Tuesday, January 20, 2015

A Quick Lunch at Hotel du Vin, Edinburgh

My speedy lunch yesterday is probably not sufficient for a full-on review.  However, I ate at the Hotel du Vin Bistro which is within the five star Hotel of the same name and the experience was, on the whole, good.  In a slightly uneasy location on an island in the middle of a one way loop, the Hotel may have trouble with pick up and drop off for guests - and I am confused about where they might park.... but the Hotel and its rooms are lovely and full of character.

Anyway, to the restaurant.  As it is January and it was a working lunch, we had a quick main course followed by a cup of peppermint tea.

I ate the cod with puy lentils and my gluten eating friend had liver and mashed potato, which looked delicious, though possibly quite filling for lunch!  My cod was well cooked and really hot, which on a cold January day was very welcome.  The waiter, on being told I was coeliac, checked my choice with the kitchen and they cooked my cod without the breadcrumb crust.  It was delicious and meaty and filling, with a very tasty buttery bowl of thinly sliced carrots on the side.  This was a meal that was good on its own and I certainly did not feel I was eating a compromise option.

With plenty of water and a nice cup of peppermint tea, this was the ideal speedy lunch.  My only criticism of the restaurant might be that the waiter did not know the gluten free options automatically and had to check with the kitchen.  Other restaurants I have dined in have a specific menu with information written in it which allows you to make your choice in an easier and more relaxed way.  I also noticed there were no main course salads on the menu - I know it is January, but a salad is a good lunch option and is usually my first choice.

This is a restaurant I go to fairly frequently with my family, so will definitely return.  At that time I shall do a proper review with full scores.

I did remember to photograph my meal this time!  But it was only after I had eaten it that I remembered that you need to check puy lentil packets as some are produced using an anti-caking agent which can contain wheat.  Marks & Spencer puy lentils are not suitable, whereas the Merchant Gourmet ones are.  Reading the ingredients box has become my new obsession!

Hotel du Vin
11 Bristo Place
Edinburgh EH1 1EZ
0844 735 4255

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

David Bann Restaurant

David Bann is an Edinburgh institution, representing vegetarian cooking at its best.  Known for good service and surprisingly tasty food, this is a great destination for vegetarians and meat eaters.  The restaurant immediately offered a separate menu, with scribbles in all the right places to enable easy gluten free choices.

There is a good range of gluten free food and my choice was not limited.  I started with a very good stack polenta and roasted vegetables (I really do have to get into the habit of photographing my food before I dive in) and a main course of risotto (with the mushroom element left out, naturally).

The risotto was a healthy portion and despite missing a main ingredient, for me was sufficiently tasty that I pretty much finished my plate.  My teenage boy (who eats gluten fine) ate the goats cheese and onion tartlet very quickly, followed by a cashew nut and potato pie.  He was then too full for pudding, which represents a win!

Side orders included some very tasty and gluten free chips with dips:

The puddings look good and my dining companies tucked in happily, while I was too full after my risotto.

Overall I would say this is good dining for a coeliac and the restaurant is good at giving clarity around choices.  As a keen meat and fish eater I would not automatically choose to eat just vegetarian and my concern was that it was removing even more GF choices from my menu, but actually I was happy with it all.

Again, this is not a cheap option for a restaurant. It comes in at around £30 a head, which will be steep for many people, but I highly recommend it - particularly for the gluten free vegetarian.

Information: 4
Serving Staff: 4 (I was accidentally given a bread roll)
Choices: 3.5
Quality: 5
Overall Experience: 4

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Review of Edinburgh's Gusto

Some days you find the right place and feel like the world is on your side. This was how I felt when I recently had lunch at Gusto on George Street.  With a really clued up team and a great range of food for the coeliac, this was a very good dining experience.

We had one small hiccup, that the whole meal that came, including the food for my non-gluten free companion, was gluten free.  However, this was a massive compensation for me, as it meant I could try the Gusto gluten free pasta option – which is extremely good and indistinguishable from the “normal”.  And my wheat friendly friend gave it the thumbs up, which is an accolade!  The other point I would make is that the menu has no indication of GF options or any pointers, so we were entirely dependent on the waiter for guidance, which could be a problem in some circumstances.

The inability of restaurants to offer gluten free chips was one of the shocks when I first started dining out, but I have to applaud Gusto for offering some delicious roast potatoes as an alternative. Flavoured with herbs and garlic, they were actually better than chips and I would not normally have thought of ordering them.   They came, accompanying a very good Romesco Salad – with goats cheese and chicken.  My unwittingly gluten free friend had a seafood pasta, which had a garlic tomato sauce, a lovely herby tang and was extremely tasty.  The food is well presented and came quickly, which is impressive as the restaurant was busy.

With two large glasses of wine, the menu came to a very good value £35 – all with good service and friendly and clear help.   Add this to your list of gluten free dining options and you will not regret it.  I was so taken with it, I plan to go back next week with a group of friends.

Apologies for the photography - we had tucked well into our delicious meal before I remembered that I had to photograph it!

Information: 3
Serving Staff: 4 (but only as we were more GF than intended)
Choices: 4
Quality: 4.5
Overall Experience: 4.5

135 George Street, Edinburgh, Midlothian EH2 4JS
0131 225 2555


Thursday, January 1, 2015

The Best Gluten Free Afternoon Tea in Edinburgh

A proper afternoon tea is a really indulgent treat when done properly.  It offers the chance for a catch-up with a friend or a family celebration.  When going for a gluten free afternoon tea it is important to book in advance to ensure the best experience possible.  Here is a small selection of some of Edinburgh’s finest.

Café Portrait

Set within the Portrait Gallery on Queen Street, Café Portrait offers a superb afternoon tea in the snug at the rear of the restaurant.  With cake stands and prosecco, this is an indulgent treat with a lovely selection of savoury and sweet delights.  With advance warning the whole stack of scones, cakes and sandwiches can be offered gluten free, including the warming little cup of soup to start.  Add in the glass of fizz and celebrate how a GF life does not need to exclude the highest quality afternoon tea!

Run by Heritage Portfolio, the same quality of food is also available at the two modern art galleries, Hopetoun House (during summer months) and at the Signet Library on the High Street.  These all offer GF lunches and treats as a matter of course.

Café Portrait
Queen Street, EH2 1JD
0131 624 6423

North Bridge Brasserie Scotsman

The North Bridge Brasserie is the public restaurant within the Scotsman Hotel.  It is a great spot for a pre-dinner drink, or dinner itself.  The surroundings are modern, but comfortable and the Brasserie also offers a badged Gluten Free Afternoon Tea.  With treats including sandwiches made with Genius bread; fruit scones; lemon meringues and strawberry & ginger cake, the tea runs alongside a classic Afternoon Tea.  Also offered with champagne, this is an indulgent, but gluten free friendly option. 

North Bridge Brasserie
Edinburgh EH1 ITR
0131 622 2900

The Balmoral Hotel

The Palm Court in Edinburgh’s Balmoral Hotel is a legendary location for ladies who do afternoon tea. Classic cake stands, a wonderful choice of teas and the best possible service all contribute to make this one of the city’s finest afternoon tea experiences.  Gluten free options include open sandwiches, scones and cakes, all on a separate stand.  While the website does not make this option explicit, as you might expect from a five star establishment, nothing is too much trouble!

The Balmoral Hotel
1 Princes Street, EH2 2EQ
0131 556 2414

G&V Hotel

My previous review of lunch at the five star G&V demonstrated the excellence in service and the level of understanding around gluten free dining.

The G&V also provides a delicious prosecco afternoon tea with a cake stand of treats plus tea and a glass of fizz.  Advance warning brings you a pile of delicious gluten free cakes, sandwiches and delights.  The service is always good and the hotel will undergo a refurbishment in early 2015 as it drops much of the previous Missoni branding and improves the public spaces.  Can’t wait!

G&V Hotel
1 George IV Bridge, EH1 1AD

0131 220 6666

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Keeping your toast gluten free

Bread and pasta are the two wheat laden staples that for many new coeliacs represent a challenge. There are good gluten free pastas available (review to come!), whereas bread somehow is never quite the same.  However, there are some good brands out there which, with careful use, can be pretty much as good as your previous daily bread.  The Newburn Bakehouse brand by Warburtons includes some good brown seeded rolls, which I happily substitute for a "normal" brand.  And the Genius brand, developed by a very enterprising mother of a coeliac boy (based in Edinburgh!), is superb.

I have been buying the Genius three seed and brown breads.  I am not a big bread eater anyway, so I keep them in the freezer and take out a slice when needed, defrost microwave for 20 seconds and then put in the toaster.

Sharing a toaster with wheat eaters is a potential for contamination.  My second wheat ingesting mistake was putting some Genius in the toaster without protecting it.  I then felt ropey for the rest of the day - so contamination is a real threat!

Many nutritionists and websites recommend using Toastabags (available from Lakeland!) which are designed for cheese toasties.  However, I found the bags too big to fit in the toaster and they developed heat pockets which burnt both the toast and my fingers.  I have therefore developed an ingenious alternative: take the Toastabag and cut off the top bit with the handles.  The cut off the bottom and slit open one side, leaving you with a long, folded piece of material, which slots into the toaster easily.  The bread then sits within this protective wrap, but because it is not entirely closed you do not get the nasty heat pockets.  Each Toastabag packet contains two bags so you can cut them both up and then you have two, for when you want to toast a muffin or roll, or just want two bits of toast.

Here is the newly created "ToastaWrap" in use:

As with all gluten free eating, you are advised to wipe away loose wheat crumbs before using a shared toaster.  If you are flush and have plenty of space, you could buy your own toaster, but I believe with care and your own ToastaWrap you will have no problems.   It also helps to educate the rest of your family in being careful and wiping down worksurfaces after making wheat toast!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

G&V Hotel, Royal Mile

The G&V hotel on the corner of the Royal Mile and George IV Bridge in Edinburgh is a fashionista's dream.  Having rebranded from the Missoni earlier this year, the Hotel will be having a major facelift in early 2015, but the high standards of service and food will remain.  This is five star excellence at its best.

As it is Christmas, let's start with the booze: we had lunch in the restaurant after a glass of the delightful on-tap Prosecco in the modern bar.  With lunch we had a lovely glass of Soave and the ultimate in care and service.

As a coeliac, there is a massive difference between dining in an ok restaurant (Namaste Katmandu on Forrest Road did not merit a review due to a second rate experience) and dining five star.  Our waitress was immediately attentive and highlighted issues to me before I had even noticed them.  When I picked my main course, she said she would check what was in it and ensure it was ok, rather than make me choose an alternative.

The loveliest thing was the delicious brown seedy roll of gluten free bread brought for me, plus my own bowl of olive oil for dipping.  This was followed by a selection of starters which we shared (again I was told what to avoid).  The goats cheese and beetroot salad was the best I have ever eaten – light and fluffy with the goats cheese made into a soft soufflé.

As a  main course I had a piece of seriously tender lamb, with fennel and olives, all sitting in a little pool of really tasty sauce and with some potato wedges on the side.  Two of my fellow diners enjoyed a pasta dish and the restaurant assured me I could too as they make fresh pasta daily, including a gluten free option.  However, I can never resist lamb, so did not try it.  Though I am sure it is excellent, as is everything at the G&V.

We had no room for puddings, instead enjoying a pot of peppermint tea with a (non GF) piece of Christmassy gingerbread on the side (which I conveniently passed in a teaspoon to my friend).

Highly recommended if you can afford it – I know not everyone has the luxury of dining like this, though it does work well for a coeliac!  If you can’t, find someone who will take you for a special occasion. 


Information: 5
Serving Staff: 5
Choices: 4 (but only because there were too many mushrooms on the menu!)
Quality: 5

Overall Experience: 5

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Mince Pies!

Using the pastry recipe I posted earlier in December, I have just created some lovely mince pies.  I used Infinity Foods organic and gluten free mincemeat, adding a little extra brandy for effect.