Friday, 23 January 2015

Gluten Free Adventures on Park Street, Bristol

If you're ever in central Bristol looking for a gluten free meal, the key thing to remember is - the nearer you are to Clifton, the better your chances. So unfortunately, it's time to change into flats, plug in your music to drown out that clicky hip and head straight up Bristol's Misty Mountain, AKA Park Street.
I was lucky enough to work on The Triangle just before Christmas and we ate out often, so here is my round up of gluten free eateries on Park Street and on The Triangle.
First up -
Mission Burrito
62 Park St, Bristol BS1 5JN

My corn tortillas

Mushy goodness

Boy, beer, burrito

We make our own tortillas quite a bit so it was such a treat to have them made for us. The GF option is 4 mini sized corn tortillas with a choice of fillings (all are GF). I went for a few different fillings so I got to try everything and it was all fantastic. Really comforting, slow cooked goodness and guacamole! I spoke to them afterwards about cross contamination and they said they are looking into covering the tortillas before they go on the grill to make them extra safe. The décor is functional and a bit uncomfortable. When I told people we were eating there, they said 'oh, the takeaway place?' However, it won't stop me from going back! I am a Mission Burrito convert, like so many other Bristolians.

38 Queens Road, Bristol BS8 1RE

Chicken liver & brandy parfait, rhubarb & tomato chutney, salad instead of toasted sourdough bread

Pan fried seabass fillets, sweet potato, chick pea & spinach curry, yoghurt & caper dressing
I was well looked after when I went for lunch at Brown's. What a treat lunch at Brown's is - beautiful architecture and a serene atmosphere, dishes that linger on the palate and flawless service. I chose what I wanted on the menu and the waitress assured me she would ensure any gluten items were substituted. My seabass main has become one of my favourite dishes in a restaurant ever! I even tried making it myself at home.
69 Queens Road, Bristol, BS8 1QL
Lunch at Bill's was a slightly different experience. Our waitress kept misunderstanding our requests which was comical at first but worrying when ordering anything free from. I asked about GF and she gave me a booklet with 'allergy advice'. Lunch options were green curry, wild mushroom risotto and the 'Pan-fried sea bass, chunky tomato, avocado and caper salsa with a crispy spring onion and parsley potato rösti' - which is what I went for. On the whole it was very tasty (thought I would have left off the avocado), I just felt miffed that I was surrounded by people with amazing looking burger and chips! 
70 Queens Road, Bristol BS8 1QU
Gluten free Pho - what more do I need to say? The picture doesn't do it justice either. I got a great big container of Pho, full of fresh veg, slow cooked pork and herbs and lots of lovely extra bits. I also got a coffee with almond milk! Friska always have gluten free cake on the counter and a selection of handmade cold salads, like Pad Thai. The décor is modern, cosy warehouse chic and there is a record, book and vintage clothing shop upstairs. I have a crush.
74 Queens Road, Bristol, BS8 1QU

Good service, attentive staff. Décor is clinical, cow field chic. Steak was badass. And I hear the Margaritas are great.

85 Queens Road, Bristol, BS8 1QS

Bottelino's offer gluten free pasta (penne) and you just need to speak to the waiter to find out which pasta dishes are GF. Servings are enormous and I can recommend the Rioja.

Other restaurants with an allergen menu/'GF' marked on the menu/offering to adjust meals to be gluten free.
Unfortunately I didn't get a chance to try these places out, though I'd love your feedback if you have.

Starts from the bottom to top of Park Street/Triangle.

La Tomatina - 2-4 Park St, Bristol BS1 5HS
Bristol Folk House - 40A Park Street, Bristol BS1 5JG
Nandos - 49 Park Street, Bristol BS1 5NT
Goldbrick House - 69 Park Street, Bristol BS1 5PB
Gourmet Burger Kitchen - 74 Park Street, Bristol BS1 5JX
Jamie's Italian - 87-89 Park St, Bristol BS1 5PW
Pizza Express - 31 Berkeley Square, Bristol BS8 1HP (just off Park St)

Monday, 19 January 2015

The UK Gluten Free Fish and Chips Guide!

Following on from the success of my UK Gluten Free Sunday Roast Guide and my UK Gluten Free Beer Guide, I bring you the UK Gluten Free Fish and Chips guide!

As before I have split this down into areas of the UK and I will be adding to it often. If I've missed your local, please comment below or let me know on Twitter.

Each listing is taken from a recommendation on Twitter or from the company's own website and is accurate as of January 2015.

Northern Ireland 
x 0

Scotland North 
x 0

Scotland South 
x 0

North East 
x 0

North West 
x 1

Green Island Chippy
8-10 Willow Street, Congleton, Cheshire CW12 1RL
Available every day

Yorkshire and the Humber
x 1

McNic's Fisheries
67 Otley Road, Shipley, West Yorkshire BD18 2BJ
Available on request

East Midlands
x 1

Crispins Fish & Chips
34 Kent Road, Upton, Northampton NN5 4XB
Available every day

West Midlands
x 0

x 1

Top Gun Fish Bar
33 Merthyr Road, Cardiff CF14 1DB
Available every Sunday
*'Specials' of the day also available GF

Eastern Region
x 0

South West
x 8

Clifton Village Fish Bar
4 Princess Victoria Street, Clifton Village, Bristol BS8 4BP and
Stoke Bishop Fish Bar
13 Druid Hill, Stoke Bishop, Bristol BS9 1EW
Available on the 1st Monday of the month (evening only)

Farrows Fish and Chips
146 Wells Road, Totterdown, Bristol BS4 2AG
Available every day. Phone ahead to have your order ready for your arrival - 0117 908 5511
*Sausages, pineapple fritters, fish cake and curry sauce also available

Fairbanks Traditional Fish and Chips
23 Flaxpits Lane, Bristol BS36 1JY
Available every day except Friday and Saturday

Kingfisher Fish & Chips
6 Glen Road, Plymouth PL7 2XS
Available every Monday

Stein's Fish and Chips
South Quay, Padstow, Cornwall PL28 8BL
Available every day

Simpsons Fish and Chips
73-75 Priors Road, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire GL52 5AL
Available on the last Monday of every month (except December) between 4.45-9.30pm.
*Sausage, fritters, onion rings, mushy peas, curry sauce and more also available

The Big Fish
166 Bath Road, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire GL53 7NF
Available every day

South East
x 0

x 1

Olivers Fish and Chips
95 Haverstock Hill, Hampstead, London NW3 4RL
Available every Wednesday

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Review - Venue 35, Bristol

Soya Latte
The Back Dining Area
Fish and Chips
Close Up

Onion Rings
I finally visited Venue 35 on Saturday. They are based way outside of central Bristol, in an area I never have a need to visit. I've been told that Westbury on Trym is quite a well-to-do area and as we drove around we found some lovely looking spots for a bit of people watching in the sunshine. We found the café nestled in a small row of drab 70's style shops, surrounded by charity shops, off licenses and hairdressers, which was a little disappointing. As we walked through the front door, we were taken aback by how busy it seemed. The place appears to be popular with young families and although we try to avoid children en masse, I was happy that the place was buzzing.

We sat down in the back room which was much quieter but the only small table available was dirty and there were no menus to be found anywhere. There were clusters of sofas and coffee tables which seemed pretty impractical for dining and they still had some Christmas decorations up.
My husband went to get menus and drinks. I had perused the gluten free menu on the Venue 35 website any times so I was surprised that there was no separate menu in the café itself. The menu was marked with 'GFO' after many of items and I was happy to see that many of the items I'd lusted after online were listed. It was now a choice between a burger or fish and chips. Either way, I was having onion rings, which I hadn't eaten for many, many years!

My husband ordered at the bar and when he came back, we flagged down a waiter to clean down our table. A long while later, I checked on the time and 45 minutes had passed since ordering. Finally the food arrived and the plates were piled high. My husband's lasagne was pretty substantial but we both did our very best to clear our plates! My food was good, the batter was crisp and not oily but it was a little flavourless. Likewise with the chips. Maybe a nicer oil would help things along?

Overall, a slightly unusual experience at Venue 35. Food in large volumes with minimal customer care. That said, I am happy to go back if I'm ever in the area again. There's still a lot more to try - gluten free breakfast, Sunday roast, a choice of burgers and a range of desserts that includes a cider infused apple crumble!

Venue 35
135 Stoke Lane,
Westbury On Trym,

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Going Gluten Free and Vegan

I met for lunch with a friend of mine recently and she asked me why I'd chosen to go vegan for a week. I explained that many of the things I eat are, or can be made vegan because I can't tolerate eggs or dairy so my normal diet is what I can 'Megan' (vegan with meat!) So I thought it'd be an easy thing to do and was curious about the affect it would have on my health and general wellbeing. She still looked slightly perplexed, so I said I'd gone off meat quite a lot in recent years and asked if she'd ever "just had a bad bacon sandwich?" I think it clicked then and we discussed how sometimes eating meat it just grim and how a bad bacon sandwich or gristly piece of meat in a stew can put you off meat for a while.

As for eggs and dairy, I am actually thankful that they cause me problems because I am now educated about the egg and dairy industry. Both industries have their issues, but the main issue for me is that the egg industry considers male chickens as 'waste'. Likewise, the dairy industry considers male cows as 'waste' (the 'organic' or 'free range' industry included.) Not many people want to know about what happens to the 'waste' but as a consumer, I believe that we can't ignore the facts and hope they go away. 

My vegan and gluten free week revealed many things to me, some expected and some very surprising.

Making choices in the supermarket - I realised that I instinctively went for the option with meat in, without paying much attention to the meat free version i.e. tinned soup. Why have winter veg when you can have pea and bacon? The bacon option sounds tastier, right? I had never thought about how both can be the same price....the origin of the meat in such products is never considered. We'd buy an organic chicken but also a 'pepperoni' pizza without a second thought.

Vegan choices are not necessarily healthy choices - like with GF, people assume it is a healthier lifestyle, but I found myself getting excited over vegan alternatives to things, which ended up containing a long list of unrecognisable ingredients. I also ate a lot of fried food (as frying seems to be the easiest way to give something flavour) and using flavour enhancers that I didn't feel should be consumed on a regular basis. On this note, vegans eat a lot of gluten and soy products. Seitan anyone? A diet high in refined wheat products and unfermented soy makes me feel pretty uncomfortable.

The vegan diet requires a lot of forethought and preparation - GFers think that they struggle to eat on the move, eat out or plan lunches - veganism is on a whole new level. GF and vegan felt almost like a prison sentence. No more eating out, no more dinners with family, no more lunch with colleagues. Nothing. It's a brave move. If you've done it out of choice, all hail to you! If you have no other option, you have all of my sympathy.

Like the GF diet, veganism can be expensive and requires visiting numerous shops and websites to get all the bits you need. A friend of mine recently went vegan and couldn't believe how expensive his weekly shop became. Before I tried this diet, I thought that sounded ridiculous - surely removing meat from the shop shaves loads of money off? But man cannot live on vegetables alone - one simply gets bored. After day 3 of vegetable bake, vegetable soup, vegetable pasta, vegetable stir fry, you long for some variation. Suddenly that vegan omelette recipe you saw doesn't seem so silly.
As I'd only removed meat (and cheese) from my diet, I hadn't expected to see any difference to my digestion. At the beginning, I was using the loo several times a day. I worried that I had taken things too far and might make myself ill. And then that stopped and I felt great, healthy, lighter and full of energy, On one of the days, I actually boinged around the house like Tigger, while my husband looked on bemused. How many 33 year olds can honestly say they 'boing'? My sleep was like a heavenly slumber. I lost 3 pounds and my IBS perma-pooch was almost flat.

So what did I actually eat?

Breakfasts - not much change here, fruit, porridge, cereal with almond milk, toast with Vitalite.

Lunch - Leftovers from dinner with salad and egg free mayo, Uncle Ben's rice pouches, vegetable soup. On the weekend, hash browns/waffles, mushrooms, tomatoes, smoked soya cheese, (the Tesco one is actually great), baked beans.

Dinner - Pizza (make your own base with polenta, sweet potato or spinach (Check out Mila's amazing recipes) with vegan cheese, sundried tomato puree base, jalapenos, mushrooms, sweetcorn.
Spicy noodles (check out the Vegan Black Metal Chef's Phad Thai!), tortilla wraps with refried beans, guacamole, vegan cheese, chillis and roasted peppers, chickpea and mushroom curry, veggie chilli, Mexican soup with black eyed peas instead of chicken and something I invented called 'Chick cakes' - slightly blend a tin of chickpeas and an equal amount of sweetcorn (during the week, I found frozen veg very useful) with a tablespoon of GF flour, fresh coriander and seasoning/spices of your choice. Form into patties and shallow fry until brown on both sides. Cook up a batch and eat them in a bun, with salad and 'slaw or have for breakfast with baked beans.


A further tip I learned; cook up batches of tortillas, hash browns, savoury rice, bean burger type things, refried beans, dhaal - anything that you can keep in the fridge and dip into when you're hungry. Hunger is definitely the enemy when you go vegan!

At the end of the week, although I felt great, I had a niggling feeling that the diet wasn't as healthy as my usual diet. I would recommend it if you have disturbed sleep, bad skin, mood swings - anything unexplained that has been niggling away - as I know loads of people who have found going completely herbivore helpful for all of these things. The diet affirmed to me that my hard won diet, the one that keeps me pain free after much trial and error is the one I want to stick with. However, it has helped me to look at meat in a different way, to go for the veggie option whenever I can and to try to add flavour to meals in other ways instead of relying on meat. If recent studies are to be believed, this won't be a choice for us for much longer so maybe I'm just getting a head start!

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Gluten Free in Woolacombe, Devon

We camped at The Little Roadway Farm Campsite (great range of booze in the shop but couldn't see any animals!)

One of my favourite pints, Cornish Rattler - at Captain Jack's

Very rainy beach

Sea Breeze Ice Cream & Coffee Shop

GJ's Dutch Pancake Bar


AKA, a throughly British Bank Holiday on the coast!
My husband and I (always think of the Queen's speech when I write that) spent a very wet weekend in Woolacombe at the end of August.
The main draw was the surfing. I'd purchased surfing lessons for hubbie for his birthday as he really enjoyed it when he did it years ago. I booked my first ever horse riding lesson for the same morning.
Unfortunately surfing was postponed so we had to wait until the Monday for the lesson and after walking down to watch a bit of the surfing, I retreated back to the town for a hot drink and a hand dryer.
On the way I discovered a plethora of GF and DF goodies. Woolacombe is teeny tiny, a little model village but you'd eat out pretty well here. As it was our last day, we didn't get a chance to, but we will definitely be back. Bodacious waves, a filly called Bobby and a 'Dutch style' pancake awaits us!

Friday, 26 September 2014

Modern Feminism and Baking

Until recently, I didn't call myself a feminist, but that was only because I didn't understand it. Feminism has had a bad reputation for years. For example, we only seem to use the adjective 'strident' to precede feminist. Feminists are still associated with lesbianism, protest marching, hairy armpits and men hating.

Fortunately, social media sites like Twitter mean that you can customise your online experience so that we are only in touch with like minded individuals. Many of the people I follow on Twitter are creative and enjoy crafting and baking, eat clean/veggie/vegan, are tattooed, are against animal cruelty, are politically aware and engaged, tweet about issues they feel strongly about and have healthy relationships with people of all genders. A lot of the women I follow also happen to be feminists. It is thanks to Twitter that I found out that I am a feminist. And if you are reading this, and you are a female, I almost guarantee that you are too.
This new wave of feminists are still politically engaged but we recognise that bashing men and hating on other women does not further the main purpose of feminism - to promote equality of the sexes.

The post was prompted by a few things.
In the latest issue of 'Glamour' magazine, a journalist interviews food writer Mary Berry and asks her a peculiar question: "Do you think that wanting to cook for your husband makes you in any way subservient?"
It almost suggests that a love of baking and a penchant for spending hours in the kitchen makes women in some way less of a feminist, or at least more traditional in our roles. *Types in a Carrie Bradshaw stylee* Is it possible to bake and be a feminist....?

Type 'the new feminist' into Google and the first result is an article about Emma Watson's recent rousing speech on gender equality. The article mentions Beyonce et al who have recently 'come out' as feminist. To say this is a coming out is saying that once the coming out has happened, things will be very different for that person and that person will be viewed differently. Emma Watson will be described as 'strident' now instead of demure. Beyonce is credited with giving women a voice since 'coming out' despite (arguably) many other pop artists demonstrating gender equality in a more recognisable way.

As an 'out' feminist should people be surprised that I love baking and "cooking for my husband"?
Of course not, but I am no longer expected to have hairy armpits. We've come so far and still have a way to go, The point is, it is all about equality and I have a right to bake for myself, my husband, my colleagues, the neighbours cat as much as my male colleague has a right to too without being judged.
That's my little rant (with no food pics!) inspired by a ladies magazine and that will teach me to buy such things!

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Graham's Bread, Ross-on-Wye

I don't mean to sound dramatic (for a change. OK I do) but life without bread is almost barbaric.

When people say "I could never live without bread!" one politely smiles and says "oh, it fine, really. Besides, the substitutes are really rather good these days..."

It's not fine really. I thought it was for a long time. but when I finally got good bread that I could eat (gluten free and egg free) I realised a few truths.

Life with bread is easier.
Life with bread is cheaper.
Life with bread is tastier.
Life with bread is more interesting.

Tesco used to sell a sliced bread that I could eat called 'Yes! You Can'. When they took it off the shelves I was very disappointed. I'd had a precious few months of taking normal looking sandwiches to work and toast that went in and out of my toaster with ease for breakfast. That was a couple of years ago. I've since tried to make my own bread. The result was a vile, weighty thing, resembling a mummified shoe more than a freshly baked loaf. Also, not many people mention the expense of these experiments. Buying £10 of speciality flours to see large amounts thrown in the bin adds to the melancholia.

I was house sitting for my mother-in-law last week and she lives near to Ross on Wye. Me and my husband went into town to pick up some supplies. We like to sit around her kitchen table and eat cheese, cured meats and homemade chutnies. Ross on Wye is a lovely place to shop for such things, which is a constant source of bemusement for my husband who recalls Ross in the drabness of the 80's. In the middle of the town, there is a lovely covered over area called The Market Place, used for markets since the 17th century. These days a few hardy stall holders still use the area and it is generally a good place to find old books, flowers and handmade items.

On the day we visited, we saw a bread stand advertising lardy cake, sourdough bread etc, then I noticed the 'Gluten Free' sign. I think I said something like 'well, let's just have a look at it, as we're here' to my husband! Pessimistic, much??

The man behind the table who I assumed to be Graham himself proudly talked me through the breads on offer. White and Brown sandwich bread, a more solid buckwheat bread and a very exciting looking flatbread/wrap. He also explained that a restaurant in Stroud uses his GF pizza base recipe (I think he was referring to Fat Toni's). The base is so popular that all the Trip Advisor reviews are about the GF pizza, much to the owners perturbation. (We sure know how to write shit about shit we like, huh?)

I picked up a buckwheat bread as I naturally go for the most unusual thing. Graham asked me to check out the sandwich loaf, saying that I would find it light with a great texture. I was shocked at how light it was. I checked both were egg free too and then bought both.

Back at the cottage, I thickly sliced the white and applied a generous slab of pate. There was no need at all to toast this bread first and the mouth feel was as similar to 'real' bread as I can remember. No powder feeling in the throat, no hard swallowing. I had the buckwheat with a chunky soup later on. This bread has a great flavour, almost malty with a firm texture, holding it's shape even when layered with cold butter. I had the white again for doorstop bacon sandwiches in the morning. I can't tell you how exciting it was to be able to use the term 'doorstop'!

Over the next few days, I worked my way through the bread, amazed at how easy it was to feed myself. Sandwiches were eaten as though they'd just been invented. On one of the days, I had a tongue and avocado open sandwich. It was stunning. Things that I missed out on - bruschetta, proper sized cheese on toast. Dessert? Bread and butter pudding! (OK, I didn't make any, but I will next time!)

I'm excited that I can get hold of this bread quite easily, it's only an hour away in the car. I'm planning more things to make with it and daydreaming of mayo (egg free of course) filled butties. At the same time, I'm kinda glad I don't have ready access to good bread. The bready week just highlighted how easy it is to just grab a bit of bread to make a meal and it really limits your diet and the nutrition that can be gained from a bread free meal.

It's about choices, and you don't realise how much you missed them until they are given back.

Graham's Bread is at the market in Ross-on-Wye every Saturday, 7.30 until 16.00.