgers - amazing food
Vozars in Brixton - everything is gluten free!
Ms Cupcake in Brixton - vegan and gluten free yumminess!
Other places and resources - where to go for more ideas
Holiday Inn Express Park Royal - North Acton
When we booked our stay here (£50 a night including breakfast, not too bad a deal!) I put 'gluten free' as a special request but didn't think anything of it. I was, therefore, pleasantly surprised when we got off the tube at North Acton, checked in and the receptionist told me my gluten free bread would be ready at breakfast! When we got up to the room I also noticed they had a gluten free bread 'on request' option for sandwiches - but at £10 a pop I gave that one a miss!
Breakfast options were a little limited but not impossible. When I asked for my gluten free bread at our first breakfast, the receptionist returned from the kitchen and plonked a whole loaf of Warburton's free from white bread in my hands. I certainly wasn't going to go without!
Cooked options included beans and egg - both gluten free - and sausages which I obviously couldn't eat. The toaster was one of those communal, DIY conveyor belt ones. Top tip - bring toaster bags.
Luckily I had (optimistically) packed some so I was able to cook my toast in the machine without any contamination. I had toast with beans and egg every morning - so needless to say although I was full, I don't want to see that combination for a long time!
Cookies and Scream - Camden Lock Market
I decided to take a trip to Camden on the underground - I just love the markets, the quirky buildings and the delicious smells that waft through Camden - and did a quick Google first to see what I could find there. When I searched 'gluten free Camden', Cookies and Scream, completely gluten free and vegan, popped up.
Situated in Camden Lock Market, opposite Honest Burgers - more on them here - Cookies and Scream's cookie bar is cool and quirky, much like you would expect in this eclectic area. It's offerings are laid out to see, and at the time comprised of cookies, brownies, 'ginger ninjas' and pies, all with the option of vegan ice creams and coffees to enjoy with them.
I was struggling over what to choose - I wanted to eat it all! - but the peanut butter creme pie caught my eye and I couldn't look away. It had to be done. A chocolate crust, gooey peanut butter centre and thick cream on top, it was a delight to look at and even more so to eat! I pulled up a stool and sat at the bar to eat mine, and savoured every mouthful, it was delicious.
I debated buying more to take away, but as I had eaten so much food over the weekend I decided it would be best for my waistline not to! I was, however, gutted to see on Facebook after I left they pulled out the doughnuts!! I'll just have to visit again - and I would definitely recommend it to any coeliacs visiting London. Stock up!
Pret A Manger
Pret is a bit of a life saver for those who cannot eat gluten - mainly because they are everywhere. You actually cannot turn a corner without being greeted by one! The full list of what coeliacs can eat is on their website (along with lots of other intolerances) and is easy to follow. A lot of their labels are also marked on the shelves. This is handy because the items for sale don't have any ingredients lists on them!
I tried a few things here - namely the avocado and crayfish salad, the crayfish, egg and quinoa protein pot and the gluten free Mexican guacamole wrap. The salad was lovely, my favourite of the lot - can you tell I like crayfish!? The protein pot was a handy afternoon snack I enjoyed, as I was having a bit of a sugar overload and I needed something savoury and healthy!
The wrap was nice - I don't normally choose vegetarian options, and I was a little disappointed that there wasn't a lot of guacamole in mine, yet an awful lot of large chunks of cucumber!? However, as I enjoyed it during a little picnic all in the sunshine at Hyde Park, that made me feel a bit better!
I've blogged about Leon, and their impressive gluten free offering, on my last trip to London. I sought this one out on a particularly rainy afternoon, desperate for some shelter and something warm to eat! The labelling at Leon is so clear, it's easy to see what is gluten free, wheat free and vegetarian, and saves you the awkwardness of having to ask millions of questions. It's also pleasing to see there is more gluten free food than non-gluten free food available!
I went for the meatballs - in a tomato sauce served with brown rice, garlic alioli and their 'slaw'. I also went for the lattice fries because they are just so yummy! It was nice sitting down and tucking into my meal, watching the world go by and slowly thawing out as I had got pretty cold in the rain!
I noticed most of Leon's cakes - including cookies and PECAN PIE(!!!!!) - were marked as gluten free. However, having devoured the huge slice of peanut butter creme pie in Camden earlier that day, I thought I might be sick if I consumed any more sugar! So I had to regretfully decline that one - something to look forward to on a future trip!
Whole Foods Market - Picadilli
Is there a more amazing shop in the world than Whole Foods Market? Because if there is, I am yet to find it. I absolutely love it here and wish I could bundle it up and take it home with me to Barnstaple! Brimming with fresh foods, sizzling hot treats, and so many gluten free treats it's impossible to try them all. Whole Foods was a great chance for me to try some foods I had heard about and was yet to find - and loads I had never even heard of!
The first item into my basket was the No G gluten free blueberry cheesecake. I've heard much raving about this brand and although I was keen to try their savoury pies I just had to have this! I'm going to put a full blog on their products later in the week, so watch this space!
I also picked up some 99% cacoa dark chocolate for Steve (not as bitter as I expected - but best in small doses!), some coconut milk yoghurt which was pretty grim (worth a try though eh!?) and a tin of Libby's pumpkin puree which sounds very random but I have wanted some for ages to make protein bars so watch this space!
TOP TIP - Whole Foods was the cheapest place I found to buy bottles of water, at 39p each!
The list of products I wanted to buy but didn't was endless - chia pots, kabuto noodle pots, Perk!er porridge pots, raw banoffee pies, kale crisps, chickpea crispbreads, salad boxes, sushi, and that's not even to mention the smoothies, juices, soups and hot meals on display! I could have eaten here every day, it was a health foodie's haven!!
Honest Burgers - Kings Cross branch
One of the places everyone raved about when I put a shout out on Twitter was Honest Burgers. Now I can see why! There are several branches around London, and after unsuccessfully trying the Soho one, the following evening we took the tube to Kings Cross where there was only(!) a 45 minute wait for a table. The time quickly passed having a drink at the bar and it was SO worth it.
I had the Catalan-inspired special burger with grilled peppers, cheese and Serrano ham, and Steve had the Tribute burger which was similarly overloaded with goodies. Both came with Honest's rosemary salted fries (gorgeous!) and, we ordered something I was seriously excited about - ONION RINGS.
I have never had onion rings, at least, I don't think I have, until now. The whole meal was amazing - great gluten free knowledge, deliciously cooked burgers, and a great vibe. I loved it!
Vozars was another gem suggested to me on Twitter and I'm so glad I made the trip to Brixton to go there! I was meeting with my friend Laura, who I haven't seen for years and when she read my mind and suggested we go to Brixton I was over the moon!It's such a wonderful area, with so much to see and absorb, and Vozars is tucked away in Brixton Village, with lots of signs proudly boasting they are 100% gluten and wheat free! Yay!
I opted for the venison burger (as recommended!) and Laura went for the chicken strips burger with guacamole. Both meals were delicious, and we also ordered the seasoned fries with Vozar's mayo which were incredible! Garlicy and tasty, oh my, I want more already! Laura also said she couldn't tell her meal was gluten free, so that's got to be a plus side!
Ms Cupcake - Brixton
Laura and I stumbled across Ms Cupcake and decided to take a look inside. I asked if there was anything gluten free on the offchance, only to find everything with a white label contained no gluten! Amazing news, as there were quite a few white labels! I was torn between the carrot cake (topped with a cute little icing carrot!) or chocolate and vanilla, but, as always, chocolate won!
We sat outside and ate these and they were lovely! The vanilla frosting and sweet and creamy and the cake was really rich and chocolately - I didn't even realise until I was half way through my cake they were also vegan too! Definitely worth a visit if you're in the area.
Other places and great resources
I seemed to cram in what felt like millions of calories over the weekend, yet there were still so many places I didn't get to try. A few I want to try were:
- Yo Sushi! (I think they provide gluten free soy sauce on request)
- Pho (recommended by a few people on Twitter)
- Pod - apparently another good one for lunch on the go!
If you're planning a visit, I would also recommend you check out the following:
- This post by Kevin at Gluten Free By The Sea was a great starting point for me!
- Gluugle is a brilliant app where you can find what's gluten free near you
- Flourless in London gave me a few good pointers and tips
- Plus get on Twitter and ask - there is an amazing community out there with loads of advice!
I hope you enjoyed the post and it helped - I am now off to start the post-London detox!!! Feel free to suggest any other places in the comments below, the more the merrier, so I can start planning my next trip!