Gluten Free Afternoon Tea at Brown’s Hotel, London

Me and afternoon tea at Brown’s Hotel are well acquainted. I’ve been there countless times over the years. I first started going there, long before diagnosis, with an Australian friend. We loved a Saturday catch up together over delicious cakes and tea in the beautiful dark wood panelled English Tea room. Chatting away while deeply sunk into winged back arm chairs in front of a fireplace, cosseted against the wet, cold, rainy London winter is a memory of London I’ll long treasure.

Despite a mix up on one occasion when we served gluten-full, not gluten free sandwiches (always remain vigilant even when chatting too much!), whenever I’ve been asked where to go in London for gluten free afternoon tea, it’s always Brown’s Hotel that I’d recommend.

So I thought that it’s probably about time to write an updated version of my post from 2011 (er, wow, so long ago?!) based on the afternoon tea I enjoyed at Brown’s hotel in March 2017.

My dining companions on this occasion were Carly and Kelly.

They are both Coeliac so required the gluten free afternoon tea whilst mine also needed to be nut free as well as gluten free.

The regular, Traditional Afternoon Tea menu:

We were served the same selection of gluten free sandwiches as those listed on the Traditional menu, but on super soft gluten free bread.

Refills of sandwiches are offered and we partook. I know it’s weird, but I truly love the sandwiches at afternoon tea more than the cakes.

We were then served scones, with raisins, and strawberry jam and clotted cream. Look at this mighty gluten free scone!

A few crumbs on slicing but the scones were lovely and soft.

A nut free and gluten free afternoon tea seems to result in a higher than expected quota of mousse based sweet options for me. I honestly don’t mind so much – I’m definitely more of a sandwiches and scones kind of girl, than cake. My selection of gluten free and nut free cakes are on the bottom plate in the photo below:

If you’re gluten free and planning to visit Brown’s Hotel, you should be aware that a new menu has been introduced. The Tea-Tox afternoon tea has been devised by “nutritionist” Madeleine Shaw and was launched in January 2017. The menu for the Tea-Tox is:

Carly and Kelly had ordered the Traditional afternoon tea to be served gluten free. And whilst they were served gluten free sandwiches and scones, they were served the “cake” selection from the Tea-Tox afternoon tea. I don’t know if this was an error, although the waiter seemed a little taken aback when we pointed out that the classic (i.e., sugar-full) version had been ordered, so perhaps not an error.

We asked the waiter if Carly and Kelly could have the gluten / nut free version I’d enjoyed and they were served the same selection as I’d received:

Gluten and Nut Free Afternoon Tea at Brown's Hotel, London

In summary, if you’re looking for a gluten free afternoon tea offering raw brownies and less refined sugar, Brown’s Hotel can offer you this as an afternoon tea.

However, if you’re looking for a delicious gluten free (and nut free) afternoon tea in the elegant, classic English Tea Room within one of London’s most luxurious hotels, Brown’s Hotel can offer you this too. But I’d recommend clarifying at the time of booking what you will be served if you expecting to receive a regular selection of sugary cakes within your afternoon tea.

Raw fruit bars and chocolate dipped bananas do not make a gluten free afternoon tea in my view!

Location: Brown’s Hotel, Albemarle Street, London W1S 4BP

Website: Brown’s Hotel, London

Cost: Traditional and Tea-Tox Afternoon Teas are priced at £55 / person, or £65 with a glass of champagne. Service charge is added on top of this.

Would I come back?: Much as I’ve loved my afternoon teas here (and especially the company I’ve enjoyed it with!), I felt this time it was lacking in the something special I’ve enjoyed here in the past. I can’t put my finger on it….service was perhaps not up to usual scratch, perhaps the addition of the Tea-Tox (and potential for confusion to those with a medical reason not to consume gluten, rather than for lifestyle reasons) or maybe it’s that I’ve had my head truly turned by the gluten free afternoon tea I enjoyed at Claridges last Autumn. I’m sure I’ll be back, but perhaps I’ll be trying the afternoon teas at the Dorchester or the Langham hotels first.

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Looking for other gluten free afternoon tea options? Click on the following links to read my reviews on gluten free afternoon teas at Claridges Hotel, Fortnum and Mason, Sanderson Hotel.

Went – Ate – Loved: March 2017

Went

March was a quiet month for international travel. Having already taken 9 flights in the first 2 months of the year, I can’t say I was too unhappy about having a more relaxed month.

If I had to describe March in one word it would be: Sickness. And on top of this I had to struggle through the sickness whilst still working on an intense project.  I spent half the month suffering with a throat infection and then just I recovered from that, the whole house went down like dominoes with the Norovirus. The sickness of March will not be missed. But in the end I was glad we didn’t have any trips planned as no one was completely well at any point in the month.

Ate

March, however, did treat me to a number of gluten free eating highlights!

At the start of March I attended a supper club hosted by the herb and spice producers, Schwartz, at a private members club in Soho. The event celebrated the launch of Schwartz’s new gluten free herb and spice mix. I was lucky to be invited to an exclusive meet before the main event in which we were introduced to  representatives of Schwartz who’ve been working for 2 years to develop the mixes.

I always find these types of events utterly fascinating. Schwartz have put some real effort into producing these mixes. This includes changing supplier for cumin and setting up a dedicated production line at the factory to ensure the herbs and spices are gluten free. We were treated to a supper of huge platters of food which had been made with the various mixes.

Gluten free Schwartz mixes

The standouts for me were the blow your head off peppercorn sauce and the very versatile gluten free cheese sauce, both of which I’ll be buying.

Did you know Schwartz have been producing herbs and spices since 1887? Nope, me neither!

After attending another lecture as part of the Royal Academy’s Russian Revolution series, we went to Burger & Lobster for dinner. Not sure how I’ve not been here before!

Gluten free at Burger & Lobster

No lobster will ever top the taste of the soft shell lobster I enjoyed sitting on a rickety wooden deck in Maine on a foggy night, but this meal was tasty nonetheless.

March also saw a lovely afternoon tea date at Brown’s hotel with Carly & Kelly.

Gluten free afternoon tea Brown's Hotel

I’ve posted previously on gluten free afternoon tea at Brown’s hotel but since the menu has changed, it’s time to refresh that one so it’ll be on the blog soon.

Loved

At the end of March I attended the presentation to the winners in the annual Free From Food Awards. You can read about my favourite finds and who won in this post.

Blog posts I’ve loved this month have been:

Matthew has been sharing his highlights from a road trip around California. I’ve really enjoyed reading these posts as I’ve done a similar road trip and it’s one I’d like to take the twins on, but perhaps not right now.

This blog post to the best finds in Milan (of which there are many!) is well timed for me as we’ll be heading back there in June and I’m very much looking forward to it. The post is in Italian but you can use Google Translate. I’ve enjoyed some of my favourite gluten free pizzas in Milan and I hope to go back to Be Bop where they paired wine with my pizza last time!

I really enjoy reading how visitors from other parts of the world enjoy their time in the UK and I absolutely loved Adina’s post on her trip to Scotland and the Lake District. There are some beautiful photos in this post so I highly recommend you settle down with a cup of tea and have a read! I only wish she’d managed to visit Snowdonia on this trip – I think she’d love it!

Finally, this post on gluten free dining on The Big Island of Hawaii. Another place I’ve visited previously but I would love to go back. And perhaps even persuade my sister who lives in Tokyo to meet us there…..I’m guessing that might not be too much of a hard sell…!

Celebrating 10 Years of the Annual Free From Food Awards

Last week saw the presentation of awards in the annual Free From Food Awards. Now celebrating its 10th year, these awards celebrate the very best of the UK’s free from sector with entrants ranging from tiny independents to our high street supermarkets.

I’ve written here before about how thrilled I am to be part of these awards as a judge for a number of years, including this year.

This year my usual gluten free cocktail crew was a little depleted with the absence of a several of its key members due to parental responsibilities and judging at the Irish Free From Food Awards. But even so, I was delighted to catch up with many old (and new!) friends in the free from sector. I hadn’t managed to get further than visiting the cloakroom before I’d bumped into the lovely Grace Cheetham. (On a side note it seems inconceivable that a whole year has passed since I last saw Grace at these awards – time goes so fast these days).

The awards were presented by chef Anthony Worrall Thompson who has been handing out the awards since their inception 10 years ago. In their first year, the awards ceremony was held in Anthony’s Notting Hill restaurant. Ten years later and the venue is the impressive  Royal College of Physicians.

This year the awards were announced and winners presented swiftly. I liked this, but even I (and I have previous form on fast tweeting the winners) had trouble keeping up with tweeting the events live.

The full list of gold, silver and bronze winners for 2017 can be found on the Food Matters Free From Food Awards page.

These are my highlights of the winning products.

Winner of the FAIR trophy for the best Free From Food in 2016 were these BFree sweet potato wraps. I had been a judge in the category in which these were entered and I really agree that these are an innovative product. They’re free from ALL of the top 14 allergens, contain only 95 calories each, are high in fibre and they are delicious.

bFree Sweet Potato wrapsUnfortunately Ocado (where I do my food shopping) do not stock these wraps, although they do have the multigrain wraps. I hope they start stocking them soon. Interestingly, I found them everywhere in Australia on my trip over Christmas and New Year. They really do hold together well and the taste definitely adds to the filling.

Bellfield Bewery – Bohemian Pilsner
This Edinburgh based brewery was a new one to me. Also, I love the packaging of these beers. Great design.

gluten free beer

I was impressed with the flavour of the Bohemian Pilsner. Deeper in flavour than the usual Celia or Daura I normally buy, I’ve just taken delivery of an order for this pilsner and it’s got a thumbs up from the gluten eaters (of legal drinking age!) in my house too. As of posting this blog, it’s currently on special offer via the online store.

West Cornwall Gluten and Dairy Free Cornish Pasty
I have only tried a small slice of this from the Winners’ buffet so of course the only thing for it is to track down a full size one. The piece I tried was more filling than pastry – exactly as I like a Cornish pastry.

gluten free Cornish pasty

I like the efforts this company has put into producing this pasty. Not only are the pasties produced in a dedicated gluten free factory, but the company also performs random sample lab testing to confirm they are gluten free and that they contain less than 20ppm. But that’s not all! Once they’ve left the factory, they’re transported, baked and served in the bag to prevent cross contamination. You can check here for a list of stockists. London’s Waterloo station it is!

Yau’s Thai Style Satay Sauce

Although peanuts are not one of the nuts I’m allergic to, I generally avoid all nuts. Consequently, eating satay sauce isn’t something I’ve done for some time. I thoroughly enjoyed this nut free satay sauce I’ll be tracking down a jar.

The Free From Bakehouse – Banana and Chocolate Chip Loaf

This gluten free, wheat free, nut free as well as soya, egg and dairy free loaf also does not contain refined sugar. Despite being free from so many ingredients, it tastes fantastic. It’s Caroline’s best selling loaf at Borough Market and it’s easy to see why, it’s so good!

I was standing with Caroline for the presentation of the awards. We’ve met many times over the years and I know how committed she is to producing great tasting allergy free food. As the bronze and silver winners were being announced Caroline was (far too modestly) saying she wouldn’t be winning against such great competition in the Tea Time category. When her loaf was announced as a winner of the gold award, she genuinely couldn’t believe it.

Caroline Free From Bakehouse

To celebrate the 10 year anniversary of the Free From Food Awards, a special Super Hero Award was awarded to Clare Marriage of Doves Farm Foods for the huge contribution Dove’s flours and foods have made to the Free From industry over the last 10 years.

Finally a few more photos:

Only one packet of these remained on the winners’ buffet when I passed along the line. I was bold enough to open them and – in an instant – hands swooped from nowhere and they were gone. No wonder, they were a real treat!

Gluten free tea cakes

I recalled as I sat on my Tube commute writing this blog post that I’d popped one of these in the side pocket of my handbag and hadn’t eaten it. They’re small chocolate covered biscuits that reminded me a little of a Club or Breakaway biscuit (do they even still make those?!). Perfect for lunch boxes. Or side pockets of handbags.

gluten free biscuit

Each year I’ve attended the awards we’ve taken a group photo, here’s the 2017 vintage!

Gluten free crew

A huge thank you to Michelle, Cressida and the whole team for another fantastic year of the Free From Food Awards. I think everyone who’s been involved as a judge or entrant to the Free From Food Awards would agree that Michelle and her team are all Free From Super Heroes!

 

Gluten Free Hotel Stay: Barcelo Valencia, Spain

Writing hotel reviews on this blog is not something that I normally do. Why? Well, in many cases one very good hotel is very much like another very good hotel. Yes there’s usually a USP that sets it apart from its peers. However, in many cases I don’t feel I learn something from bloggers writing reviews of hotels that – for the most part – I couldn’t learn from looking at the hotel’s website.

So that’s exactly why I am writing a review on the Barcelo Valencia.

Because I just didn’t know from the website how suitable this hotel would be for my needs as a traveller with dietary restrictions who is also travelling with small kids.

Location
The Barcelo Valencia is located directly opposite the Valencia’s City of Arts and Sciences. You can read all about the scientific and cultural space which is housed within the modernist City of Arts and Sciences here. There’s one busy road to cross but then you’re within the park.

City of Arts and Science Valencia

Following a catastrophic flood in 1957, Valencia’s river Turia was diverted and the old riverbed turned into a park which winds its way through Valencia. We thoroughly enjoyed walking through this park and the kids loved being out of the buggy in a safe, car free green space. They also loved that there seemed to be a playground spaced approximately every 5 minutes….!

Just over the road from the Barcelo Valencia hotel is also a great little playground for kids.

Food
Our usual pattern for food when travelling with the twins has been to have a main meal all together at lunchtime in whichever city / location we’re in. We find it easier to find something suitable for all of us this way. In the evenings, if everyone is tired after a day sightseeing then we get a picnic type tea for the kids to eat in the room. Mr D and I will often order something from room service after the kids have gone to bed. Consequently, I often enquire at hotels for a copy of the room service menu before making the room reservation to check there are gluten free options for me.

On this occasion I contacted Barcelo Valencia before booking. A room service menu was sent to me. Nothing was explicitly noted as gluten free on the menu but since there were fish / meat / veggie options it looked good.

What I did not know until we got there was that they had plenty of gluten free options.

They even had Daura gluten free beer in the restaurant and bar and consequently I could have ordered this on room service. We ate a couple of times in the hotel restaurant. I particularly enjoyed this burger, served with gluten free baguette (!).

I’m not a big hotel breakfast eater and we often choose to stay in an apartment instead of a hotel for this reason alone. However, the breakfast here was really something special.

I’m struggling to remember a time recently where I have stayed in a hotel offering such fresh and excellent quality ingredients. Beautiful fresh fruit, good quality hams and cheeses.

The pungent blue cheese was cut in huge chunks and truly excellent; the chunk in the photo was the smallest piece offered! On the hot plates were bacon, sausages (I didn’t eat them so not sure if they were gluten free), eggs, roasted Mediterranean vegetables, tortilla….the list goes on. Each item was topped up regularly so they never ran out.

For gluten free diners I was given a huge selection of breads, biscuits and muffins when I asked if they had any gluten free items. There were also biscuits on this plate but they had been swiped by the time I took the photo.

Room
We booked a two bedroom suite – there are 2 suites in this hotel. The suite was huge because in addition to the 2 separate bedrooms – each with en-suite bathroom with massive baths – was a (small-sish) lounge and a further, third, guest toilet. All the doors were the sliding variety so the space could be opened up. The only downside was that the windows were quite high up so you couldn’t see out of them unless you stood up. Shame when there was a great view out of the window!

What else to know?
Joining the hotel’s loyalty programme (Barcelo has hotels throughout Spain) provides various incentives including room discounts and/or late checkout. As members of this loyalty scheme, we were received a discount on the room cost, free bottles of water and sweets (which I managed to swiftly swipe) in our room along with a credit towards items bought in the hotel.

There is free wifi throughout the hotel.

There’s also a great looking spa – complete with outdoor pool for the summer months – up on the top floor of the hotel. Finally, there’s also a rooftop bar overlooking the City of Arts and Sciences which would be perfect place to enjoy a sun-downer. Sadly I didn’t get a chance to use these on this trip but I’ll have to come back!

This is NOT a sponsored or affiliated post in any shape or form. I stayed here, I really liked the hotel and wanted to share this information in case you are planning to visit Valencia and are looking for a good hotel with gluten free and family friendly options.

Address: Hotel Barcelo Valencia, Av. de França, 11, 46023 València, Spain

Click here for the hotel’s website.

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Gluten free hotel stay Valencia Spain

 

Went – Ate – Loved: February 2017

Went
Even for the shortest month of the year, February seems to have whizzed by in a blur of intensity and stress at starting a new project at work. I end the month suffering from the horrid lurgy (10 days so far and counting) everyone seems to have succumbed to recently. Not ideal when so much of my job involves talking.

Luckily, preceding the sickness was a long weekend trip to Valencia. This Spanish city has been on my travel wish list for so long and I was excited to finally visit. And it was certainly worth the wait!

Central market Valencia

In truth, with the exception of the central market, I wasn’t bowled over by Valencia’s historical centre.

Central market Valencia

What I really loved was the area close to where we stayed which was home to the City Of Arts and Sciences. I’ll post separately in the coming weeks on the things we enjoyed in Valencia and also where we stayed. I think I’ve only posted on one previous occasion about a hotel I’ve stayed in (and that was also in Spain) but for the gluten free and/or family traveller we found a great hotel.

City of Arts and Science Valencia

And what we all absolutely loved was walking through the park in Valencia which winds its way along the course of the diverted river. The trees were laden with oranges – impossible to resist!

Valencia oranges

Walking was super safe for kids with no cars, there seemed to be a playground every 5 minutes and plenty of cafes too.

Roll over Barcelona, Valencia is where it’s at!

Ate
Following my birthday in January, Mr D gets to celebrate his in February. We went to Chez Bruce for dinner as we have done many times in the last 14 (eeek!) years together. Yes, it’s Michelin starred but more than that it’s exactly the kind of restaurant you’d want on your doorstep to celebrate a special day in…or just because you can. High end cooking in unpretentious surroundings using great ingredients and one of the best cheese boards in London, I’ve never failed to have a great meal here. On this occasion, the highlight for me was this white chocolate and rhubarb Vienetta.

So good – for the only time of visiting Chez Bruce – it tempted me away from the delights of the cheeseboard.

Loved
February saw the opening of the Hockney retrospective at Tate Britain. I’m relatively recent fan of Hockney following his show at the Royal Academy in 2012 and after visiting family Saltaire. Saltaire is home to an exhibition of Hockney’s work along with Salt’s Mill which features in a number of his paintings.

We were lucky as Tate members to visit a private view of the exhibition (on Valentine’s Day no less!) and thoroughly enjoyed dinner with friends in the Rex Whistler restaurant at Tate Britain.

I thoroughly enjoyed the Hockney inspired menu and was impressed that despite not giving prior warning of my dietary restrictions they catered for me expertly. I’d eaten here previously and was confident they would adapt the menu to be gluten and nut free.

Take this starter. The regular version contained wheat (not corn) containing nachos. The kitchen adapted it with no prior notice to have Parmesan crisps in place of the wheaty nachos.

Gluten free Tate Britain

Gluten free bread was also available.

If you’re in London and would like to visit an exhibition which you’ll leave smiling, Hockney at the Tate is the one for you!

This month I’ve not had much time to catch up on blogs but these posts have caught my eye:

This guide from Erin of the gluten free fast food options in New York. I think it’s important when travelling with both dietary restrictions and young children to have a back up list of safe options to eat at quick meal at.

I’ve recently started following Forever Amber blog and this post on fake Instagram comments and followers was interesting. Naively I thought people were just buying followers, I didn’t realise there were people paying for bots to leave comments and thus drive up engagement with their accounts. Like I say, naive.

And finally, whilst not specifically about gluten free places, I loved Bronwyn’s post which showcases some real gems in South London.