New GF offerings from Pizza Express

Thanks to his handy little Tastecard, my boyfriend and I decided to treat ourselves to a meal at Pizza Express on Monday night. As you all know back in 2012 Pizza Express launched their gluten free base, along with some other dishes and desserts, and Coeliacs everywhere rejoiced! Having worked with Coeliac UK, they’d carefully considered the cross contamination risks alongside how to provide a quality menu for Coeliacs and personal I think they did really well! Did you know, that to prevent contamination from all that flour flying around the kitchen, they made their standard flour gluten free?

I’m always excited for pizza but was even more excited on Monday when I saw that Pizza Express have a new menu, and the gluten free options have expanded! Naturally, I had to try one for each course….

Starter

Previously there has been a Mozzarella salad or Risotto to start, neither of which I really go for. Let’s face it, salad is boring and risotto is too filling before such a carb heavy main. Now however,  those options are accompanied by the new Melanzanine, ‘A mini al forno dish of layered aubergine, passata, mozzarella, garlic, basil and Gran Moravia cheese’.

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This comes served in a cute little baking pot, although the size does make it a little difficult to cut through the insanely thick, stringy cheese layer. Also, they weren’t lying when they say it contains garlic….In fact it overpowered all of the other ingredients! This is a really nice light starter overall.

Main

In the last few years I’ve become far more adventurous with my pizza toppings, but I have a particular love of Pepperoni and Goat’s cheese so 90% of the time I stick to pizzas based around these. Not this time. Instead, my boyfriend managed to convince me to try something new…..The Carbonara pizza! Seeing as I love Carbonara pasta this wasn’t a bad shout, but I had my concerns that it wouldn’t live up to my expectations. Plus I’ve never really understood egg on a pizza.

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I was pleasantly surprised that zeta lay,  this worked really well! It tastes exactly like a Carbonara,  topped with a creamy sauce, herbs, streaky pan cotta,  loads of cheese and of course, the egg in the middle.  Whilst I’m still on convinced that egg works on pizza, I added the taste of this option and highly recommend it!

The base as always,  was lovely and crispy whilst retaining the doughy texture. Definitely the best base on offer in mainstream restaurants!

My only complaint is that when they launched the gluten free base,  they were all served with specially colour coded pizza cutters,  but in the last few months these have disappeared. It really bugs me because despite the base being lovely, sometimes it can be a bugger to cut, and a standard knife and fork don’t cut it! I’d love to know the reasoning behind this.

Be warned, this option is filling (well, after that starter anyway)!

Dessert

I have a love hate relationship with Pizza Express and their desserts.  It’s great the have the options but they always make me feel…sad. Sorbet and Gelato are lovely,  but if I’m paying to eat out frankly I’d like something a bit more exciting. The gluten free brownie they offer is also nice, but it’s tiny, only comes with a drink (until they serve soya milk, this is out of the window for me) and, well, it’s a brownie.

These options are still there, but now the brownie comes with or without the drink ( and considering it’s about £5, a lot bloody bigger I hope too), and the Gelato has had a makeover. Now you can enjoy a delicious Banoffee or Tiramisu flavoured scoop instead. 

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I chose the Tiramisu flavour, partly on the recommendation from our waitress and party because I’m not keen on Banoffee. Dear God, this is delicious. Seriously, seriously tasty! With the first spoonful I got a heavy dose of the rim flavouring (not a bad thing) and on second the coffee really came through. My view of boring Gelato has been changed and although I was desperately full by now, I finished every last bit.

So worth the food baby!

Overall, I’m really impressed that Pizza Express have ramped up their menu even more and have included much tastier treats for their gluten free customers. They’re really leading the way for mainstream restaurants tapping into the market and making me on happy Coeliac in the process.

To view the full gluten free menu, visit their website: http://www.pizzaexpress.com/our-food/our-restaurant-menu/glutenfree/

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Festive GF Wrap from Starbucks

Earlier this week on Twitter,  Steph mentioned that along with those ridiculously awesome red cups, this winter Starbucks have launched a Festive wrap that’s also Gluten Free. One mention of the word ‘Turkey’ and I was determined hunt one down!

I didn’t have to look very far as fortunately there’s a little Starbucks outside my office in North West London. Venturing out for lunch I was delighted to spot one! Also in red packaging, this ‘Limited Edition’ wrap is described as a ‘Gluten Free Turkey and Bacon Wrap’. Look closely at the ingredients listed on the front, and you find it contains:

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Turkey breast, smoked bacon, spinach, cranberry sauce, black pepper mayo and pork, sage and onion stuffing. Sounds like Christmas dinner all wrapped up, right?

IT IS.

I asked for my wrap to be heated (no one likes cold Christmas dinner after all) but took it back to my office. I queried the staff around their cross contamination procedure with the grill, and was happy to hear that they place two new sheets of baking paper underneath and on top of the wrap to prevent it touching the grill. I watched them do this to be on the side, but no issues!

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Back at my desk, I tucked in. WOW. To me, this tastes exactly like Christmas dinner, all the flavour combinations work brilliantly together and they’re not overpowering. The wrap, a multi-seeded wrap from Newburn Bakehouse,  held together well and I had no issues with it falling apart or losing the filling.

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My one issue was when the cranberry sauce made a bid for freedom on my nice yellow jumper….. 😦

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I’d suggest using a napkin!

The eat-in price is £3.29 which is pretty much the same cost as they’re ‘normal’ offerings, so I don’t feel like it’s a gluten free rip off in any way. I’m happy with their cross contamination controls and frankly, I’m just really happy to have another delicious lunch option for when I’m on the go!

Well done Starbucks, thank you for not forgetting your Coeliac customers during the festive period!

Honest Burgers- New GF Special

I love Honest Burgers, the fantastic London collective of burger joints serving delicious gluten free burgers ( see my previous review here). Their simple menu, simple restaurants,  fantastic service and excellent food make them a firm favourite amongst all Londoner’s,  but they have a special place in the hearts of Coeliacs. The fact they are listening to their customers and have executed a gluten free menu so well are rewarded with their firm following of gluten free fans, from London and afar. I’m no different, excited by having a burger in *an actual bun* with delicious rosemary salted fries and onion rings- yes, you read that right. Gluten free ONION RINGS!
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So when I received an email whilst sunning myself in Ibiza, asking me to attend the launch of their new special burger, it gave me something to look forward to on my return to dreary England. I jumped at the chance and added my name to the guest list.

As with many London gluten free launches, it turned into a little Tweet Up! I was joined by the lovely Florence,  Kim, Kelly, Carly, Sian, David and Alison.  It’s always lovely to see them and impromptu meet ups are even better!
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As soon as I was seated I was kindly offered a beer- this being the gluten free Estrella Daura. Now I have to admit that my taste for beer has diminished since diagnosis, to the point that even if a GF beer is available, I’ll probably choose cider. That being said,  I did enjoy my bottle of Daura and recommend it to any Coeliacs who miss beer! Daura are collaborating with Honest Burgers to ensure Coeliacs can enjoy two of their favourite things together…. beer and a burger!
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We were then presented with a bowl of onion rings and chicken wings to try  I’m in love with their onion rings (previously these were made from red onion, which I actually preferred. The ‘normal’ versions are damn good too though!), it’s so nice to be able to have them and they’re perfectly crispy….to be honest I didn’t want to share! I don’t eat meat on the bone so I wasn’t overly impressed with the wings ( I did try one but barely touched it before I got to the bone…ewww) but I can say they are tender and spicy!

A little while later we were given some information on the special burger and the ingredients and placed our order,  excited to try the combination of flavours. As part of their collaboration with Estrella Daura, a Spanish brand, Honest have created a burger full of Spanish ingredients; beef, crispy lomo ham, GF romesco sauce, tetilla cheese & grilled red peppers. Romesco sauce, as Honest Burgers creator extraordinaire Tom explained, is normally made using breadcrumbs and therefore is unsuitable for Coeliacs, however they’ve spent time crafting a gluten free recipe so that we can all enjoy it too!
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The burger itself was cooked as perfectly as always. Mine was a little more pink than I had asked for but I fully enjoyed it still. One suggestion made by Kim that I completely agree with is that the lettuce shouldn’t be on the bottom because it causes the burger to slip out of the bun. A few of us also struggled to notice the lomo ham, but after having a chat with Tom we agreed it was most likely down to the positioning that perhaps caused it’s lovely taste to be lost. The romesco sauce is gorgeous but definitely makes for messy eating! I think I had most of it dripping down my wrist, so be prepared! All part of the experience though….

The buns they use are by Antoinette Savill, a product that was previously sold in Waitrose stores. I think the buns are great as they don’t crumble to pieces in your hand as you’re eating! The chips, as always taste fantastic, the mix of the salt and rosemary working really well together.

This special burger will be available until 17th October at King’s Cross. If you’re in the vicinity, I highly recommend you pop in and sample one for yourself….don’t forget the beer!

A big thank you to Tom and the team for a fantastic evening and for the offer to sample the burgers.

GF Tweet Up- Vozar’s Brixton

Now this is a very late post (we visited in February) and I apologise, but I just couldn’t miss the opportunity to share this fantastic restaurant with you, even if it is a bit belated…

Many of you may have seen on Twitter that there’s a group of bloggers who like to meet up occasionally and enjoy a damn good gluten free meal, me included. This year the arrangements fell to me and following some voting from the group, we chose to go to Vozar’s restaurant in Brixton Market, London.

 

Vozar’s is the brainchild of Martin, the executive chef. This is taken from their own website:

‘At Vozars, we started as a pop-up to showcase CELIA Organic lager, a rare product that has been made to taste better thanks to being gluten-free.

In ode to this we serve mouthwatering food that crosses global cuisines but has one thing in common – it is better thanks to being gluten free.  From fresh baked quiches and home-made sandwiches to duck confit and venison burger served in a brioche bun Vozars takes pride in exceeding expectations.

We have one of the best spots in the London food scene, in the heart of the buzzing Brixton Village and are proud to be the first café and restaurant in London that is fully wheat and gluten free.’

 

Martin was a fantastic help, emailing me the menus and coming up with a special offer for our party. When the menu changed and the gluten free scotch eggs were no longer an offering, he kindly agreed to add them to our special menu so that we could still enjoy them- just an example of their fantastic service!

All booked up, 13 of us headed off to Brixton Market on a chilly Saturday night. Brixton Market is undercover with lots of tiny shops and restaurants dotted around inside. We were greeted with a nice cold bottle of Celia Lager– another creation of Martin’s and settled down to chat outside for a bit as we waited for people to arrive We were even greeted individually by Martin himself which was lovely. When we were all ready, we headed inside the tiny restaurant and squeezed around the table- one thing to note is that this restaurant is tiny, so if you head there you’re likely to get a table outside in the undercover market instead.

 

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Once seated, the menu was explained to us by Martin and his lovely waitress (sorry- I’ve completely forgotten your name!), which was helpful as some of the group had multiple intolerances. There were no issues tweaking the menu slightly and everyone was reassured that they could have a tasty safe meal. The menu had so many options that it was incredibly difficult to choose, but it just goes to show that once someone puts their mind to it, fantastic gluten free dishes can be created!

Armed with our (sometimes second) bottles of Celia, we chose our starters and mains and discussed all things gluten free, from diagnosis stories to supermarket horrors, on to product recommendations.  It’s so lovely for our group to get together and to talk about Coeliac things with people who completely understand, people who can share their experiences and offer the advice that you can struggle to get elsewhere. Some of us have met before at previous Tweet Ups and food shows whilst some others never have met in person but have been Twitter friends for a long time. If you were to tell a friend or family member that you’re heading into London to meet a bunch of complete strangers, well most would think you’re mad. But for us, it’s exciting and completely not scary at all. It’s refreshing, fun and most of all tasty!

Our starters arrived and we were all pretty amazed! The scotch eggs were huge and looked delicious, whilst the chicken strips that I had gone for were exactly as I remembered from pre-Coeliac days, in fact they were better. We all ended up sharing and tasting each others dishes which was nice too.

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I honestly could have gone for pretty much all of the starters, as they came out and we ate they all looked and smelt so fantastic! We had our mains still to come though and we were not disappointed! After the advice from the staff that the burgers were ‘special and amazing’ I decided to go for this. It’s so rare for me to actually get a burger with a bun that I was so excited!! It didn’t disappoint….

 

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Everyone was satisfied with their choices too, in fact I don’t think there was a disappointed face to be found! A sample copy of the menu can be found here, although this does change so to avoid disappointment get in touch with the restaurant first!

 

Some of us had room left for dessert, myself one of them. Their Wag Free dessert options are kept in the fridge in the restaurant window so I had been lusting over them since I arrived. They had a selection of individual sponge cakes, pastries and even homemade gluten free Twix and Wagon Wheels! I chose the white chocolate and coconut cake which was to die for. I struggled to finish it after such a  filling meal so I had the remainder wrapped up for me to take home. I also took a Twix home but completely forgot to photograph it. I can assure you that it would be worth the trip to Brixton alone!

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The food throughout the evening was fantastic, such good quality and it’s refreshing to have a whole menu completely gluten free. Not once did we worry about cross contamination, or have to double check that actually, the amazing looking bun is gluten free and they haven’t got ours mixed up with someone elses dish (the bun is from Wag Free if anyone is wondering- they’re now partnered with Vozar’s). We ate, drank, laughed and had a thoroughly enjoyable night. I can’t thank Martin and his team enough for their assistance and attention to detail that made our night wonderful.

If you’re in London make sure you add Vozar’s to your list because you won’t be disappointed! in fact, they often have Pop-Up evenings where they focus on a specific cuisine.  I’ve not managed to get to one yet myself but I’ve heard brilliant things!

 

A big thanks to these lovely people for their company during the Tweet Up!

Ann & Steve of Perk!erTwitter

Carly – Gluten Free B–  Twitter

Flo – Twitter

Alison – Barmy Cakes – Twitter

David – Twitter

Kelly- GF Cake LoverTwitter

Kim – Naturally Gluten Free – Twitter

Sian – Gluten Free Mrs DTwitter

Charlotte – Charlotte’s Cupcake CornerTwitter

Laura – Little Missed GlutenTwitter

Petra – Gluten Free Zones –  Twitter

 

Veggie Good Houmous Starbucks Wrap

Following the launch of Costa Coffee’s new gluten free wrap, Starbucks were hot on their heels with their own version,  the Veggie Good Houmous wrap. Both are made using seeded wraps by Newburn Bakehouse, so really it’s only the fillings that are in competition. You can read the press release for the Starbucks Wrap here and the Costa press release here.

This new wrap has been a little more elusive for me but having popped to the shops early yesterday I was able to grab one before other gluten free people snaffled them up!

I did have a little mix up with the server,  who totted off with my wrap to heat it up when I’d said not to, but luckily I stopped her before she put it on the grill. The cross contamination alarm bells were ringing in my head and I’ve now contacted their customer services to fund out about the controls they have in place (I’ll update this post with their response).

As the packaging had been thrown away I was given the wrap in a paper bag and worried it would fall apart as I continued shopping,  but I was pleasantly surprised when I opened the bag and the wrap was fully intact.

 

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Now on to the taste. I LOVE houmous and was excited that it’s used in wrap, but unfortunately the lemony flavour they’ve gone with just doesn’t work- it’s like a mild backing to the taste of the vegetables. The chunks of courgettes are odd in the wrap,  almost too big but it’s the shredded carrot that takes center stage here. In fact, it was all I could taste!! The filling is a nice concept but the flavours feel mismatched and certainly don’t come through as they should.

The wrap is however nicely filled, much more so than my wrap from Costa. It was also nicely tucked up at the bottom so the filling didn’t fall out- considering how much was in there.

 

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Overall, the filling and flavour of this wrap left me underwhelmed and I think the flavours definitely need a re-think. It’s great to have another option readily available on the high street but on this occasion the wrap from Costa wins for me.

The wrap is available in 750 stores across the UK and costs £3.99.

Costa’s New Gluten Free Wrap

The Coeliac community on Twitter has been buzzing over the last few weeks following the announcement that Costa Coffee have launched a new savoury option- the Chicken & Basil gluten free wrap, made using a seeded wrap from Newburn Bakehouse.

The timing was great, as just a few days later I was shopping in Surbiton with no quick lunch options, so I popped into Costa and picked up the wrap while my boyfriend grabbed his own sandwich. It was great to be able to pick both up in the one shop, rather than having to try a few places to find something suitable for me to eat.

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I love the packaging- it’s obviously gluten free as it shows the crossed grain symbol but it’s not a completely different to their other packaging so you don’t fee like you’re buying something different. Nothing worse than seeing someone turn their nose up at something just because they can see it’s gluten-free and it looks different.

It’s made up from one of the seeded wraps, which is then cut in half. The filling tastes great, although with basil as the main ingredient it definitely could have been more flavoursome. The combination did work but I found it a little dry. I was mostly disappointed that the wrap I had picked up was underfilled, which you can see in the photo below. For £3.75, I do expect it to be filled properly! A few people on Twitter have had the same issue, so maybe some more quality control is required Costa?

Costa Wrap

Overall, it’s fantastic to see Costa finally listening to our pleas and providing a savoury option, that’s easily available on the go. I’d happily buy one again when I’m out and about, I just hope next time I’m a little luckier!

For more information on their wrap, see their press release here.

Honest Burgers (and Snowflake Gelato)

Back in February I met up with Kevin from Gluten Free by The Sea and his lovely wife Abby in London, for a yummy gluten free dinner before us two ladies headed off to see Taylor Swift (which, by the way, was amazing!). Anyone who knows Kevin will know how much he loves Honest Burgers, and since I’ve never been we decided to go there.

It was a decision well made.

Honest Burgers isn’t a completely gluten free restaurant, but all of their burgers, including the vegetarian fritter,  are gluten free and are served with delicious buns. Their chips are cooked separately to anything else and even the onion rings (made with red onion, so delicious) are gluten free, such a novelty for Coeliacs! HonestBurgers_Food

I’m not a massive fan of meat and loved that I could actually have a vegetarian burger here so I chose the vegetable fritter, made with cauliflower, sweetcorn, shallots, spices, coriander and served with a cucumber yoghurt. Granted this probably isn’t as delicious as a beef burger but I loved every bite! The bun, which comes from the WAG bakery was equally good and didn’t fall apart the minute you touched it. The chips are quite possibly the BEST I’ve ever had and I can’t say how happy I was to be able to enjoy onion rings again! They even have gluten free Estrella Daura gluten free beer available if you fancy it.

 

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My fritter (vegetarian option) burger with the rosemary salted fries and the glorious gluten free red onion rings!

 

 

 

Two things to note about their restaurants- they’re quite small and they don’t take bookings, so be aware that you may need to put your name down and wait for a table during their busier times. They also sometimes have specials which contain gluten- whilst they take care to avoid cross contamination, there’s still a risk so it’s up to you whether you’re comfortable or not. I’d suggest checking their Twitter page or phoning ahead to find out what’s on.

I strongly recommend that any visitors to London visit one of their restaurants- you can choose between Soho, Brixton, Camden, Portobello, Kings Cross and Oxford Circus. You won’t be disappointed!

 

Update

Last weekend I dragged my boyfriend and two friends to the Soho restaurant after a day at Notting Hill Carnival. I was desperate to get myself back there and having mentioned burgers, my friends were equally keen. One is actually a vegetarian and really enjoyed the veggie fritter, which we both had. Great service and food once more, so thank you!

As we paid the bill we asked the waitress if she could recommend any dessert places nearby, as we were all craving something sweet. She mentioned a Gelato place just round the corner, so we headed along with our mouths watering, to Snowflake.

 

Straight away we noticed the vegetarian signage for my friend which was great, but I had to question the staff regarding gluten free. I was advised that all sorbets are safe and the same with the gelato, however closer inspection showed that some gelato’s had biscuit in them! They do however have a wheat symbol on the label, so they are marked up but clearly the staff need a little more training. I was impressed to be pointed in the direction of a tub of cones on top of the counter, all marked ‘Senza Glutine’. YAY! Promptly I ordered a single scoop gluten free cone topped with a chocolate and hazelnut gelato.

It was SO good!!

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So, if you’re heading into Soho for a quick Honest Burger, then definitely head just round the corner into Wardour Street for your gluten free dessert.