The London dining scene is evolving rapidly.
At the start of 2016, we released our first ebook, The Gluten Free Guide to London. It was the culmination of more than a year of research and A LOT of eating (it’s a hard job but someone’s gotta do it!). We scoured our adopted city for the best gluten free restaurants, places that understood allergy restrictions and planned their menus with an eye on restricted diets.
No sooner was our book published than the restaurant scene started to shift.
One of our favorite gluten-free destinations, the Truscott Arms in Maida Vale, sadly closed. It fell victim to the rapid growth in London, which usually coincides with dramatic rent increases for small businesses. Other restaurants opened new locations, changed their names (yes, really) and there is always the steady drumbeat of new openings to keep an eye on.
We’ve been back to London several times in the past few months and we’ve been on a mission. We hit the streets on behalf of all gluten-free diners, searching for the best and brightest new openings, as well as revisiting old favorites to make sure they still make the grade.
All of our new research is now available in second edition of the ebook. Click here to purchase it now (use the discount code 2NDEDITION to get the book for $5.99 through the end of May).
Never people to save the best for last, here are our 5 best gluten free dishes in London. The gluten-free creme de la creme, as they say.
Duck & Waffle at Duck & Waffle
If you decide to call your restaurant Duck & Waffle, and then serve a dish by the same name, it better be good. Based on the crowds that frequent this 24/7 restaurant in the heart of the City, it is. Bonus: they offer a gluten free version, which is just as good as the original.
The Duck & Waffle is a take on fried chicken and waffles, the southern US comfort food. In place of the chicken is a confit leg of duck that has been slowly simmered in duck fat before being dusted in gluten free flour and fried. The waffle is fluffy and light, and the accompanying mustard maple syrup is the perfect blend of sweet and savory.
At £17, this isn’t the cheapest dish in the world, but you won’t eat for the rest of the day, so there’s that.
Lamb Shawarma Rice Bowl at Shawarma Bar
Shawarma Bar, the causal spinoff of Berber & Q, specializes in spit-roasted and grilled meats flavored with Northern African and Middle Eastern spices. We keep coming back for the lamb shawarma rice bowl.
The base of the bowl is mejaderah, an Arab comfort food that is a mixture of rice, lentils, onions, and a whole host of spices. It is topped with the lamb shawarma, which is marinated and slow-roasted over a charcoal fire, until the fat is caramelized and crispy, and the meat falls apart. The bowl is garnished with fried onions, tahina, a few vibrantly-colored pickled vegetables.
If you crave a little heat, add spicy harissa sauce to your order. There is no rice bowl like it anywhere in London.
Small Skillet at Bird
One of the goals during our dining research was to find places that served a gluten free version of a normally gluten laden dish. Like fried chicken. Normally dusted in flour and fried in cross-contaminated oil, finding a true gluten free take on fried chicken proved difficult. Then we found Bird.
Bird flies under the radar (pun intended), because they don’t clearly market themselves to gluten free diners. But rest assured, the fried chicken (along with many of the sides) is completely gluten free and delicious.
The Small Skillet contains a drumstick, thigh, and two wings, a perfect way to sample Bird’s fried chicken. The chicken isn’t greasy, but incredibly crunchy thanks to the rice flour base. There are a few options for sauces and glazes, but we stick with the buffalo glaze if we want spicy, or the honey ginger for a little bit of sweet.
Or just order both!
Aged Cheeseburger Tacos at Temper
This new SoHo restaurant is one of the additions to the 2nd edition of the ebook. It’s a meat-lover’s paradise, and almost everything is cooked over an open flame. Here you’ll see large hunks of meat, from lamb to goat to whole pork loins, roasting and spinning over fires, dotted around the open kitchen.
The tacos are the best way to start a meal, and the seemingly simple aged cheeseburger taco is the best one on the menu.
The tortillas are excellent (made with 100% corn) and they are milled, formed, and cooked on-site. The dry-aged ground beef is full of intense funky “beefiness” and plenty of fat to keep it moist. Even better, it sits on a piece of melted, gooey Ogleshield cheese, one of my favorite cheese for burgers.
Hopper with Kari at Hoppers
Hoppers exploded onto the London scene last year and has been one of the most popular SoHo dining establishments ever since. The restaurant specializes in Sri Lankan cuisine, and hoppers are a staple of the menu. Hoppers are bowl-shaped pancakes, made from a batter of fermented rice and coconut milk. It gets crispy on the bottom, and a little soft and spongey on top. The hopper is meant to be torn and used as a utensil to pick up the accompanying curry (or ‘kari’).
We particularly like the fish and black pork kari. Both are rich, coconut-based karis, packed with warming spices. Adding a side of sambols (consisting of pol sambol, seeni sambol, and coriander chutney) is strongly advised for a more authentic Sri Lankan meal.
If you need a stronger vote for the quality of Hoppers, consider this. After recently dining there with a Bangladeshi friend, he said that Hoppers is the only southern Asian restaurant he would consider taking his mom, herself a master of home-cooked curries.
So there you have it, the 5 best gluten free dishes in London.
We don’t take these designations lightly and the next time you’re in town, run, don’t walk, so any of these amazing eateries for a meal you won’t forget anytime soon. Or try and cram them all into a single day of eating, like we sometimes try to do.
For tons more gluten-free recommendations all over London, as well as our favorite market eats and tips for buying gluten-free products in town, check out the ebook here. And don’t forget, it’s only on sale for the month of May.