Gluten Free Brussels & The GF Waffle Search

2015 started in a slightly unexpected place: Brussels. Mr D and I have had a deal going for the last 15 years (albeit not always together) that we’d spend New Year’s Eve away somewhere abroad. Previous exciting New Year destinations have included Sydney, New York, Rio, Moscow and that capital of craziness, Oslo along with a variety of other cold places. So when on 29th December we realised we were about to break the tradition, we had a mad scramble to find a destination with available flights (cheers, BA Air Miles!) and plenty of hotel availability.

Having booked our flights and arranged the hotel in Brussels, my thoughts turned to gluten free food. I’ve been to Brussels and other cities in Belgium plenty of times before so knew I should be fine with moules frites. There is a rumour that the cooking of frites in Belgium is protected by a law meaning they must be cooked in a segregated fryer, removing the risk of cross contamination for coeliacs. However, I’ve researched this and can’t find any evidence it is indeed correct.

But forgetting moules, frites and even chocolate, what I really wanted on this trip was a gluten free waffle. Having investigated, it appeared no one had found a safe, free from cross contamination, gluten free waffle in a restaurant in Brussels. Luckily I’m persistent and so whilst the search continues for restaurant gluten free waffles, I did find these three bad boys in a supermarket:

Where to eat & gluten free resources

The Coeliac Society of Belgium very kindly provided me with the following list of resources when planning a trip to Brussels / Belgium

Gluten free Brussels Facebook page There are lots of gluten free restaurants and bakeries recommended on this page. The page owner is also swift at responding to any questions.

Gluten Free Belgium

Travel Gluten Free

For gluten free pizza you could try:

Italia in Tavola

Toscana 21

Fancy a gluten free beer? Try the Delirium Café

For lighter salads, try Exki which is a type of healthy Pret-style place we found all over the city

Where to supermarket shop

I found good availability of gluten free products in all of the supermarkets I visited, even the smallest. Of all the supermarkets I visited, the Louis Delhaize supermarket chain had the best gluten free range. I found the gluten free waffles in Louis Delhaize Belliard and this particular store had the widest gluten free product range and variety of chilled goods such as salads. If you’re staying in the area, it’s well worth checking out.

Louis Delhaize Belliard

Gluten Free Fish & Chips: Wolfies of Hove

Last weekend we got in the (new) car with (new) forward facing car seats for the twins (more exciting than it sounds) and left SW London for a day out. Except by the time we reached the M25 we realised in our excitement we’d forgotten to actually decide where we were going. Seeing a sign for Brighton, we headed there.

Thanks to the marvels of social media, my plea for help on where to eat safely and gluten free was promptly responded to with lots of great suggestions. High five to the ever helpful gluten free community!

Googling on the iPhone I stumbled across links to Wolfies fish and chips in Hove who seemed to offer gluten free fish and chips on a daily basis. Really? Might I actually enjoy some gluten free fish and chips for lunch by the sea? I telephoned to check they had gluten free batter. They did, and a new batch was just being made up just as I called. Were there any tables for us to eat in and, even more demandingly on my part, were there two high chairs? Yes to both. It turned out the tables were the high, bar stool type, and – seriously going beyond the call of the duty – owner Dave Keston had borrowed the highchairs from the pub up the road. Having squeezed us and the double buggy into not exactly the largest space inside Wolfies, we ordered.

Wolfies

What impressed me as we waited for our order in the clean looking, white tiled, fish and chip shop was not only the steady stream of customers but they were all giving feedback to the team on how fantastic they thought the fish and chips were at Wolfies. Literally every person entering the shop said how much they loved the fish and chips there. At Wolfies the fish is sustainably sourced and the potatoes come from a farm in the area.

Gluten free fish and chips are offered every day, unlike at many chippies. A dedicated, separate fryer is used for cooking the fish in gluten free batter. The chips are only ever cooked with chips meaning no cross contamination there either. The gluten free batter at Wolfies is a combination of rice, tapioca and potato flour which has been developed by Dave’s son who has Coeliac and gluten intolerant friends. He’s worked hard on his recipe, even working on through into the night to get it just right.

Gluten free fish & chips

By the time our fish and chips arrived, my expectations were sky high. And I was not disappointed. The gluten free batter was light and crunchy. It wasn’t a tempura batter but it had that type of lightness of texture to it. The fish was silky soft, flaked wonderfully and was also incredibly fresh. I ordered the twins a kid’s portion each. Mini D1 who had at this point not eaten for well over a week due to sickness, wolfed down her portion. Major hit. This was the first time I’d let the kids eat fish without carefully flaking it to check for bones. But I was completely reassured that Wolfies fillet the fish so well no customer has found one.

Small hands on big chips

If you’re in the Brighton / Hove area, I thoroughly recommend you check out Wolfies. And if you’re not in the area, it’s just down from Hove train station where there is also a large car park. Dave is going to be opening a second venue a few doors along with lots of gluten free options, more seats and where you can enjoy the gluten free fish and chips.

Dave and his family were so friendly to us, I was extremely pleased we’d very randomly stumbled across the wonderful gluten free fish and chips at Wolfies.

Would I go back? Yes, would love to try out the new venue when it’s open

Location: 90 Goldstone Villas, Hove BN3 3RU

Cost: £20 for two adult potions of cod and chips plus two children’s portions. Truly excellent value.

Gluten Free Afternoon Tea, London: Mad Hatter’s at The Sanderson

Going for gluten free afternoon tea when you’re supposed to be on a sugar free, mostly carb free diet is not exactly ideal timing. However, there was no way I was going to miss out on the chance to see Kelly and Miriam (was really sorry not to see Carly on the day too). The venue was the hip Sanderson Hotel tucked behind Goodge Street/Oxford Street for their very fun Mad Hatter’s Afternoon Tea.

In advance of the afternoon tea at The Sanderson Hotel, London I’d contacted the hotel to check it would also be nut free. Unfortunately I had to exchange a number of emails with them before I received a reply which reassured me that I would be catered for safely. In fact nuts are not used in any of their afternoon tea dishes (gluten free or not) but it took a number of emails to establish this as I kept receiving stock response emails without actually answering my questions.

somewhere over the rainbow

Our table was sat out in the light and airy courtyard garden. We checked again with the waitress that we would be served gluten free afternoon tea but were slightly alarmed when the waitress questioned if we could eat fish or ham in response to our questions on being served gluten free options. Not comforted we would be safely eating there, we asked to speak to the manager who did firmly reassure us that everything served to us would be both gluten and nut free.

The major attraction of this gluten free afternoon tea was the styling on the Mad Hatter’s theme. It was just so special. Delicately beautiful cakes. The tiny carrots poking out of green shoots, the little pink mushrooms. The clock faces on the cakes. I loved how the sugar cubes were served from a wind up musical box which played “Somewhere Over The Rainbow”. I also particularly enjoyed the sandwiches and the bread was soft and the fillings flavoursome.

The only downside for me was the scones. We were chatting too much for me to realise I’d mistakenly put clotted cream on the savoury scones. It was only a slightly strange after taste that made me question what I was eating. Despite my fundamental error I didn’t enjoy them. They crumbled like I have never seen a gluten free scone crumble before. The sweet scones were the same on the crumble front. Definitely could do better.

crumbly scones

Gluten free afternoon tea is expensive. It’s also a slightly superfluous meal. You can’t really eat beforehand because you need to save your appetite and you’re inevitably too stuffed / overloaded in sugar to eat afterwards. So it needs to be good. The Sanderson’s gluten free afternoon tea certainly delivered (except for the scones).

While the end result was good, I do think the Sanderson hotel needs to invest some time in training their teams (both waitresses and those responding to phone/email queries) on food intolerances and allergies. Our booking contained information on the need to serve us gluten and nut free food. I would expect the wait staff to have been fully briefed in advance of our visit so they knew our dietary requirements without us needing to double check but this was not the case.

Cost: From £38 excluding service (automatically added)
Would I return?: Definitely. This was a really fun treat with good quality cakes and delicious sandwiches
Location: The Sanderson Hotel, 50 Berners Street, London W1T 3NG

Gluten Free Lunch: Soupe du Jour

Sometimes all you want is a bowl of soup. On a bitingly cold day, with a heavy cold and a sore throat, there was honestly nothing more I wanted to eat than a warm bowl of proper soup.

Earlier in the week I’d had a tip about Soupe du Jour in Soho from Carly in a quest to find new places near Oxford Street. As luck would have it, Soupe du Jour have opened a second branch near my office in the City.

The City branch is located at 38 Houndsditch. One of those fabulous street names which you can find in the City of London, along with Frying Pan Alley and Savage Gardens. Houndsditch is a one way street between Liverpool Street and Aldgate. A handy location for City workers looking for a healthy and gluten free lunch. There’s a Planet Organic a few minutes’ walk away if you’re looking to stock up on supplies.

The City branch of Soupe du Jour is not large; there are a couple of tables and seats on the ground floor with a few more tables upstairs if you’re eating in.

The menu has a variety of ‘Classic’ soups which are on the menu every day. In addition, they run a number of specials. On my first visit I chose the Christmas Sweetcorn soup which was flavoured with cinnamon. I wasn’t entirely sure about sweetcorn and cinnamon together but was offered a small cup to try. It was, honestly, utterly delicious as well as nourishing and filling. I couldn’t really taste the cinnamon (a good thing as far as I was concerned!) but it added a warmth to the soup.

Christmas Sweetcorn

Christmas Sweetcorn

The second time I visited I chose the very meaty and extremely tasty Chilli soup. That day I chose the large size portion and it was extremely filling.

Beef Chilli

Beef Chilli

On my visits, all Soupe du Jour’s soups were gluten free. Some were also dairy free. As the specials change frequently you can check their Facebook page or twitter feed to see what’s on that day.

All soups come with a slice of bread included and this includes gluten free bread at no extra charge. If I were being picky, the gluten free bread wasn’t my favourite; it was white, slightly cakey but perfectly fine for gluten free white bread. It’s just that I normally eat brown or seeded bread however the fact they offer gluten free bread is itself great. The gluten free bread was on a separate board, covered and had its own dedicated knife. When I asked about the knife they used to cut the gluten free bread I was told it was the only bread knife like that in the shop so the knives shouldn’t be mixed up.

Alongside the soup and bread you can choose to pimp up your soup with extra toppings. Not all are gluten free but the menu explains what the options are.

I chose a small soup at £3.50. The regular size was priced at £4.50 upwards and the large bowls were big enough for a very filling lunch.

Location: 38 Houndsditch, London EC3A 7DB (City) and 34 Lexington Street, London W1F 0LH (Soho)

Would I go back? Absolutely. Have my loyalty card (buy 9 soups, get the 10th free) and I will be quickly adding stamps

Cost: £3.50 for the smaller soup and £4.50 – £6.50 for the larger size soup. Price includes slice of gluten free bread