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The Gluten Free Veggie

Gluten Free and Vegetarian Recipes, Reviews and Information

Month

April 2016

Eating Out | Review | La Polenteria, London

Please read the end of the review for my star rating and conclusion.

La Polenteria is a 100% gluten free restaurant in Soho, London. My boyfriend and I visited for dinner after a day out in London visiting the British Library and Oxford Street.

La Polenteria is the first 100% gluten free Italian restaurant in the UK and they use polenta as the basis for most of their dishes (if not all).

I’m not entirely sure where to start with this one so I’ll just say this – we were VERY impressed with this place. For a start, I tweeted them asking if they could cater to my dietary requirements (as you may know I’m GF, vegetarian and can’t eat alliums due to IBS, which makes life a little tricky at times). They responded almost straight away:

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I was tentatively optimistic with this response, and pleased at how quickly and pleasantly they had replied.

When we arrived I informed the waiter of my various dietary requirements and the manager came over to talk me through the menu. He went through every dish and told me which ones were suitable and where possible which ones he could change to make suitable for me. I was delighted with the choice on offer – with the three limiting dietary requirements that I have, I’m quite used to having only one choice even in a specialist gluten free restaurant!

I opted for a polenta, fried egg, scamorza cheese (a type of smoked cheese) and asparagus dish for a starter and sage and parmesan gnocchi for a main course.

My boyfriend chose a spicy poached egg and fried polenta dish for a starter and the pasta with cheese for a main course (he kindly chose a main that was also suitable for me so that I could try some!)

We were both blown away by our starters.

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I’ve had polenta before, but this was completely different. It had a beautiful creamy texture (the best way I can describe it as somewhere between mashed potato and risotto rice, but it’s too unique to directly compare to either of these) and the taste perfectly complemented the other elements of the dish. I’ve never had truffle oil OR asparagus before so this really was a new taste sensation for me – and I certainly wasn’t disappointed.

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My boyfriend was similarly impressed with his starter. His poached egg was served with a garlic and tomato sauce with courgettes and polenta croutons. The poached egg was delicate, not overdone, the croutons and sauce were deliciously flavoured and he even ate all of the courgettes (he HATES courgettes normally, despite me trying to encourage him to eat them 😉 ).

 

Both were beautifully presented, and although presentation has very little bearing on my opinion of a restaurant, it showed the extra care and love that they put into their food. Considering the quality of the starters they weren’t as expensive as you might think – £6.95 for mine, and £6.50 for my boyfriend’s. Considering the last time I was at high street Italian chain Pizza Express they charged me £5.50 for their starter of a ball of mozzarella with some pesto and tomatoes, La Polenteria’s prices are not as high as you might expect for a specialist independent London restaurant that caters for most dietary requirements. We were certainly impressed with this; being students we were a little worried that this one meal out might break the bank a bit, but it worked out at about £23 each (including VAT) for a three course meal (bear in mind we only had tap water).

After such delicious starters we were excited to see what the mains would be like.

La Polenteria make their own gluten free pasta, so as I expected, the pasta was not dry and chewy like gluten free pasta often can be. We ordered it with a creamy cheese sauce made of Gorgonzola. It was simply done, but the taste was incredible – perfect comfort food.

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As much as we both loved the dish, we agreed that a vegetarian version of their bolognese would have been perfect with this pasta – even just a simple tomato sauce with basil and mozzarella (of course I’m biased as I can’t eat onions or garlic! 😉 ). This is personal taste ONLY, and I will definitely be asking for this dish again when we return (oh yes, we WILL be returning!!).

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The gnocchi dish was a unique experience. I had gluten gnocchi as a child (before diagnosis) and was always sceptical about it – it was very heavy and tasteless. This polenta gnocchi was the complete opposite. Although filling, it didn’t have the horrible heavy texture that I remembered from “normal” gnocchi. The flavours were also perfect – truffle, cheese and sage. Again, the prices of these dishes were very reasonable when you consider the location and speciality of the restaurant – £12.00 for the pasta and £11.00 for the gnocchi. It may be slightly pricier than a typical meal out for us, but comparing again to Pizza Express, we normally pay a minimum of £10.00 each for a gluten free pizza (depending on the toppings).

I think, for me at least, dessert was the highlight of this meal, partly because it was the first time I’ve had cheesecake since being diagnosed! Oh how I’ve missed it! The waiter asked me if I’d like it with strawberry or chocolate and when I paused he added “or both?” to which I replied yes, definitely both!

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It was light, not sickly sweet, and the chocolate and strawberry worked perfectly together. I’ll be dreaming about this cheesecake until we’re able to make another trip to London!

I also think it’s worth commenting on the service. Lots of eateries have quite cold staff, who just see serving as a job (understandable as I know it’s not easy job, having worked in similar environments) but La Polenteria’s staff were happily an exception to this rule. As I said earlier the manager ran through the menu with us, but we were also served by a waiter and a waitress who supplied our drinks. Nothing was too much trouble, they were all very friendly and approachable and we were very happy with our service.

As for the feel of the restaurant itself, like most London eateries it was small, which is pretty much unavoidable for an independent place. Having said that we certainly weren’t cramped or being forced to overhear everyone else’s dinner conversation. As it was a Saturday night it was very busy, and every table was filled, yet still we had space to breath. The decor was subtle and the room felt very comfortable. Unlike Beyond Bread (review here) they were toilets, which we both found to be clean and even featured these brilliant little signs that gave us a chuckle:

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After such a glowing review I feel I should attempt to give some negatives, but I truly am struggling to think of any! So I thought it best to perhaps end on some suggestions instead. In terms of the range of food offered, we were very happy that I (with as many food issues as I have) was able to actually have a choice, but I also think that it would nice to see some other types of dishes on the menu. For example, I would be excited to see what a pizza with a polenta base would be like – delicious I imagine!

As for the pudding menu, there were only four choices – we both felt that a few more choices would have been a nice way to round off such a perfect meal – perhaps an ice cream or sorbet choice as a palette cleanser (although as I said I was ecstatic with my cheesecake).

You may have already guessed what star rating I will be giving La Polenteria.

★★★★★

5 out of 5 stars for safe dining for Coeliacs, accommodating staff and great customer service, unique and delicious food and a reasonably priced menu. I will be recommending it to anyone who will listen!

Website: http://www.lapolenteria.co.uk/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LaPolenteriaLondon/?fref=ts

Twitter: https://twitter.com/La_Polenteria

 

 

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Eating Out | Review | Beyond Bread, London

Please read the end of the review for my star rating and conclusion.

Beyond Bread is a 100% gluten free cafe in Fitzrovia, London and is somewhere I’ve been wanting to visit ever since I first hear about it a year or so ago.

My boyfriend and I took a day trip to London to visit the British Library and do some sight seeing so we popped into Beyond Bread for lunch and La Polenteria for dinner (review here).

Facility-wise Beyond Bread is somewhat lacking – they are unfortunately quite small with limited indoor seating and a few seats outside (something which you can expect with high rent prices in London) meaning we had to stand and wait for a someone to leave before being able to sit down with our drinks. However, the main issue is that they have no customer toilets. This wasn’t an issue for us (despite travelling for around 45 mins to get there, we were able to wait until we went to the British Library to use their loos) but this could potentially be a big issue for someone with small children, an elderly person or someone with special needs. Although this is not the fault of Beyond Bread themselves, I felt this is something I needed to include so that people are aware of this before visiting.

The first thing to comment on about Beyond Bread is the range of food on offer. As well as being a cafe they are a bakery and so you can buy fresh bread (several types). There were “sub” sandwiches, toasties, quiches, soup and cakes on offer which gave us a comfortable range of choices, even for someone with as many dietary requirements as I have. Having said that, the toastie I had (Bad Hunter – mozzerella, pesto and roasted veg) was the only vegetarian sandwich on offer that day, so I would have liked to have seen a few more vegetarian/vegan options.

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“Bad Hunter” toastie – mozzerella, roasted peppers, roasted aubergine and homemade pesto.

The taste of the toastie pleasantly surprised me – aubergine is one of those very flavourless vegetables that people often hate, but the combination of veg and pesto made this toastie flavourful. Despite being toasted, it didn’t come to me as warm as I had expected, although the cafe was very busy that day so this may have been why.

I can’t make my mind up about the bread; unlike the usual supermarket brands of gluten free bread, there was no chance of this bread falling to pieces, meaning I could easily pick up my toastie. However, the texture was more like that of an English muffin and the bread itself had little flavour. For the price paid (£5.10!!), I was hoping for some bread with a little more wow-factor, though I was pleased to be able to eat it like a “normal” toastie.

My boyfriend opted for mushroom soup, which (although pricey at £4.75) impressed both of us. As my IBS makes me very sensitive to alliums (and this soup contained onions) I could only try a small amount. We both enjoyed the flavour and my boyfriend particularly loved the bread that came as a side. It was nice to see hot options available.

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I decided to try a chocolate and raspberry cake for afters, which certainly didn’t disappoint. I may be slightly biased on this (as chocolate and raspberry is my absolute favourite food combination) but it was delicious. The cake itself was thankfully very moist – gluten free cakes have a bad rap for being dry or crumbly, but this was neither. The cake was topped with a beautiful chocolate ganache and fresh berries. I would suspect this cake was made using mostly dark chocolate as the taste was light, rather than the cloying sickly chocolate taste that most supermarket or high street coffee chain chocolate cakes will have.

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My boyfriend had what turned about to be quite a disappointing chocolate muffin. Unlike my beautiful cake it was dry and rather tasteless, something which we were both very disappointed to have to agree on.

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I wouldn’t let this put you off having cake there – they offered a wide ranges of sweet options including a New York cheesecake which I want to try when we return to London!

To conclude, like all of the other 100% gluten free eateries I’ve reviewed, Beyond Bread shares that feeling of complete safety – no chance of being glutened! For that alone, they deserve brownie points! Although I can make a slight allowance for it being in London, the food was very expensive – fine for a treat, but for two students out for lunch it felt rather overpriced. I was pleased with the range on offer and the place has a nice atmosphere despite being small. This is somewhere I would definitely recommend if you live or work in London and can afford it.

★★★☆☆

3 out of 5 stars for safe gluten free eating, a good range of options but a few disappointing aspects and no toilets.

Website: http://www.beyondbread.co.uk/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GlutenFreeBeyondBreadBakery

Twitter: https://twitter.com/beyond_bread

 

 

Suggestions needed!

What would you like to see more of on my blog?

Sweet foods? More vegan/dairy free recipes? Recipes that cater to other dietary requirements?

Is there a specific herb or seasoning you’d like to see used in my recipes?

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Would you like to see more product reviews? More advice for going gluten free or vegetarian?

I’d like to hear what you like best, and – opening myself up to your constructive criticisms – what you don’t like as much.

There are lots of ways to get in contact, so don’t hesitate!

Youtube: The Gluten Free Veggie – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC-b7T1VFTZqYq15aPvdlNwA

Twitter: @theGFveggie

Tumblr: glutenfreeveggie.tumblr.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/theGFveggie

E-mail: glutenfreeveggieblog@gmail.com

 

Recipe (GF, DF, V) | Colourful Egg-Fried Rice with Cashews

Easy, tasty, healthy – this is something I make on a weekly basis. The great thing about this recipe is that you can use any veg you like! Just make sure it’s as colourful as possible!

This is by no means a traditional Chinese-style egg-fried rice. Due to my IBS I can’t eat alliums (onions, garlic) and struggle with soya (so no soy sauce which I love!!). Instead I’ve used flavours I like while I try to find an alternative.

In other news I got a new camera for my birthday yesterday and so my photos are lovely and clear now! I’m glad this was the first recipe I got to use it on as it’s brought out the colours really well.

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Ingredients:

Plain white rice (60g approx.)

1/2 veg stock cube

Tenderstem broccoli florets (20g approx.)

1/2 an orange pepper

1/2 a red pepper

Smoked paprika

Salt

Cashews (10g approx.)

1 medium egg

Dried Oregano

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Method:

  1. Boil a large saucepan of water. Chop the peppers and broccoli into bite-sized pieces.
  2. Add the rice, stock cube and the veg to the pan once the water has boiled.
  3. Cook the rice and veg for 18 minutes or until the rice is al dente. Drain and put to one side.
  4. Heat a frying pan with oil. Crack the egg and lightly whisk in a bowl. Once the oil is hot, add the egg to the frying pan and stir until cooked.
  5. Once the egg is cooked add the cashews and cook until they are lightly browned.
  6. Add the rice and veg mixture and stir in the seasoning until all combined. Serve and enjoy!

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