Honest Burgers & WAGfree Gluten Free Bakery Bun

Having heard about the delights of Brixton Village, Mr D and I decided to walk there from home (about an hour each way) building up our appetites on a gloriously sunny Sunday October afternoon in doing so.

We entered Brixton Village which is a 1930s covered market housing a collection of many small, independent eating establishments many seating not more than about 30 diners at a time. Despite it being not long after 12 noon, the place was packed and many of the tables in the various enticing looking restaurants were already taken. The lively atmosphere was fantastic and unlike anywhere else I’ve been in London for a long time.

We arrived at Honest Burgers to find that as a result of a delayed delivery that they hadn’t quite opened up. In retrospect, this was lucky for us since the tables would certainly have gone and we’d have joined the queue which, although moving, I never saw less than 10 people in it at any point. And I am not exacly the world’s best queuer. Ahem.

The menu is very straightforward. On offer was a choice of 5 burgers, including one vegetarian, plus a special. The burgers range in price from £6.50 to £9 (for that day’s special) and this price includes a side of triple cooked rosemary salt chips.

The main reason why we chose to eat at Honest Burgers is that they serve their burgers in a gluten free bun from the WAGfree Bakery. Yep, this was one burger I didn’t have to have with salad instead of the bun. The bad news was that the buns weren’t ready when we arrived. The waitress said they’d be about 20 minutes and did we want to wait? If we did she’d put the ticket for the order on the side and would check back on how they were progressing. I looked at the queue, remembered the hour’s walk I’d had to get there, thought about having a burger in a bun and decided to be a bit less British. Um, actually, yes please, I would like to wait for a gluten free bun. “No problem” said the waitress.

I went for the cheese burger with Stilton.

So how did it taste? The burger patties are made from 35 day Ginger Pig chuck steak and are served medium rare. The burger was delicious, juicy and perfectly seasoned. The red onion relish was sweet and this complimented the Stilton which had melted on top of the burger perfectly.

The triple cooked chips were equally amazing. Crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. Cooked with rosemary and salt they were simply delicious.

What about the WAGfree sesame bun? It was SO worth the wait! Light and sprinkled with sesame seeds, I was impressed with the texture as well as the taste of this gluten free bun. It did not crumble at all. This is definitely eating with your hands territory so what you don’t need is a crumbly bun. The WAGfree sesame bun, however didn’t suffer from any crumbling which is a common problem with gluten free bread. It was the perfect partner for my juicy burger.

What I really liked about the Honest burger was that it was the perfect size. Not too big, not too small. I came away feeling satisfied but not stuffed. I should also say the service here was fantastic. Despite us wanting to wait for a gluten free bun and therefore taking up one of their precious tables in the process, they volunteered to take off the cost of our drinks from the bill. This was definitely not required by us, I was really grateful to have a burger in a gluten free bun.

The only drawback – and this is really a result of their popularity – was the large queue of people waiting for a table. I felt a little uneasy as we waited for the delivery of the gluten free buns from WAGfree with the eyes of 15 people in the queue checking out why our food was not being served!

If (like me) you don’t like queuing, come early. But make sure you do come. Honest Burgers is honestly brilliant.

Honest Burgers is located at: Unit 12, Brixton Village, London SW9 8PR

Check the website for opening times and map

The Seine Rigger: Gluten Free Fish & Chips

A nippy October evening found me in Banstead, Surrey in search of fish and chips. But just not any fish and chips, gluten free fish and chips. I’m not sure how long it is since I last had fish and chips but since I don’t have a deep fat fryer at home, it must be a really long time.

I was there to meet up with the lovely Annie (Annie’s Supperclub) and another Twitter friend. Annie and I had heard amazing reports  of The Seine Rigger in Banstead and the high quality of their gluten free fish and chips. We were all very excited to meet up there together.

Although I live in South West London, getting there after work involved a 1 hour 40 minute journey from my office. More on this later.

The Seine Rigger operates a very successful take away fish and chip as well as a restaurant. As we approached the restaurant we were greeted with a huge queue of people waiting for their takeaway fish and chips. On a Thursday night, at 7pm. A very promising sight indeed. Peering into the restaurant we saw it was very busy and there were only 2 tables left free, one of which had thankfully been reserved for us.

We settled at the table and I decided to go traditional. Cod, chips and shared portion of mushy peas. In order to provide truly gluten free fish and chips the Seine Rigger have recently bought a separate standalone fryer where all the gluten free fish can be cooked without any chance of cross contamination.

When my gluten free fish and chips arrived I was impressed. And very glad that I’d barely eaten that day! The cod was chunky, fat and firm. The batter tasted to me just as I remembered regular batter tasting and it stayed crispy even when it took me a fair while to eat it as we were chatting so much.

I enjoyed it so much this happened!: 

Chef James later explained to us that their fish comes directly from Billingsgate and they always use fresh fish, never frozen. Given how busy the take away and restaurant was I assume their turnaround must be short on using the fish too. Chef James said he’d prefer people to let them know in advance if you’d like to order gluten free fish and chips so they can prepare the batter fresh. However this isn’t essential and if you go there on a spur of the moment decision, providing gluten free batter won’t be a problem.

For dessert, I didn’t even need to look at the menu. I’d already heard they offered a gluten free pineapple fritter. Wow.

When the pineapple fritter was placed in front of me I could barely contain my excitement. It was, frankly, a taste sensation. The gluten free batter for the fritter was slightly different to that of the fish. It was more biscuit like in texture, I think from the sugar in the pineapple. Annie and James chatted about the content of the flours used to make the batters at the Seine Rigger. I noted that rice cones were involved since I’ve never heard of these before. However, aside from this most of their discussion passed me by since I was immersed in a cloud of contentment thanks to a fantastic meal and great company.

The service was fun and friendly. I guess some restaurants would consider us to be the troublesome table. Three women all needing gluten free food. Despite our repeated questions (“is this tartare sauce gluten free, are you sure?), we were looked after fantastically well by Kim. For the record, the tartare sauce is gluten free and is made by the restaurant. The ketchup is made by Heinz and is gluten free.

So here’s the thing, it took me 1 hour 40 minutes to travel to a fish and chip restaurant, albeit a fantastic one. Just because they served gluten free fish and chips. There can be very few eating establishments in the UK without Michelin stars which could elicit such extraordinary distances to be travelled, just to eat there. When we spoke to Chef James, he recognises that they are not just serving the Coeliac / gluten intolerant person who visits his restaurant with his gluten free menu, it’s the business their dining companions bring along with them. I know I’m not alone in being willing to travel a long way to enjoy a great, and most importantly, safe meal. Don’t we all wish more restaurants would think like this?

A huge thank you to James, Kim and team at the Seine Rigger for looking after us so well. Really looking forward to the next time!


The Seine Rigger: 11 Nork Way, Banstead, Surrey SM7 1PB

Open Lunch & Evening, Monday to Saturday:

  • 11.45am to 1.45pm*
  • 5.00pm to 9.30pm*
  • Booking advisable on 01737 351168
  • Remember to call in advance to request gluten free batter is prepared for your visit

*Last orders time

 

Foodamentalists: Frangipane Mince Pies (gluten free, wheat free, dairy free)

Having recently tried the Genius mince pies, I was very lucky to try some hand made mince pies by a smaller scale food producer. Step forward The Foodamentalists.

The Foodamentalists are a Yorkshire based company producing gluten free and wheat free (and some dairy free) goods. The Foodamentalists’ savoury and sweet products are baked in their completely gluten and wheat free premises. Their product range includes various breads and bread mixes, pastry, quiche and even Southern Fried Chicken coating.

I think these guys have one of the coolest company names around. Have you ever seen The Apprentice where the contestants have to decide on a company name? It’s normally the first episode and it’s always a bit awkward as the contestants size each other up and jostle to put themselves forward whilst at the same time trying to avoid the poisoned chalice of being Project Manager for the first week. I’ve often wondered whether the Foodamentalists came up with their company name after a brainstorming session or it came to them on a light bulb moment. Hopefully it was thought up in a much more fun way than on The Apprentice.

The very nice Stevan Taylor at The Foodamentalists sent me some of their frangipane topped mince pies to try.

These gluten free, wheat free and dairy free mince pies were really quite unusual. The outside of the mince pie was cased in deliciously firm shortcrust pastry.

The vegetarian mincemeat filling tasted very fruity with juicy currants, sultanas and raisins. What made these mince pies unusual, however, was the frangipane (almond paste) on top. It made the mince pies more cake-like than a regular pastry topped mince pie, but I really liked it. Mr D (who does not need to eat gluten free) described them as the best mince pies he’s ever tasted.

These are mince pies, but with bells on.

The frangipane mince pies retail for £3.99 for a box of six. I am also loving the classy Christmas packaging.

The Foodamentalists sell their products (including these delicious frangipane mince pies) through their website as well as through various stockists. They are regulars at the Harrogate and Otley Farmers Markets and they also visit a number of food fairs in the UK. Full details of all outlets and forthcoming markets and fairs can be found on their website.

Fria Gluten Free Pizza

When I first started writing this blog 18 months ago it was just me and my laptop curled up on the sofa. My only intention for this corner of cyberspace was to park a rather random slice of gluten free product reviews, news and places. Lots of other blogs helped me along the gluten free way and I wanted to record and write about the things I discovered in case it could help someone else.

What I didn’t know as I tapped away alone on my first few blog posts was how many opportunities would come my way. Just through writing this blog I’ve met some amazing, interesting people both in cyberspace but also in real life and in all sorts of different situations. This is something I did not expect. I’m reluctant to list out all the people this blog has introduced me to for fear of missing someone out (but those for those of you I’ve met, a huge hello!). So it was with this thought that I pushed open the red door to the Scandinavian Kitchen on Great Titchfield Street in London for an informal blogger get together.

I descended the stairs and sitting at the communal table were Annie (of Annie’s Supper Club fame) and Alex Gazzola (@HealthJourno) both of whom I’d had had the pleasure of meeting before. The get together was hosted by Monika Agorelius who is responsible for Fria’s PR in the UK and we’d met at the Allergy Show back in May. Also there were Fiona and Irene of Gluten Free Guerrillas. I was really pleased to meet them, I follow their tweets and like the discussion they promote through their forum. I also got to meet Eleanor who writes the excellent Eating Like a Horse blog.

Monika and Jonas of the Scandinavian Kitchen had laid on a great spread of Fria breads and Scandinavian treats for us to try. A huge thank you again to both for hosting the evening. Another blog post is to follow on the really delicious Fria bread.

For those of you who haven’t come across Fria yet (and THAT Swedish gluten free chocolate brownie, the kladkakka!) they are an award winning family bakery based in Sweden set up in 1996 and are now the biggest an most successful gluten free bakery in Scandinavia. All Fria’s products are baked in a dedicated gluten and dairy free environment. A list of Fria’s current UK stockists follows at the end of this post.

We departed the fun evening after a good chin wag with each of us clutching a goody bag containing Fria pizza bases and quite a few other treats. A few weeks later we decided to have pizza night and I got to try the Fria base.

So how did the gluten free and dairy free Fria pizza base taste? I would normally (when I can get a gluten free pizza, that is!) opt for a thinner Italian style of base than the Fria one. But what impressed me that this pizza base was in fact quite light in texture. To me the Fria base tasted very different to the dense, thick crust pizza bases from my gluten filled days. I was also surprised that my knife just slid through it. Remember the days of hacking through gluten filled pizza bases so hard your fingers turn scarlet from the effort? Not with the Fria pizza base.

The Fria pizza bases come in a pack of 2, frozen. I wasn’t entirely sure how long they would take to defrost but it took around half an hour. I thought the taste and texture were much more appetising than I expected from a frozen pizza base and liked the option to add my own toppings so I can choose the quality of the ingredients. The fact these are frozen and defrost quickly is a big plus for me because I can buy and store for whenever the pizza mood takes me. I’ll definitely be buying them in future when they are released soon in the UK market.

I chose to decorate my Fria pizza with a scraping of La Scala chilli paste, small slices of mushroom and orange pepper, halved cherry tomatoes (because a meal’s not a meal without tomatoes in my book!) Buffalo mozzarella and a sprinkling of wild oregano. Ta da!

The pizza took about 12 minutes to cook and tasted läckra (delicious in Swedish).

Do you write a blog? What good surprises has blogging brought to your life?

FRIA current UK Stockists

(Note: not all the retailers below stock the whole Fria range, the largest range is TotallySwedish, Scandinavian Kitchen and GFF)

Stores

Scandinavian Kitchen, 61 Great Titchfield Street, London W1W 7PP

This is a great cafe just north of Oxford Street (Top Shop area) and well worth paying a visit to for lunch or a slice of kladkakka as well as stocking up on Fria products

John Lewis Foodhall, 300 Oxford Street
, London W1A 1EX

TotallySwedish, 32 Crawford Street, London W1H 1LS

TotallySwedish, 66 Barnes High Street, London SW13 9LD

Online stores:

GFF Direct currently offering ‘Buy 1 Get 1 Free’ on all Fria breads!

TotallySwedish

 

Book Review: “Coeliac Disease: What You Need To Know” by Alex Gazzola

The internet is truly a wonderful thing. Let’s face it, you wouldn’t be reading this blog right now without it! You can wonder about any question in life, profound or otherwise, and within seconds an answer can be sought by searching on the internet. The trouble is sometimes the answers are factually incorrect, the authenticity of the writer may be unknown and the amount of information can be so varied it’s often necessary to visit several sites before finding the answer you were looking for.

Sometimes only a good reference book will do.


I’ve had a copy of Alex Gazzola’s “Coeliac Disease: What You Need To Know” for some time now. In fact it’s been on holiday with me twice to Italy in that time (a fact that I hope will allow Alex to forgive me for my tardiness in writing this review!). During this time I have regularly dipped in and out of the book and learnt something new on each occasion. Did you know, for example, that people with Coeliac disease are not recruited into the Armed Forces? Or what the difference is between a label stating “gluten free” and “no gluten containing ingredients”? Or how about which flours are naturally gluten free and some suggested uses?

This concise reference book covers topics from tests and diagnosis through health and practical issues to research and future therapies. It doesn’t include any recipes but I’m glad about this. I have shelves full of gluten free recipe books and suspect I don’t need any more (or at least that’s what I tell Mr D).

What I like about the way this book is written is that it doesn’t just explain what to say, but more importantly, how to say it. For example, very clear guidance is given in the eating out section on how to explain to wait staff and chefs about gluten free ingredients and food preparation. As Alex rightly states in the book, eating out is one of life’s great pleasures and no one need deny themselves. However, preparation and clear communication really are key and this book will equip the reader with the knowledge to live a positive and confident gluten free life.

I recommend this book to anyone who is newly diagnosed with Coeliac to deal with the transition to a gluten free life as well as those who’ve been living with Coeliac disease for some time and would like a refresher. I found the section on the new gluten free labelling which will come into effect in January 2012 particularly interesting as well as exploring thoughts raised by issues presented in the “Emotional well-being” chapter.

A reader of this blog recently contacted me looking for some advice on eating gluten free in Italy. Her mother was taking her young Coeliac son on holiday without her. It struck me that we often think of the person directly affected by Coeliac disease when in fact it touches so many more people’s lives. I think this is particularly the case when a child is diagnosed since they may not be able to fully articulate their food safety needs. I think the mother should provide a copy of this helpful guide to make sure granny looks after her grandson when the mother isn’t around. A prime example of when a good reference book beats the internet hands down.

Alex Gazzola is a dedicated health journalist with a particular interest in food sensitivities and allergies. He has written for over one hundred publications in twenty counties. “Coeliac Disease: What you need to know” is Alex’s fourth book. You can find his website here. If you are on Twitter, Alex has chaired several lively gluten free “Tweetups” using the hashtag #gftweetup.

To order your copy in the UK via Amazon click here

If you are in Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, Germany, South Africa or the US please click here to find out where to order your copy