In just under a month the sporting eyes of the world will be on London, the host of the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Perhaps you’re lucky enough to have tickets to watch the Games and are wondering where you can find good gluten free restaurants during your visit to London? Perhaps you’re even an athlete heading to London to compete! Or maybe you are visiting on holiday or on a business trip? For any reason to visit our fantastic city, this comprehensive guide to London’s gluten free food and dining options is for you.
The restaurants I’ve listed below have been chosen because I’ve visited them* and know they can offer a good, reliable gluten free dining experience. Perhaps chain restaurants may not be everyone’s idea of a gastronomic meal out, however the advantage they have for the allergic or intolerant diner is that many have allergy menus and procedures in place to cook safely for those with food sensitivities.
Pod – Plenty of gluten free breakfast and lunch ideas including veggie packed salads, nori wraps and hot dishes along with individually wrapped gluten free (and some nut free) sweet treats are on offer at this growing chain. Clear allergy labelling is shown against the dishes on the menu boards. £
Eliot’s Cafe - If you are into food markets, this cool little restaurant with a daily changing menu is perfectly situated for Borough market. I booked a table for Saturday brunch (of delicious leek, goat’s cheese and Jersey Royal frittata) here via OpenDining with a note on my dietary restrictions. I was extremely impressed they called me back within 10 minutes to confirm they could safely cater for me. Check their website for opening times. ££
Starbucks – Offer gluten free sandwiches on Genius bread (fillings change from time to time), salads and cakes. The packaging does not shout about the sandwiches being gluten free so it may be worth asking if they have any in stock if you can’t immediately see them. The gluten free cakes are usually unwrapped (and thus present a possible cross contamination risk) but it’s possible to ask for a wrapped one from behind the counter. £
WAGfree Cafe - Gluten and wheat free cafe and bakery serving a great choice of gluten free pasta, toasties, cakes, biscuits in great atmosphere of Brixton Village. As of January 2013 WAGfree are supplying their wonderful products to Selfridges in London. Check their website here for location and current opening hours. £
Refuel on the Tourist Trail
British Museum - Offers gluten free Afternoon Tea* for a very reasonable £18. Advance notice required. ££
Reasonably Priced Lunch or Dinner
Honest Burgers – Located in the thriving culinary centre that is Brixton Village. Honest serves arguably London’s best burger in a gluten free bun from the WAGfree cafe along with house chips (French fries) with rosemary salt which can’t be beaten. They even offer gluten free Daura beer! Well worth the short Tube hop on the Victoria line south to eat here. £
Leon – Possibly my favourite place for a healthy quick lunch with a wide choice of gluten free options such as felafel served with rice and slaw is my favourite. Clear and well displayed allergy labelling. They even have a kid’s menu. Branches located all over London and expanding. Can be found landside at Heathrow T3 and also King’s Cross for any Eurostar travellers. £
Itsu – A chain of good sushi restaurants located all over London and even airside at Heathrow T5. Itsu offer a good range of gluten free options which are shown on their website here. They do not offer gluten free soy sauce but this may change in the future, so do ask. £
Wahaca – Chain of Mexican restaurants set up by a former Masterchef winner. No dedicated gluten free menu but waiters are (normally) very clued up and there are plenty of gluten free options. There is one branch located near to Trafalgar Square/Covent Garden and Olympic Park visitors can get their taco fix in the Wahaca at the Westfield shopping mall, Stratford. ££
Zizzi, Carluccio’s and Bella Italia – Three Italian chain restaurants which are easily found all over London. All three offer gluten free pasta, Carluccio’s providing a laminated gluten free menu. Bella Italia additionally offers gluten free pizza. ££
Perhaps you’d like a special romantic meal? Or maybe you’d like to entertain a client (or even better, be entertained?). London has many excellent and Michelin starred restaurants and the majority of these will be able to cater for gluten free diets without fuss by adapting the dishes. Good restaurants do get booked up long in advance so if you have somewhere special in mind, make sure you call in advance and reserve a table. At the same time, notify the restaurant of your dietary restrictions, discuss with them how they will handle cooking for you and ask they confirm which menu options would be suitable for you.
Nopi - Lebanese / Middle Eastern / Asian influenced dishes. Many naturally gluten free options or can be easily adapted which means your (non gluten free) dining companions should be very happy with the choice of gluten free sharing dishes. £££
Hakkasan – Think you can’t eat gluten free Chinese? Think again! With one day’s notice the kitchen can prepare dishes such as Golden Fried Soft Shell Crab gluten free and without the risk of cross contamination. The interior of this Michelin starred restaurant is dark, sexy and I particularly love the pink mojitos here. ££££
Nobu- Japanese food in this well known celeb spot on Park Lane. They were incredibly helpful with gluten free dining and provided me with gluten free soy sauce. ££££
Rivington Grill – On a recent visit I had notified their Shoreditch location in advance of my dietary restrictions. When I arrived the chef had pre-prepared a menu for me with the items I could eat indicated. Menu focuses on modern British cuisine and has a lovely brasserie feel. Olympic visitors may find the Greenwich location convenient. £££
Polpo – Arrived in London without making any plans? This Italian bacaro in Soho could be the place for you as they don’t take advance reservations. Reasonable selection of gluten free dishes to share. However, it scores extra points with me since they were playing The Smiths the last time I ate dinner there! £££
Gluten Free Supperclub- Annie’s is a supper club located in a secret location in Bromley, south east London (10 minutes by overland train from Victoria station). All food is gluten free and is cooked in a gluten free kitchen. Annie can also cater for vegetarians, vegans and other dietary restrictions with advance notice. Dates are published several months in advance and get booked up quickly, check the website here for dates and menu themes. ££
Fish & Chips – No trip to London could be complete without fish and chips! On Tuesday evenings, Olley’s in Brockwell Park offers this great British tradition in gluten free batter. Olley’s is 10 minutes by overland train from Victoria station to Herne Hill. ££
Indian - How about a curry (or ‘Ruby Murray’ in Cockney rhyming slang) on Brick Lane in London’s East End? This busy and vibrant street on the eastern edge of the City, London’s financial district is home to numerous restaurants from the Indian sub-continent. Indian food uses mainly non-wheat based flours making it an ideal choice for the gluten intolerant diner but obviously discuss cross contamination issues as you would in any restaurant. Not keen on spicy food? That’s OK, there are dishes such as korma or passanda which are less spicy. Indian food is also offers an excellent choice for vegetarians. ££
Gluten Free Afternoon Tea – Why not celebrate just being in one of the world’s most exciting cities by treating yourself to that quintessentially English tradition of Afternoon Tea? Many of the top London hotels offer gluten free afternoon tea alongside their regular afternoon tea menus. Some also cater for additional dietary requirements such as diabetic and vegan. The best afternoon teas can be found at Brown’s Hotel, Claridges Hotel, and Fortnum & Mason. Prices vary but budget for around £40 per person. Afternoon Tea is VERY popular and weekend slots can be booked weeks or even months in advance so please plan ahead and reserve if at all possible. £££
*Afternoon tea at the British Museum is next on my list of afternoon treats (with a slice of culture, of course!).
What are your favourite gluten free places to eat in London? Please do leave a comment below and help fellow travellers to London, along with residents, get the best out of gluten free London.