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.

Gluten Free London: Beyond Bread

Beyond Bread is a dedicated gluten free bakery with (currently) 2 branches in London. To date, I’ve only visited the Charlotte’s Place location.

On the first occasion I had a gluten free chocolate muffin to takeaway which was perfectly nice although a little dense inside. On the second occasion, I wanted to eat in and so had lunch at Charlotte’s Place.

Beyond Bread London gluten free quiche

This time I chose the quiche with a spinach and mushroom salad along with a cinnamon bun. Since it was a cold day, I took a tea as well.

Beyond Bread London gluten free quiche

The cost was £14.85 for the above.

The pastry on the quiche was firm and not at all crumbly. The cinnamon bun was good and I enjoyed this.

Beyond Bread London gluten free cinnamon bun

At the end of my lunch I asked whereabouts the toilets were. I was somewhat astonished to discover there is no toilet available to use at Charlotte’s Place.

Repeat: There is no customer toilet here. This is a cafe with – I guess – around 15 seats and there’s no bathroom for customers to use. Instead I was directed to use the facilities of other local businesses, something I declined to do.

Perhaps this seems like a negative thing to include in a blog post. Maybe it seems unnecessary to point out the lack of toilet facilities? But in all the blog posts I’ve read about this Beyond Bread location, I’ve never seen this highlighted before. Perhaps even this is a new thing? I don’t know. But I’m pointing this out as I wish I’d known in advance of visiting.

Locations: 2 Charlotte Place, London W1T 1SB and 267 Upper Street, London N1 2UQ
Website: www.beyondbread.co.uk
Cost: £ 14.85 for the meal above
Would I come back: Honestly? I think the food on offer here is good quality and I value the opportunity to eat at a dedicated gluten free bakery. However, I’m not sure I would go out of my way to visit again. I thought what I ordered was tasty but a little overpriced (I fully appreciate the cost of the Fitzrovia location is factored in to the prices here). However, the situation with no customer bathrooms will likely put me off from revisiting. I work in a different part of London so would ordinarily be looking to eat in at Beyond Bread when I’m in the West End, rather than takeaway. For me, it’s not a particularly appealing lunch knowing that I’ll need to find a public convenience to use after my lunch as the restaurant does not provide one.

PIN FOR LATER

Beyond Bread London gluten free Restaurant

Gluten Free Travel Tips: Gothenburg, Sweden

First of all, this post is not a gluten free guide to Gothenburg (after 3 days in the city, I couldn’t claim to write a proper guide). Rather, it’s a collection of tips, resources and places I ate which might help another gluten free visitor to Gothenburg.

Resources & Tips – The Local Guides
Before I visited Gothenburg I contacted two locals for assistance. Virginia runs the Kusten ar Klar blog. She was incredibly helpful to me both prior to my trip and whilst I was there. I highly recommend you check out her map for listings of gluten free dining options in the city. On Virginia’s blog you can find maps not just for Gothenburg, but also other Swedish cities with list of gluten free restaurants, cafes and bakeries.

I also contacted the Swedish Coeliac Society who had been incredibly helpful on my previous trips to Sweden. They provided me with a list of restaurants in Gothenburg.

Resources & Tips – Where We Ate
At the excellent Universeum museum, gluten and lactose free pancakes were on the menu and the staff cook them up fresh upon request & separately. The meatballs and mash here are also gluten free.

Gluten free Gothenburg Universeum

As in other countries in Scandinavia and continental Europe, MacDonald’s offers gluten free buns in Sweden. Two adult meals and two kids meals here cost under £20 in total. By far the cheapest meal we had in Gothenburg.

Gluten free Gothenburg MacDonalds

At our hotel (see below) I enjoyed this venison dish in the hotel restaurant. This was delicious and made a change from that great gluten free fall back meal option of steak and chips, which I ate the following night.

Gluten free Gothenburg Radisson hotel

O’Leary’s (a chain of sports bars found all over Sweden) offer gluten free options including gluten free buns. Our flight back to London was delayed and we ate at the branch at the Landvetter airport. Their website has a nutritional guide and I found the waitress to be knowledgeable.

Gluten free Gothenburg Airport

Resources & Tips – Where We Stayed
We stayed at the Radisson Blu Scandinavia, opposite the central Station. I’ve stayed in other Radisson properties in Norway and Sweden and have always found good gluten free options on offer in this hotel chain. Top 14 allergens were listed on the room service menu which I’ve seen listed in other countries through continental Europe and I wish we had the same simple system in the UK. At breakfast there was an “Allergy Corner” complete with wrapped Fria crumpet like bread.

Gluten free Radisson hotel

There was even a dedicated gluten free toaster (note the sign!) right next to it.

Gluten free Radisson hotel

Resources & Tips – Where we Shopped
I found gluten free products in the Gothenburg supermarkets I visited but the range really varied by size of supermarket. The smaller supermarkets seemed to have a limited (or no) supply but in one of the bigger supermarkets, was this fantastic selection!

Gluten free Gothenburg supermarket

I was particurlarly happy to find some delicious Semper gluten free gingerbread biscuits which my kids (who are not gluten free) loved.

In the freezer section were loads of different products and you would be well catered for if you were staying in an apartment in Gothenburg rather than a hotel.

Gluten free Gothenburg supermarket

Resources & Tips – How We Got There
We flew to Gothenburg with Norwegian. I’ve flown with this low cost airline a few times before and I really rate their high quality customer service, fleet of new planes, free in-flight wifi and a gluten free AND nut free options on board.

Gluten free Gothenburg Norwegian

Final Gluten Free Tips for Gothenburg:
• Many gluten free products in Scandinavia contain codex wheat starch. Please keep this in mind when eating out or shopping if you are sensitive to codex wheat starch
• The restaurants and cafes we visited were very clued up on gluten free options, all had nutitional booklets (same as in the UK) to double check if an item contained gluten and other allergens
• You can check out what we enjoyed doing in Gothenburg

Things To Do In Gothenburg With Kids (In Winter)

Winter is in many ways my favourite time to travel in Europe. Having lived in Russia, winter days with blue skies and sunshine were my favourite, even when the temperature was bitingly cold. Travel in winter means cheaper air fares, more competitive hotel rates and less people to jostle with at tourist attractions. I know from my past experience that as long as you’re wrapped up warm, there’s a lot of pleasure to be had from exploring in winter, even if bundling up small children in plenty of layers is something of a mission.

We travelled to Gothenburg at the of January for a weekend. When we arrived into Gothenburg on the Friday afternoon the sun was out and the sky was a cloudless and deep blue in colour. We were also lucky to enjoy a gloriously sunny day on the Saturday. By Sunday, snow had arrived. Consequently, our choice of activities was influenced by the weather while we were there.

These are the things we enjoyed in Gothenburg during our weekend there.

Explore Haga
Haga is one of Gothenburg’s oldest districts, with buildings dating to the 17th century. Thanks to getting up early for our flight on Friday morning, the kids were asleep in their buggy for part of the time we walked around. I’m not sure how, but we resisted the urge to sit while they slept at one of the bars and enjoy a warming drink. Error. Not least since Mr D’s eyeballs had nearly fallen out courtesy of pushing the double buggy across endless cobblestones.

Walk along the water
We took a walk in the winter sun along the promenade from our hotel past Gothenburg’s impressive Opera House along to the Haga area. This passed by the Maritiman museum but we didn’t stop here. It was a lovely walk in the winter sun but this vied with the Haga area for being cobblestone central!

Shopping
Gothenburg is home to Nordstan, one of Scandinavia’s largest shopping malls. In addition, the shopping opportunities are huge within the city centre. Aside from clothes, what struck me most was the number of bookshops Gothenburg has.

I picked up some lovely thermal tops for the kids featuring Gothenburg’s trams within the design in local Swedish brand, Villervalla. Like fellow Swedish brand, Polarn O Pyret, I loved Villervalla’s brightly coloured clothes for children and will seek out a UK stockist of these well designed, great quality clothes. Sadly (for me) the kids had woken up by the time we got Marimekko.

Take a Tram

I love trams and Gothenburg has a very efficient tram system to make getting around very easy. We bought 24 hour tram tickets for SEK 90 each (approx £8 for adults) and set off. This was a big day in the D household because we left the double buggy at home.

What to do with kids in Gothenburg in winter

Visit the Archipelago
Having taken the number 11 tram all the way down south to Saltholmen stop, we went to see where the boats were going to.

What to do with kids in Gothenburg in winter

My conversation at the ticket office went like this:
Me: Hello, we’re first time visitors to Gothenburg and we wanted to take a boat to explore the islands, where would you recommend?
Ticket office lady: Run around to pier 7 and get on the boat, it’s leaving in 1 minute
Me: Er, OK, is it nice there?
Ticket office lady: Yes, but make sure you get off at the second stop as there’s nothing to do at the first stop.

As we got to pier 7, the ramp was already up on the departing boat. When the captain saw 2 adults careering around the corner with 2 small kids (one of whom was shouting “TOO FAST, Mummy, I’m going to FALL OVER” – something no one has ever said previously about my running speed), the captain lowered the ramp and we were on. I’m not sure what he made of me proceeding to ask where we were going and when did the boat come back. Anyway, we arrived at Styrso.

What to do with kids in Gothenburg in winter

There were two lovely looking cafes by the ferry stop, but both were firmly shut for the winter. There was, however, a playground.

What to do with kids in Gothenburg in winter

So we headed there for a bit before walking along through the island and admiring all the golf buggies zipping the residents around as there are no cars on the island. (Goodness knows what we would’ve found at the fist boat stop!).

What to do with kids in Gothenburg in winter

Heading back to the pier, we discovered the next boat back to Gothenburg was not due for over an hour.

What to do with kids in Gothenburg in winter

We managed to stop the kids hot wiring an all terrain buggy entertain the kids with a game of “I Spy” and then a boat appeared. Not going in the direction we wanted but the boat looked warm inside. We got on and, quite miraculously, there was a cafe on board. So we enjoyed a Swedish fika on board.

What to do with kids in Gothenburg in winter

Hot chocolate and sweet treats all around as we sailed our way – in the warmth of a cafe – around a few islands before eventually arriving back in Gothenburg.

What to do with kids in Gothenburg in winter

Universeum
If you visit Gothenburg with kids, I’d recommend putting this at the top of your list. The Universeum is the Nordic region’s largest science museum. Much as I love the Science Museum in London, the Universeum is much better suited to younger children like my 3 year olds. Each area offers enough information to be educational, whilst not being too overwhelming for small kids with short attention spans. I think younger children are particularly engaged by hands-on activities, rather than endless facts and the Universeum is full of interactive activities. This museum has a variety of exhibits ranging from a rainforest through to “Job Land” where younger children and pretend to do various jobs. The biggest hits for my duo were the health section where they enjoyed trying the gym equipment, the construction zone (this area had amazing craft and activity tables set up) and most of all, toddler heaven; Job Land.

What to do with kids in Gothenburg in winter

In the latter were various sections including a theatre (complete with back stage door, spotlight and costumes) and a simulated shop complete with shelves, baskets, food products and a check out till where food items could be scanned and beeped as they passed through the scanner.

Things we didn’t get a chance to visit but looked interesting to us:
Museum of Gothenburg 
This museum is located in the Historic East India Company building which dates from the 18th century and it also houses a children’s museum. We went to have a look around but the kids were both asleep in the buggy as we arrived at the museum and so we decided against breaking the first rule of parenthood (never wake a sleeping baby!). Instead we wandered around the grid of streets admiring the buildings in this area.

The Volvo Museum
I enjoy a quirky museum and this looked interesting. However it’s located a little way out of town and visiting on the weekend involved calling the bus company in advance. Bit more effort than I was willing to expend on this occasion.

Gothenburg City Tram Museum
Another quirky museum I would’ve loved to visit if we’d had more time in Gothenburg.

Alfie Atkins Cultural Centre
Alfie Atkins is a popular Swedish children’s character from a range of books which have been printed into around 5 million copies in the Swedish language. This children’s centre was located very close to our hotel and opposite Gothenburg’s central station. It’s open 7 days a week and would be a great place to visit to escape the cold and/or rain with kids. It runs a daily programme of cultural activities for younger children, including mime and Swedish sign language.

You can find more things to do in Gothenburg here on the city’s tourist information site.

Tips for winter in Gothenburg with kids
• We stayed at the Radisson Scandinavia in an Executive Suite; comprised of 2 separate bedrooms, each with en suite bathroom and a separate lounge with balcony joining the two bedrooms. At 72sqm, this was a huge space for us all to spread out in and we were even able to park the double buggy in the corner without tripping over it (for once).
• You can take a double buggy on to a tram but you’ll need to take the kids out and fold it on the older style trams because there are steps to get up on board
• Kids aged up to 7 years old travel for free on the trams
• Travel on the boat out to the islands is included in the price of our 24 hour tram ticket
• The taxis we took in Gothenburg had seats with an integrated booster seat in them. This meant that the twins could be securely strapped into the taxi while using the regular seat belt
• Ensure that you bring adequate warm clothes for your kids. The local kids were all wearing a thermal waterproof suit over their clothes. I saw these for sale in Villervalla but they were pricey. Villervalla store has an outlet shop on Landsvägsgatan 3, Gothenburg where you might find a bargain
• The drinking water is so clean that you can drink it directly from the tap, you don’t need to buy mineral water
• If you’re planning to visit the archipelago, do some research in advance (don’t do what we did!) and find out what facilities are open where you’re going and what time the return ferry is. Standing on a cold jetty in winter waiting for a boat to come in isn’t pleasant (although the unexpected hot chocolate onboard certainly was)
• A family ticket at the Universeum cost SEK 570 (£51) for all 4 of us. This ticket provided unlimited access for the day you purchase it, should you wish to visit in the morning and then come back later in the afternoon
• You cannot take buggies into the Rainforest part of the Universeum but there is a lift and you can access other sections of the museum with your buggy
• Take sunglasses for sunny days. My eyeballs were in pain from walking in the strong winter sun

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What to do with kids in Gothenburg in winter

Went – Ate – Loved: January 2017

Went
January 2017 quite literally started with a bang. Or in fact successions of bangs as I enjoyed a spectacular panoramic view of the New Year fireworks from our hotel in Sydney.

Sydney New Year fireworks

Wow, doesn’t even come close to the incredible panoramic view we had. Mr D met each other in Sydney, and later got engaged on the steps of the Sydney Opera House (the location of our first date) and it was really fantastic to spend time back in Sydney.

Sydney

The journey back to London from Australia to London was a bit of slog and we’ve concluded that a 14.5 hour flight (as ours was from Singapore back to London) is too long for all of us, not just the twins. In all we had a fantastic trip to Australia, despite the flight home; it was worth all the effort and jet lag to enjoy some sunshine and catch up with friends and family in Australia.

On the last weekend in January we went to Gothenburg, Sweden, a city which has been on my travel wish list for a long time. I really enjoy visiting Sweden and this trip did not disappoint. I’ll post separately on this in the next few weeks.

Ate
Meal of the month award has to go to my birthday dinner at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay. This was my first time – knowingly – eating Michelin 3 star food. (Knowingly because we once ate at the El Bulli hotel restaurant outpost in Seville without knowing what it was. Ahem).

The food at Gordon Ramsay was, as you’d imagine just incredible. The different flavours and the pure skill involved in the cooking were sensational. Take this egg presented as a canapé. Still intrigued at how the top of this hen’s egg was sliced off so cleanly without breaking the egg shell.

But it wasn’t just the food which blew me away, the service was amazing. As a diner with dietary restrictions, nothing makes me happier than every single person who came to our table re confirming which items I can’t eat (gluten & nuts), explaining why and how my canapés were different to Mr D’s, important as these weren’t items I’d selected from the menu.

Special mention to the waiter who told me he’d be disappointed if I didn’t take more of the gluten free bread to mop up my meat juices. I loved this – who says 3 Michelin star restos have to be stuffy?! And the sommelier who we’d instructed to bring us wines of his choice by the glass to match our dishes. I really enjoy doing this when eating out in good restaurants as it’s a great way to balance food and wine but also we’ve been introduced to lots of different grape varieties in this way. “Any wines you don’t like?” He’d asked. We like trying new wine suggestions, but I asked for no German wines please. So you’ve guessed it…..he brought me a German wine. This wine was, of course, perfect.

I won’t be writing a review for my meal there (I was too busy enjoying my meal to take notes and subtle lighting in the restaurant equals rubbish iPhone photos), but I will add it to my gluten free guide to London.

Also this month I was invited to judge in the 2017 Free From Food Awards. This year I was judging in the Innovation and Veggie Ready Meals categories. This is a real highlight of the year for me; it’s fascinating to see the development of the UK’s Free From (not just gluten free) food sector.

In Australia I loved these gluten free and nut free Anzac biscuits.

gluten free Anzac biscuits

I’m still a bit miffed that Mr D scoffed the last packet before I had a chance to bring them home. Not least since they would’ve lifted the boredom of endless gluten free meals of boiled fish on our flights to and from Australia.

Loved
On the long flight back from Australia I concluded that I’d like to give this blog some regular love by posting more regularly in 2017. So far this month I’ve managed to post weekly, on Fridays. However, I work on 5 days of the week and have two small children so time is always short for things I enjoy doing for myself so we’ll see. I plan to write a monthly round up at the end of the month (starting with this one!) and if that’s all I manage at points in the year, that would be just fine.

I’d like to say that I loved having the gluten free afternoon tea with Kelly and Rachel this month but unfortunately I didn’t make it. I have never met either Kelly or Rachel before but I thoroughly enjoy reading both of their blogs. If you haven’t checked out Kelly’s blog posts on visiting all the English counties you should for great photography, as well as gluten free recommendations. Rachel is due to move to Sydney in a few months, a city where she had also got engaged. I’m looking forward to reading her blog posts as she makes the move.

However, the night before our afternoon tea, I was eating gluten free pizza (hmmm) and a mishap occurred with one of my molar teeth. Cue a trip to the emergency dentist to have it seen to instead talking about travel plans over some delicious gluten free cakes. Initially I was told I’d need a crown fitted but now my sentence has been commuted to wisdom teeth removal – which for me means a hospital job. So looking forward to that! My dentist – who’s Italian – assures me it was the wisdom teeth which caused it, not the pizza! So this is definitely a not loved of the month but hopefully we’ll get to meet another time.

I managed to keep up with my blog feed this month and I loved reading these blog posts in particular:

  • Gluten Free Las Vegas: I’ve been to Vegas a couple of times and although it’s the absolute antithesis of how I’d describe my perfect holiday, I really love it there. I very much enjoyed this post by Gluten Free Philly on the dining options in Las Vegas.
  • 5 gluten free and vegan restaurants in Porto: Bookmarking this for future reference as it doesn’t seem as though gluten free options in Porto are plentiful
  • What to do on long airport layovers: I don’t agree at all with the advice given in this post for London layovers but the rest of the article is interesting and there are heaps of airports listed.
  • 5 ways to beat the heat in Brisbane: The post I wish I’d read before we went to Brisbane and wilted in the heat!

And finally, some of the moments I love most about having kids are the most unintentionally funny. Earlier this week I had to manage a 3 year old in an utter meltdown first thing on Monday morning before I left for work, and just as we were rushing to get them ready for nursery. Why the tantrum? Because we didn’t have any avocado. And this meant that Mini D1 wasn’t going to have her current breakfast of choice, smashed avo on crackers. The absolute absurdity of me having to placate an inconsolable child who couldn’t have smashed avo for breakfast by promising to go out on my lunch hour to find her some avocado has kept me chuckling for days.