Out & About

I will be posting here about places I’ve been, things I’ve eaten and products I’ve discovered – mostly local to Surrey and London.

Any recommendations message me, I’d love to check them out. 

Restaurant Reviews (click to jump to review):

The Kingswood Arms, Waterhouse Lane, Kingswood KT20 6EB
Le Pain Quotidien, 203 King’s Rd, London SW3 5ED
NyLon at the O2
The Caballo Lounge, 11 High St, Epsom KT19 8DA
Zizzi, 1 High St, Banstead SM7 2NE (2 reviews)
Wagamama, 1 Tavistock St, Covent Garden, London WC2E 7PG
Valentina Fine Foods, 12 Church Street, Reigate, Surrey RH2 0AN
Pizza Express, 15 High Street, Reigate, Surrey, HR2 9AA (2 reviews see Banstead below)
Le Raj, 211A Fir Tree Rd, Epsom KT17 3LB
Pizza Express, 24 High Street, Banstead, Surrey, SM7 2LJ
Organico, 121 High St, Epsom, Surrey KT19
La Polenteria, 64 Old Compton Street, London W1D 4UQ

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The Kingswood Arms, Kingswood, Surrey
The Kingswood Arms, Kingswood, Surrey

The Kingswood Arms

Went out to the Kingswood Arms last night and am please to say

They were very accommodating for my gdfree needs.

They didn’t question what I was asking for (which is always a good start), they sent a knowledgable member of their kitchen staff out to talk to me and then they offered me some good choices off their menu.

What I ate:
I had the Moroccan vegetable tagine served with humous (instead of tzatziki) and gluten free toast instead of regular flatbread.

What I thought:
It was really delicious, nice and spicy and a huge bowl full that I couldn’t even finish. I chose to have mixed olives to start with and they offered a nice bowl of mango sorbet to finish.

What I’d recommend:
I do get bored with only getting offered sorbet for dessert when there are so many easy desserts to make the gdfree way like chocolate brownies or crumble for example. I recommend they try to get something different on the menu if possible.
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Le Pain Quotidien

Had a sneaky escape-to-london-lunch today with number 1 son and he chose (honestly he chose) Le Pain Quotidian because he wanted to have the chocolate bomb slice for pudding! At least he has his priorities straight right?!

The menu is a plethora of vegan, gluten free, organic loveliness and promises great things, I found it hard to choose!

However….the staff, although trying to be helpful, were completely useless, very slow and kept forgetting things we’d ordered. I practically had a fight with one of the waitresses about whether eggs were dairy or not…..I mean????? I understand a lot of their food is vegan but since when were eggs dairy? They come from chickens, not cows! We had to order drinks twice and condiments twice and then had to practically leave the restaurant to get them to notice that we were trying to pay the bill.

What I ate:
Smoked chicken club ‘tartine’ with a side of avocado on gluten free toast and an almond milk Mocha followed by a gdfree chocolate brownie.

What I thought:
Delicious except there were too many spring onions for my liking! The bread was SO good I bought a loaf to take home with me. The chorizo slices were to die for and I thought my self-addition of avocado was a perfect one. Almond milk Mocha was also a hit and didn’t turn my stomach like the Costa soy ones do.

What I’d recommend:
Train your staff better. They should know what they’re talking about the understand the difference between wheat free and gluten free, and dairy free and vegan. Basic stuff I’d have thought if you work that kind of establishment.
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Nylon

Was treated by the hubs to a lovely night out at the O2 and we had a pre-show dinner and bottle of wine at the NY-LON bar. It’s a cool, airport-style lounge and has a fun buzzy atmosphere. Menu choices were limited to just four different kinds of sharing platters: meat, vegetarian, cheese or seafood.

What I ate:
We had a meat & a vegetarian platter and both were delicious. Very generous portions but a bit over-generous with the accompanying bread as you can see!

What I thought:
Staff were helpful when recommending what was gdfree and advised me that the pesto and humous were bought in a couldn’t be guaranteed to be gluten free (apparently they might have had breadcrumbs in them? strange). They happily brought be a huge platter of gf bread just for me (the platter on the left) and it was lovely, warm and soft.

What I’d recommend:
Look to source the humous and pesto from a supplier that doesn’t use gluten in them and maybe offer more menu choices generally.
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The Caballo Lounge

Just had a valentine’s breakfast treat without any children (miracle!) at The Caballo Lounge in Epsom and thoroughly enjoyed it!

 

They have an amazing choice on their menu offering a whole page of gluten free adapted dishes as well as a few vegan options too which I was impressed by.

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What I ate:
I chose the vegetarian breakfast because it had the addition of roasted red peppers, spinach and mushrooms with a side of bacon (naughty I know!) all served with a toasted gf bread roll.

What I thought:
Really good. Not too heavy, hash browns were particularly good as was the bread they served. Egg cooked perfectly. Crispy bacon and lovely sides.

What I’d recommend:
No need, it was a good gdfree dining & eating experience! I’ll be coming back!
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Zizzi

Zizzi on Banstead high street have an excellent self-explanatory Freefrom menu which means whether you’re gf, df, sf, ef or even vegan, then you should be able to find something to eat here!

 

2nd Review March 2016

I was seriously excited to go and try the new pizza range that they have been offering with vegan ‘mozzarella’ so we took the kids over the Easter weekend.

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An unappetizing gf vegan pizza

What I ate:

They offer a simple tomato & mozzarella base as a starting point and then you can choose what toppings to order. Off the Vegan menu obviously all the toppings are veggie choices but I am sure you could order any toppings off the entire menu if you wanted.

I ordered artichoke, butternut squash, black olives and caramelised onions.

What I thought:

Well, I don’t know where to start to be honest. Firstly the waiter told me they had run out of gluten free bases so I couldn’t have pizza at all. He was pretty rude and unfriendly about it until I asked to speak to the manager. The manager then said he could ‘find’ me a gluten free base after all. Suspicious. When it arrived the middle was totally cold, which made me realise that what they had probably done is defrosted a frozen base? So I sent it back. When I actually got to eat it I have to say…..I wasn’t very impressed. The cheese was a bit like cream cheese and tasted of nothing. It really didn’t add anything and sadly didn’t make me feel like I was having a cheesy pizza at all. The rest of the toppings were minimal, it looked like someone just chucked them on and the caramelised onions were so strong you could barely taste anything else.

What I’d recommend:

Considering they have been advertising their new menu and especially the new vegan cheese pizza so much, you really should take more time to make your vegan gf customers feel loved. And try to make your pizzas look as if someone has paid them some attention rather than making them with their eyes closed. And lastly, how about asking your waiters to be nice to their customers when telling them they can’t have what they came to have? That’s just decent customer service. Not impressed with this visit.

1st Review February 2016

What I ate:
I chose the Zucca gluten free pizza off the allergen menu but asked them to replace the pesto base (as it had parmesan in it) with a tomato base and remove the goats cheese.

They were super relaxed about making a ‘special’ pizza for me, nothing was too much bother and I didn’t feel weird or annoying!

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What I thought:
The toppings were really good, the caramelised onion particularly, and I didn’t really miss not having cheese on it which was a surprise. But the base was very hard to cut through and you couldn’t eat the crusts as they were just too crispy.

What I’d recommend:
I think they are pretty well covered for freefrom here, the pastas looked great and there are plenty of other choices from risottos to meat dishes too. The staff were excellent, helpful and well trained. Overall a good experience, feel lucky I have one just round the corner!
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Wagamama

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Took the family up to Covent Garden to spend the morning at the London Transport Museum during half term and we had  lunch at the Wagamamas nearby.

 

 

Having never taken the children there I was a bit worried they wouldn’t be up for trying anything on the menu but as it turned out they totally loved it. The staff and the menu is super child-friendly and allergy friendly for me too.

IMG_2945What I ate:
Chicken Pad Thai. As soon as I mentioned to our server that I was gdfree he gave me a full allergy menu and rushed off to get the manager and she was incredibly knowledgable and relaxed about explaining to me what was and was not suitable. She said they make the pad thai with rice noodles anyway, would remove the shallots (battered I think?) and use the gf soy sauce for me.

 

waga10_0What I thought:
It wasn’t the greatest pad thai I’ve ever had (but I may be biased having been to Thailand when I was a student and eaten the real deal!) and I felt a little hard done by with the small portion and the lack of finesse with the presentation. Also couldn’t find much chicken in it…however it was tasty. Most of the menu seems to be dairy free by design anyway and with the option to sub in rice noodles in most dishes it’s really a very approachable menu to choose from.

What I’d recommend:
I think they’re pretty well covered, both with menus, choice and staff. Not bad, think I was a bit unlucky with my particularly dish perhaps.
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Valentina Fine Foods

Valentina-Reigate

Me and my two year old went for lunch in Reigate last week and had a great eating experience at Valentina Fine Food. I knew about them already because back in the days when the supermarkets weren’t stocking any decent gf pasta I used to order packets of my favourite brand Le Veneziane from them.

They have a lovely menu and it’s clearly marked up with gluten free options.

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What I ate:

Gluten free penne pasta with tomato & basil sauce and a side order of polenta chips with spicy tomato dipping sauce.

What I thought:

The pasta was very ‘al dente’ but I suspect it was meant to be. I’d have preferred it cooked for an extra few minutes. The polenta chips were a revelation! Cripsy, salty and quite addictive dipped into the tomato sauce. yum.

When I went home I was so inspired I thought I’d google how to make polenta chips and then discovered that they are usually loaded with parmesan and butter. Gulp. So you know what I did, I contacted the restaurant through their Facebook page and  got this lovely reply:

Thank you for your email and sorry for the delay in getting back to you – I had to double check with the chef and manager so I had the correct information. The reason why on our menu polenta chips are not highlighted as being diary free or gluten free is because usually the chefs will add butter and Parmesan cheese and the chips are then cooked in the fryer, the same fryer that we cook breaded items and wheat pasta. Having told Vincenzo of your concerns he placed the order with the allergies listed and the chef cooked the chips separately, in new oil, and without butter or Parmesan. 
I hope this helps, if you do need any more information please do not hesitate to get in touch. 

What I’d recommend:

Nothing! I was really impressed by their service, menu, lovely restaurant and mostly by their caring nature over my food concerns. 5 stars! Also, having a little shop within the restaurant meant I could stock up on a few gluten free goodies….bonus!

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Pizza Express

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We went to Pizza Express this week for kids tea and although the kids were quite happy I found it a bit of a challenge.

 

 

What I ate:
Romana Pollo ForzaI had the Pollo Forzo pizza on a gluten free base (they can do ANY of their pizzas on a gluten free base) and asked them to remove the cheese. Them I asked my server if their highly recommended gluten free chocolate brownie was dairy free or not…..he told me it was so I ordered a small one off their Dolcetti menu.

What I thought:
DELICIOUS! Seriously, one of the best pizzas I’ve had for ages. Proper foldable crust that you can eat right up to the edges and the toppings were excellent.

The chocolate brownie was also really good….but on the way home my stomach began to churn and I began to wonder.

Dolcetti Chocolate BrownieWhat I’d recommend:
When I got home I messaged Pizza Express on their Facebook page and asked about whether the brownie was dairy free and they confirmed what I suspected, that it wasn’t. They were obviously apologetic and asked where I was and when so they could contact the manager. Now, it was probably my fault in part as well because I should have consulted their full allergen menu before ordering. But I did expect the server to know his stuff. Lesson learnt.

 

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Le Raj

26-Ep-Le-Raj-Review-3This is my local Indian so I am literally right now jumping for joy to discover Le Raj is seriously the most gluten free dairy free restaurant I have come across so far!

When I spoke to the waiter he sent over the manager who told me that nearly everything on their menu was gluten free anyway except primarily for the naan bread and most dishes were also dairy free.

What I ate:


We were a large party so they recommended going for the sharing platters and they didn’t disappoint. Sorry for the bad photos! The meat platter only had 1 item with dairy in that I couldn’t eat and I had to skip the bottom pancake wraps from the veggie platter. And then I had spicy chicken curry which I can’t remember the name of plus we had loads of veggie side dishes.

What I thought:
It was all incredibly delicious! I felt totally included and not annoying at all which usually happens when I’m the only difficult one out of a large party. I hardly had to miss out on anything. They even made me my own gluten free paratha type of bread on the side.

What I’d recommend:
They should advertise their free-from friendliness more on their website because I’m a local and I had no idea that it was so gluten & dairy free friendly. It would be huge selling point for them.

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Pizza Express Review 2

Following the launch of their new Spring menu I ended up back at Pizza Express today with the kids as a breaking-up-from-school treat. I got to try their newly created gluten free dough balls which was a bit exciting!

What I ate:
I had the gf dough balls, followed by the Pianta pizza (Spinach, closed cup mushroom, pine kernels, artichoke, tomato, chilli flakes and garlic oil finished with rocket, extra virgin olive oil and fresh parsley. No cheese) on a gluten free base with a side dish of the Leggare Superfood salad (a superfood mix of green lentils, black rice, edamame beans, red quinoa, chickpeas, cranberries, pumpkin seeds and kale in a flavoursome vinaigrette on a bed of seasonal mixed leaves, rocket, cucumber, roasted red & yellow peppers, red onion and fresh parsley with our light house dressing).

What I thought:
The dough balls were great! Quite different to the chewy slightly greasy texture of regular dough balls. These ones are light and fluffy, less like pizza dough and more like a mini bread roll. I substituted the garlic butter for olive oil and it was a tasty starter to nibble on whilst waiting for the main event.

And the main event was…..good!! Really good!!

Delicious toppings on a tangy tomato base, loads of veg, the artichoke was particularly tasty and topped with tons of rocket. The salad was tangy, full of goodies and a decent size for a side dish, I wasn’t disappointed. In fact I ordered way too much food but of course they were happy to box up half the pizza and the rest of the salad for me to take home….that’s dinner sorted then!

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What I’d recommend:
I think Pizza Express are doing a pretty good job in catering for their freefrom customers. There is more range and variation in the new menu and you certainly don’t feel like you’re missing out on anything. Maybe they need to look into putting vegan cheese on their pizzas like Zizzi have just to top it all off?! Just a thought!

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Organico

I just fell in love with this local cafe/shop selling 70% gluten & dairy free products. 

Just amazing to have such a huge range of gdfree products, food and treats on offer. It made me feel like I was in a little trendy coffee house in New York or something like that. Lovely interior design with wooden floors, plants, benches, cushions and cute little cafe tables spilling out onto the street outside. Stacks and stacks of amazing looking products from table sauces to flours, pastas to teas, fresh fruit & veg to cheese and ice cream. I could have spent hours browsing here and I’ll be coming back as often as possible!

I shopped my little heart out (see all the goodies I got below! might have gone a little overboard?!) and then stopped for a smoothie and a muffin. And amazingly when I was chatting to the owner over the counter he pointed out that more than half of the fresh treats (mostly muffins) that they sell are gluten and dairy free! I mean I’m used to be offered one measly choice at places like Starbucks or Costa, this is in a different league. They also did some delicious looking lunch options like wraps, flatbreads and thing like that. Apparently they are known for their own coffee blend but as I’m not much of a coffee drinking I opted for one of the many smoothies listed up on the board.

What I ate:
A chocolate smoothie off their lovely sounding list of green and sweet raw smoothies. Made with banana, cacao and I can’t remember what else but it was so good who cares?! and an almond & raspberry muffin.

What I thought:
The smoothie was totally perfect, exactly what I hoped for. Creamy, chocolately and didn’t taste horribly healthy, it just tasted yum! And the muffin was….well it was a muffin. You couldn’t have known it was gluten and dairy free.

What I’d recommend:
The only thing I’d suggest that this little local cafe does is – publicise more! It has been there for a year and a half and I’d only just noticed it. A couple of people I’ve spoken to about it knew about it but not many. I think it’s a real treat to have such a gorgeous independent business on our local high street and I for one will be going back very soon.

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Some of the goodies here were from Organico

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La Polenteria

La Polentaria is a tiny little restaurant tucked away at the top of Old Compton Street. First impressions were good. They have cool gluten free info up on the walls and chalkboards and the waiter/manager was friendly, informative and incredibly welcoming. The menu seemed small and somewhat limited if you don’t like polenta (!) however and there were only a couple of specials on the board listed for lunchtime.

What I ate & what I thought:
We shared a plate of vegetable crudités and olives when we arrived which was ok but a bit unimaginative I thought. Then we had to ask for bread (because it wasn’t on the menu) and they bought a few slices in a basket with some slices of polenta. The bread was a bit sweet but ok (didn’t seem homemade to me) but the polenta slices were quite strange and a bit tasteless unless you dipped them in the olive oil dressing.
For starters, I had the butternut squash & coconut milk veloute which was delicious, creamy and served with beautiful little sautéed mushrooms on top. The hubs had the asparagus & egg with truffle oil on a bed of creamy polenta and he liked it, but i found the taste of the truffle too overpowering and the polenta quite chewy.
For mains I had the most incredibly delicious handmade ravioli and I don’t say this lightly but it was the BEST gluten free pasta I have EVER had!
Lovely light texture, the right kind of al dente, sweet and creamy. I wish there had been a veggie option but the beef ragu inside was tasty and rich. It was served with an onion and pine nut sauce which was tangy and a perfect accompaniment.
The hubs ordered the pork shank on a bed of creamy polenta served with gravy and veg. This time I thought the polenta was delicious but even the hubs found the pork shank a bit too enormous to manage! We also shared a salad of greens, pear and walnuts (they gave us the gorgonzola on the side) and it was ok. Just ok.
For pudding we shared a polenta crepe and sadly it was inedible. Chewy, flaccid, cold and unappetising, which was a real shame.
What I’d recommend:
If you read their website you find out about the back story of two Italians coming together over their love of authentically cooked polenta dishes from their childhood homes in the countryside and I admire the concept behind what this little restaurant is trying to do.
But I think they are missing a huge trick…..when you advertise as being London’s first gluten free Italian restaurant what do you think? You think gluten free pasta right?! That was what I was expecting. And because their pasta was absolutely divine, that’s what they should be advertising and making more of in their menu.
The waiter admitted that the kitchen is so tiny that they don’t have enough room for much pasta production but I would recommend that they try making small batches as daily specials perhaps in order to widen their menu choices. They also need to think about the menu accompaniments like salads, nibbles, sharing dishes, sides and desserts because I thought that the limitation of these let it down.
Would I go back….yes just for the pasta alone! Anytime!

NB: I am blogging these reviews off my own back, I’m not getting paid (sadly), I’m just looking to discover what gdfree choices there are in my world and sharing them with you.