Wednesday, 29 July 2015

The New Inn at Tholthorpe, near York

The chain restaurants are really starting to crack catering for the gluten free community. Most have the investment behind them to size the market share, test menus and put in place training and systems to avoid any potential mishaps. However, there are many independent places up and down the country that seem to be behind the curve. Not everywhere I might add and certainly London has the sheer volume of people and places to cater for a multitude of requirements. Outside of the capital the coeliac experience can be a bit hit and miss. One place that certainly hits the spot though is the New Inn at Tholthorpe near York.

I was born and bred in York and often head back for a long weekend to visit friends and family. We decided to head to the New Inn after coming across it on the Tesco clubcard site as it takes their vouchers. There was a review that mentioned it catered for gluten allergies so it certainly sounded promising.

After a long drive from Norfolk I was ready for refuelling. The menu had a host of options for coeliacs and was clearly labelled. When I told our server I was gluten free he also told me which of the specials I could have and then to my excitement added that they could make the fish and chips gluten free too! He reassured me that they were cooked separately, I was sold! They were delicious too, a light and crispy batter, 'proper' chips (not like door stops but nothing skinny about them either), mushy peas and a creamy tartar sauce. I just about had room for a dessert and couldn't resist the sound of a lemon panna cotta with a cherry coulis. It was a great find, good pub food at a reasonable price with a range of gluten free options.

It was so good we headed back on a recent trip to Scotland. We judged it was about half way and thought it would be the perfect place to stop for some lunch. The lunch menu had a good range of options too, smaller plates, sandwiches and some larger dishes. We over ordered but it was definitely worth it. A rich and creamy baked Camembert which was served with an apple and grape chutney was suitably moreish. Perhaps not as moreish as the little deep fried pieces of pork belly served with a sweet chilli sauce! Soft tender meat with a crispy crackling  around the outside, these were really something special. Sandwiches served on a really good gluten free bread were great too.

I'm hopeful that this level of catering for coelics will become the norm and more pubs will catch up with the New Inn. Until they do, I'll be heading there whenever I get the opportunity!

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Where to eat out in Copenhagen, Denmark - Gluten Free

Back in May, my wife and I travelled to Copenhagen looking for a weekend of relaxation, sight seeing and, of course, delicious food to celebrate our first wedding anniversary. After arriving in torrential rain we checked in to our hotel and dried off. From then on there wasn't a cloud in the sky and the city was bathed in Spring sunshine. Our hotel was in a great location, right by Copenhagen's food market where we would spend a lot of our time! The people of Copenhagen were great and I didn't have any trouble eating fantastic gluten free food. As always, I took coeliac translation cards, but didn't need them. I think Copenhagen was possibly the most clued up place I have been so far! So here's a whistle stop tour of some of the great gluten free places to eat out in Copenhagen:

Hotel Kong Arthur
Ok, not somewhere we actually ate out but I had to give a quick shout out to the hotel. The service was fantastic, they even upgraded us to a suite as it was our anniversary, but there were two especially good features.... 1. The proximity to Copenhagen's food market (more on that soon!) and 2. 'Cosy Hour', a brilliant idea - between 5pm and 6pm on an evening the bar gave out a free glass of wine. It was the perfect timing, following a day of walking round the sights, to recharge the batteries ready for an evening out.

We spent a lot of time here! Copenhagen's food market with loads of stalls selling fresh produce to tapas bars, sushi bars and, our favourite, the outdoor cava bar! Here's some of the awesome places we found in Torvehallerne...
There's a couple of these in Copenhagen as the trend for 'clean eating' hits the Danes too. Whether you're a fan of fad diets or not, for those avoiding gluten, Paleo is perfect. It's always worth checking when you go but everything was gluten free when we went. We shared a couple of dishes which made for a very tasty lunch. We were so ravenous following our flight that I didn't get chance to take pictures so you'll have to trust me on this one. Spiralised vegetables with a rich tasty bolognese and pulled pork in an omelette style wrap.
Possibly the best gluten free breakfast anywhere, ever! I'm a big porridge fan but I'm an even bigger porridge fan when it's gluten free and served with almonds, chopped apple and caramel sauce. They make it fresh while you wait and there's loads of toppings to choose from. The gluten free porridge blend was deliciously creamy and a hearty filling breakfast which set you up for the day!
Coffee Collective
Again, not really a gluten free recommendation, just a great cup of coffee recommendation. Seriously good coffee and the perfect accompaniment to your gluten free porridge!
Sushi Lovers
Sushi is certainly popular in Copenhagen and it's really good quality too. Staff were knowledgeable when I asked what they could make gluten free and there were plenty of options. They ended up doing us a sharing platter and provided gluten free tamari sauce.
And the rest of Copenhagen...
Spuntino is described as a modern Italian kitchen but is like no Italian food I have ever eaten! There are clearly nods to Italy with a beef carpaccio, creamy polenta and fava bean pesto on the menu but these collide with Danish influences to deliver a really creative menu. With tables packed into a small room split with glass panels and a large olive tree growing through the middle of the restaurant, it's an unusual but ambient setting. Once again there were no problems catering for coeliacs and those with a gluten free diet. I ordered what I wanted from the tasting menu and there were just a couple of minor modifications which didn't detract from any of the dishes. A highlight was the lumpfish roe with marscapone and lardo, a lightness that is often evident in Danish cuisine and delicious combination of texture and flavour. Although I'm not normally a fan of polenta this may be because it's never been served with pea shoots, popcorn, mushroom boullion and ricotta! A combination that sounds like you just staggered drunkenly into Waitrose and came out with a random selection of ingredients but one made your tastebuds do a little dance with every mouthful!

I've not even finished the blog and even thinking about this restaurant is making me want to go back to Copenhagen. As Noma was fully booked (my credit card was certainly more pleased than my wife!), we decided to splash out and go to the Michelin starred Relae, now one of the top 50 restaurants in the world. With restaurants like this you can clearly see why the food scene in Copenhagen should be taken seriously. Ingredients I've never tasted, processes that I couldn't dream of and a knack of creating wonderfully fresh dishes that awaken a palette I didn't even know I had! I can't do it justice but a dish of trout, cucumber and pine which sounds simple was stunning and a dessert of warm egg yolk, yoghurt sorbet, lemon curd and caramelised butter milk the most delicious piece of artwork I've ever eaten. How you can have a warm egg yolk inside a cold yoghurt sorbet and how you can make it all taste sensational is beyond my culinary know-how! There were some really nice added touches too, from the gluten free crisp breads they provided me, to the hidden drawer in the table containing your cutlery and menu! Relae is a real experience and one I would certainly recommend.

From a Michelin starred lunch to a hot dog in the street; it's great to have so many gluten free options. This organic hot dog stand outside the round tower is a must for a quick bite to eat. The hot dogs were naturally gluten free and although you can't have the bun, who would want one when you can get it with delicious mash, pickled beets and a tangy mustard.

Sticks n Sushi
I didn't realise there are now branches of Sticks n Sushi in London but this was great for a late night meal. We sat at the bar and watched them working the extremely hot grill and rolling the sushi by hand. It's exactly what it says, grilled sticks of various meats and fish in delicious Japanese inspired marinades and a wide variety of sushi. Once again we ordered a selection and they swapped in and out a couple of sticks I couldn't have and brought gluten free tamari sauce.

Les Trois Cochons
For our last meal of the holiday we went to the French inspired Les Trois Cochons which is part of the same group of restaurants as Spuntino. I've no idea what you do if you're on your own as everything was served for a minimum of two and to the table but it's an excellent spot for a romantic meal for two or a big family meal. The food is big, hearty and delicious. If you had a French grandma I imagine this is what she would serve. A trio of starters including smoked mackerel, braised baby gem lettuce and a delicious beef tartare all hit the spot. The main was where it really delivered, a huge portion of perfectly cooked steak served with creamy mash, green beans and a delicious red wine sauce. We just about managed the trio of desserts, let's face it, who can resist a crème brulée!
 We had a fantastic weekend in Copenhagen and I'd thoroughly recommend it!