Restaurant Review: Oscar & Bentley’s, Canterbury, Kent

Oscar and Bentley’s in historic Canterbury were this year’s winners in the Restaurants category of the inaugural Free From Eating Out Awards. You can read about the FFEOA here.

In advance of visiting O&B, I had called to check how they manage allergies (I’m allergic to almonds as well as intolerant to gluten). I received the most detailed reply ever on cross contamination controls. Not only did I receive an explanation on how and where nuts were stored in the kitchen, but I was also informed they made a nut free crumble (after the kitchen had been cleaned down) and they would keep a portion for me just in case I would like this for my pudding. Impressed.

O&B is located in the very heart of Canterbury, just off the High Street. The décor of this 100% gluten free restaurant is quite glam.

The menu is interesting covering more than your standard fare of naturally gluten free items (chilli, curry, griddled chicken,jacket potatoes etc.,) and instead includes items normally off the menu for coeliacs such as fish and chips, crispy duck wrap and tempura king prawns. Everything is gluten free. Items suitable for dairy free, vegans, vegetarians are listed on the menu. Nut free dishes were listed on the pudding menu.

A special nod to the kids menu. Kids can select between 3 and 4 options within each category of main (protein), side (carbs), veggies, drink and pudding. Overall there was a good balance of healthy vs treat options. This is an excellent place for kids with allergies to eat. Not only would they have safe options but they can choose what they’d like to eat. Imagine how exciting that would be for a child with allergies!

I decided to choose items from the menu which I couldn’t normally eat. So chose a lot of battered items!

I don’t think I could have been more impressed with the quality of the food. The batter was light, very crispy and not in the least greasy. Although this is a 100% gluten free restaurant the quality of the food is such that you would forget you’re eating gluten free food – it’s that good. Mr D pronounced the chips served with his burger to be the best ever.

Gluten free fish & chips and onion rings

I was also impressed with the drinks menu, Celia gluten free lager plus a great selection of Kentish wines at reasonable prices.

Gluten free Celia

Gluten free Celia

Canterbury can be reached in 58 minutes on the high speed train from London’s St Pancras. Perfect for a day trip to explore this beautiful city and have a wonderful, safe lunch at Oscar and Bentley’s!

Would I go back?: Try stopping me!

Cost: £56 for two people who ate 3 courses including a beer each

Address: 10 Guildhall Street, Canterbury, Kent CT1 2JQ

Opening times: Closed Mondays but please check here for current opening hours

The 2014 Free From Eating Out Awards

Last month saw the presentation the inaugural Free From Eating Out Awards. As increasing numbers of restaurants, cafés and pubs actively try to cater for diners with allergies and intolerances, these awards are a timely celebration of those establishments which cater well for those of us with dietary restrictions.

FFEOA logoWith the new EU labeling laws coming into effect today, it is ever more important restaurants, cafés and pubs understand the new rules and comply with the requirements to provide information on allergens in the food they serve. This should be a major step forward when eating out. I can’t wait to try out restaurants and their knowledge of this – it’s going to be interesting! You can read a good summary by Carly on the new regulations here.

I was delighted to be a judge in the Free From Eating Out Awards. The initial stages of judging involved reviewing a very lengthy questionnaire each entrant had completed. This covered many areas including menu, cross contamination controls and staff training. The responses were fascinating. Some so comprehensive and reassuring I was desperate to try the establishment. Others had some work to do in areas such as cross contamination controls.

Once a short list was produced of the best scorers, judges were asked to visit the short listed restaurants (incognito, of course!) and try the food as well as verifying during the visit the restaurant lived up to the statements they made in the questionnaire. However, in advance of the visit, we all called the restaurants to check how they would cater for our allergies and intolerances and how they would manage to avoid cross contamination etc. This is something I do with all restaurants I visit so it was an interesting exercise. Finally, we got to visit and try the food!

The Awards’ presentation was held during the Food Matters Live conference at Excel in London’s Docklands.

Anthony Worrall Thompson was presenting the Awards. It was interesting to hear from a restaurant owner the difficulties he faces in verifying allergens within his supplier’s products. Awards’ organiser, Michelle Berriedale-Johnson, made good points about the need for restaurants and cafes to cater for more than just gluten free – these were, after all, the Free From Eating out Awards, and not solely focused on gluten free.

The presentation had a great atmosphere as everyone nervously awaited the results. Glasses of Green’s India Pale Ale were handed out to the audience as well as oatcakes from another of the Awards’ sponsors, Nairns. As this was the first year the awards were held, they were smaller than the sister Free From Food Awards and you could feel how much winning meant to the small independents. The Alford Arms, Frithsden in Hertfordshire won in both the pub category and was also declared the overall winner. They had managed to produce a fabulous meal for the judge who has multiple allergies. Imagine, a friendly pub who can do that. Their reaction upon winning was priceless. They were so surprised and excited. (You can see a photo of the boys looking chuffed with AWT here). Genuinely something great to see how much it meant to them.

I was particularly excited that the restaurant I judged won in the restaurant category. Please check back for my review of Oscar & Bentley’s!