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A LOCAL’S GUIDE TO LONDON
Gluten-free blogger Laura Strange shares her tips and picks to help you have the time of your life in London.
By Laura Strange
Excited to visit London, but worried about what you’ll be able to eat? Don’t worry, this is a brilliant city for eating gluten free.
Before you know it, you’ll be grazing on gluten-free fish and chips, meat pies, sticky toffee pudding and all kinds of classic English treats, as well as the many and varied international cuisines reflecting London’s incredible melting-pot of cultures.
London is a great city to navigate on foot, the underground (Tube) and the famous red buses. It’s easy to burn energy just getting around, so you’ll need to be well-fuelled to soak up all the sights, culture and history this exhilarating city has to offer.
As a food-loving resident of London for 12 years, I’ve eaten safely at hundreds of different venues across the UK capital while living with coeliac disease. From small independents to nationwide chain restaurants, as well as dedicated gluten-free bakeries, there’s so much to enjoy, with tasty treats in store wherever you wander.
SOAKING UP THE CULTURE
Let’s start with a deep dive into history and culture. The world-renowned British Museum in Bloomsbury is an incredible immersion into two million years of human life, art, endeavour and invention. After a day browsing the intriguing exhibits, take a 30-minute stroll through historic London streets and along the bustling Exmouth Market precinct for dinner at Niche. One of the original fully gluten-free offerings in London, Niche offers serious gluten-free gluttony – from pies and fried chicken to classic British puddings.
It’s easy to while away at least a day shopping, popping into pubs and people watching in Soho, Covent Garden and Oxford Street, and when it’s time for a bite, head for Pho or Honest Burgers. They both have locations across London.
Pho is a chain of Vietnamese restaurants with a 95 per cent gluten-free menu, accredited by Coeliac UK. I never skip the crispy fried squid, and they have a great menu for kids that even fussy eaters will enjoy.
Honest Burgers is beloved by the UK gluten-free community for its gluten-free menu with incredible burgers, chips, beer and more. They have kitchen processes in place to minimise cross-contamination risk. Most items are gluten free as standard – simply ask for a gluten-free bun and tell them you have coeliac disease. There’s a great kids’ menu here too.
Visit Covent Garden’s buzzing Seven Dials Market, a large indoor food hall where El Pollote is a must visit. Their guava-glazed fried chicken is incredible and everything on the menu is gluten free aside from one item (burger buns).
Fancy a trip to the theatre? London’s West End is a mecca for culture lovers, with multiple venues and shows. Hot new arrivals include Mrs Doubtfire: the Musical at Shaftesbury Theatre and Ain’t Too Proud – the Life and Times of the Temptations at Prince Edward Theatre.
You can grab a pre-show bite from the gluten-free pre-theatre menu at Indigo, or make the meal your main event and enjoy the delicious à la carte or tasting menus. This fully gluten- and dairy-free restaurant is based in the luxurious One Aldwych hotel and also serves up a wonderful afternoon tea. Wander through the museums and sights around Trafalgar Square, from Big Ben to Number 10 Downing Street, the National Gallery, the London Eye and so much more. In Picadilly Circus you’ll find Grom, a fully gluten-free gelateria. From chocolate-dipped cones to a rainbow of flavours, it’s exactly the indulgence you need on a hot summer day. (And yes, it really does get hot in England in summer!)
EAST TO WEST AND SOUTHBANK
Step into a real-life movie scene with a stroll around Notting Hill’s charming streets and world-famous Portobello Road market. Libby’s Gluten Free Bakery is famous for gluten-free croissants and a wonderful selection of baked goods and breads. I’m a big fan of their cheese toasties, perfect for an on-the-go lunch.
For dinner try Los Mochis, where the acclaimed Mexican-Japanese fusion menu is all gluten free.
A short stroll south beside beautiful Hyde Park on Kensington Church Street, is another gluten-free bakery, Dendara. Grab some bits and pieces and enjoy a tasty picnic lunch in the park, topped up with goodies from Whole Foods Market on Kensington High Street. They sell lots of brilliant gluten-free brands.
South of the river, stroll along London’s South Bank, starting at the Tate Modern and meandering along to Waterloo. Close to Waterloo you’ll find two excellent gluten-free eateries.
On London Road, vibrant Paladar is a real gem of a place with a 100 per cent gluten-free Latin American menu. The food’s incredible and they even have gluten-free empanadas and churros.
On Westminster Bridge Road, family-run Italian restaurant Cotto has two separate kitchens, with one dedicated to gluten-free food – but you must book in advance. They have a full gluten-free menu of traditional and freshly prepared Italian cuisine, including pizza, pasta and desserts.
Last but not least, don’t miss super-cool East London. Take the Tube to Liverpool Street station, then stroll through the fabulous melting pot of food, fashion and art shops and stalls at Spitalfields Market, where you can grab an English essential: gluten-free fish and chips from Wicked Fish.
Then meander along Brick Lane for vintage clothes and independent shops, inhaling heady aromas from the neighbourhood’s famed curry houses, to your next delicious pitstop, Vida Bakery. This fully gluten-free and vegan bakery sells delicious baked goods, including towering slices of rainbow cake and doughnut-topped cupcakes. The perfect indulgent ending for your gluten-free food tour of London.
GREAT TO KNOW
- When dining out, advise that you have coeliac disease and confirm the suitability of chosen menu items when ordering.
- The venues listed were all suitable for people with coeliac disease at time of writing, but always check before you visit, as changes can happen fast.
- In the UK, oats are deemed safe for people with coeliac disease. Let your server know if you wish to avoid oats, to be extra sure.
- Always check that staff in cafes and restaurants will take care to avoid cross-contamination in their kitchen and when serving.
SHOPPING GLUTEN FREE IN LONDON
- UK supermarkets have a brilliant gluten-free selection – ideal if you plan on self-catering part of your holiday, and handy for grab-and-go food for those busy sightseeing days.
- Marks & Spencer’s Made Without Wheat range is one of the best – look out for the purple packaging and you’ll find a selection of pre-made sandwiches and wraps, plus bread, cakes, pasta and more. You’ll find M&S branches across London. Supermarkets Tesco, Sainsburys, Waitrose and Coop also have stores across the capital, often with tempting free-from sections, and are quite reasonably priced.
- Or for a treat, you can visit Whole Foods Market near Piccadilly Circus. They stock a wonderful range of independent gluten-free brands – the GFB Boss Bagels are a personal favourite; they are incredible toasted and buttered for breakfast.
AND FOR MORE TO EXPLORE
Visit Coeliac UK for more information about gluten-free options and eating out in the UK – and don’t forget to check out their list of top gluten-free restaurants in London. For even more confidence when you’re dining out in the UK, look for Coeliac UK’s Gluten Free logo on menus, websites and at restaurants and cafes. This gives you peace of mind that the venue has been reviewed and meet the standards of the Coeliac UK Accreditation Scheme.
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