Monday, November 26, 2007

Gluten-Free and Easy in the U.K.

I recently traveled to the UK (England and Scotland) for the very first time and found it relatively easy to eat gluten-free. Many restaurants were familiar with celiac (coeliac) and weren't put off by my requests. Here are a few discoveries:

1) Jacket potatoes, with various toppings, are a meal standard, and are usually served with a side salad. Gluten-free and cheap.

2) Marks & Spencer has ready-made meals that are healthy and relatively inexpensive, such as salad meals. Just make sure to get one without the pasta.

3) AMT coffee shop (like a Starbucks) sells gluten-free food bars at the check-out counter. Don't we wish Starbucks had something like that?

4) Holland and Barrets health food store chain sell gluten-free bread, crackers, cookies, etc.

5) Boots Chemist has some gluten-free items, and sometimes prepared meals.

6) Grocery stores such as Tesco and Sainsbury have gluten-free items.

7) Several chain restaurants in the UK have gluten-free menus:

  • Smollensky's (American fare)

  • La Tasca (Spanish tapas)

  • Wagamama (a stir-fry place - it doesn't have gluten-free menu but can modify several of their dishes)

  • Pret a Manger (I was told they have a gluten-free list but I did not go here so cannot verify the list)

8) In Edinburgh, I highly recommend a meal at Always Sunday Food Company, near St. Giles Cathedral at 170 High Street (the Royal Mile). Tel: 131-622-0667. It's a healthy place to eat and they know gluten-free.

9) In London, check out The Souk, an Arabian fast-food restaurant, with eat-in, carry-out, and delivery service. All of their wheat-free dishes are clearly marked (remember to ask if they are also gluten-free). They also sell gluten-free packaged foods in the refrigerater section. Address: 8 Adelaide St., London WC2N 4HZ. Tel: 020-7240-2337.

10) In York, eat at El Piano Restaurant Cafe and Bazaar. Gluten-free menu items are clearly marked, delicious, and inexpensive. Everything is also vegetarian. Address: 15/17 Grape Lane, The Quarter, York, Y01 7HU. Tel: (0) 1904-610676.

11) Pay attention to packaging because "gluten-free" and "wheat-free" products are often side-by-side on shelves.

12) When reading ingredients on packages, also look for the presence of wheat starch, which is considered gluten-free in the UK.

13) Do not eat anything made with scotch broth. It's made with barley.

14) Shop at the street markets for food treats. This one is at Portobello Road.

15) Gluten-free food is readily available at the airports!
A few other non-food tidbits:

1) If you go to Edinburgh, stop in at Neanie Scotts's shop, located on The Royal Mile. Neanie's granddaughter runs the shop and loves to tell you its history. It's one of the most authentic expriences you'll have while in town.

2) See a show in London. It's a "must-do."

3) Traveling in the UK is expensive! But worth it!

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