Eating out with friends is always a hassle when you’ve got dietary requirements. It’s not as simple as stopping off at the first place you like the look of. Instead you spend 5 minutes scanning the menu to see if there’s anything you can actually eat (and hoping that it’s something you’ll actually enjoy).
Even once you’re through the door you’re still not home free, asking staff about their cross contamination policies and double checking the chips aren’t dusted in flour before frying, it really can put a downer on the experience.
Over time you’ll get to know where you can and can’t eat and I find it’s always best to have a few options in your back pocket where you’re guaranteed to have a great meal with minimal hassle. Plenty of nationwide chains now offer gluten free options and it’s easy to find one no matter where in the UK you are, so here are a few of my favourites.
Best for burgers: Honest Burger
This one’s a bit of a cheat as they aren’t really nationwide (but they are a chain with 22 locations all around london) but there’s no way I could leave them off my list. Offering a small menu which only contains burgers and sides, Honest doesn’t do much, but they do it well.
All their burgers are available on a gluten free bun (but if you’re ordering something other than beef make sure you check with a member of staff first) and come with a side of rosemary-salted chips which are also gluten free. They have a range of sides, and while you can’t have them all they make up for that by offering gluten free beer.
What I order:
- Gluten free tribute burger (with fries)
- Daura Dram gluten free beer
Best for pizza: Pizza express
Pizza Express have done a whole lot to cater to gluten free customers in the last couple of years, even going as far as to using gluten free flour in all their kitchens to avoid cross contamination.
The gluten free goodness doesn’t stop at pizza either, it’s one of the few places where you can sit down for a three course meal and have a choice on every course. While some of the options are your standard “naturally gluten free” options like salad and ice cream, there is something made specifically gluten free at each course too.
For starters you can tuck into gluten free dough balls, and while not made fresh in house, they are still delicious. For mains they have a range of salads, hot mains and of course pizza, and for dessert a great gluten free brownie.
What I order:
- Pizza Express doughballs (make sure you ask for the gluten free version)
- Padana Pizza (on a gluten free base)
- Chocolate brownie (I’f I’m able to fit it in)
Best for pasta: Zizzi
When I’m out for an Italian meal, I normally prefer pizza to pasta (good tasting pasta is much easier to get to make at home than pizza is), sometimes you want a change and for me Zizzi does the best gluten free pasta on offer.
With a menu that changes seasonally it’s somewhere you can go back to fairly regularly and not be stuck with the same boring meal and like Pizza Express they have multiple options for all courses including salads, risottos and pizza as well as the pasta and they have a good range of hot and cold deserts too.
What I order:
- Zizzi spicy nuts (for while you wait)
- Non gluten pesto rosso pasta
- Sticky Chocolate praline torte
Best for noodles: Pho
Pho is one of my favourite restaurants, not only is the food great but nearly everything on the menu is naturally gluten free (Bar the spring rolls, a couple of dipping sauces and a dessert or two). When you’re so used to choosing from restricted menus there is something extremely satisfying about having so much choice.
The menu is based on vietnamese street food including stir fries, salads and most importantly noodles.The noodles make up the bulk of the menu and they come prepared in a variety of ways; Xoa (fried), Bun (salad) and Pho (in a soup) and for me it’s the Pho that stands out here. You can pick from their 20+ versions (each with their own unique combination of broth, meats, tofus and veg) and if none of those seem quite right, the staff are always happy for you to customise or create your own.
They don’t skip on dessert either and there are several dishes available without gluten, but I can’t say I ever had enough room to order one myself (though I hear good things about them).
What I order:
- Prawn crackers for the table
- Gỏi cuốn – Prawn Summer Rolls
- Phở bò combo – Steak, brisket & meatballs noonle soup
Best for a quick fix: Leon
A fast food chain which has been popping up more and more over the last couple of years and whose slogan states they serve “Naturally fast food”.
There is plenty of choice for those adverse to gluten here (and their website lets you filter out what you can’t eat). There’s a bit of everything on this menu, from meatballs to curry and a large range of sides (though I rarely stray from ordering the home baked fries – they’re that good). But my favorite thing about Leon is their range of gluten and wheat free cakes. They change these regularly but mainstays include their brownie (which has just a hint of orange) and a delicious lemon and ginger bar.
What I order:
- Sicilian Chicken Meatballs Little Hot Box
- Leon Baked Fries
- Better brownie
That’s it for my go to restaurants for a good gluten free meal, if you have any favourites I’ve missed add them to the comments below and they might make it into a future update.