What next on the GF high street?

With the recent news that Pizza Express are to join the numerous other Italian & pizza chains in offering gluten free pizza (and have apparently done a very good job of it), I feel a little pizza-ed out! You know, I never actually ate pizza that much anyway, I’m not sure I can sustain a market! Don’t get me wrong, us gluten-free-ers have amazing options compared with a year ago. No matter where I go in the country, I can likely find at least one high street restaurant where I can get a safe meal *with carbs* and that is MASSIVE progress. Well done to all involved!

However, we still have a little way to go, and I’ve given some thought into life beyond pizza. What else would I (and perhaps other coeliacs) still like to see on the high street?

More Food on the Move

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Emergency travel supplies!

It’s still a massive challenge to get a decent breakfast or lunch on the move, especially in town centres, transport hubs and on trains. Haribo is a not a meal. At best you might find yogurt and fruit; or one of the few chains that offer a GF sandwich (if you manage to get the last one, and you like the flavour/aren’t dairy-free too).

What would I like to see?
More chains (especially the likes of Pret, EAT, Costa, Tesco Metro) offering gluten free lunch and breakfast options. If not a choice of gluten-free sandwiches, granola or cereal bars, then at least more naturally gluten free options that appeal to everyone like soup, stews, salads or baked potatoes. Which brings me on to…

Plain, dry noodles that taste of glue? No thanks!

Plain, dry noodles that taste of glue? No thanks, Wagamama!

Out with Hidden Gluten
You’ve tracked down the last sorry-looking salad in the sandwich shop, only to read the small print and notice ‘barley’ in the dressing, or cous cous hiding underneath the lettuce. Similarly, all too often high street restaurants will make normally naturally gluten-free dishes unsuitable by the way they package or dress them; or ruin dishes by ‘adapting’ them to be gluten free. I’ve lost count of the number of indigestible dry salads I’ve eaten! Would a little olive oil kill you? (It won’t kill me!)

Whilst gluten free options in some restaurants get better, more and more big name brands of crisps and chocolate (my former last-resort meal replacement strategy) seem to have a ‘may contain gluten’ statement. Walkers and Cadbury, I’m looking at you.

What would I like to see?
Chains taking an allergen review of their range/menu. Are there dishes that contain needless allergens, or with a minor change could be made suitable for more people? As a rule I would love to see at least 2 options on every menu for me (and one of them shouldn’t be  a plain side salad).

No Bun No Fun

No bun, no fun

No bun, no fun at Giraffe

There’s nothing quite a tragic as a burger without a bun. It looks more like a miscellaneous collection of food stuffs rather than a proper meal. In fact, generally, a girl needs carbs. Especially when drunk or hungover. A cooked breakfast without hash browns or toast is just sick-bucket eggs. Steak without chips is just a fad diet! Of course, we have in mind the likes of GBK, but one could even extend this to the dreaded McDonald’s. Who on earth wants a sloppy, bepickled Big Mac without a bun?! We don’t want to *look* at your sorry excuse for food, we already feel 10 kinds of guilt for being in here!

What would I like to see?
If independents like Honest Burger; and entire countries like Spain can do chips and bun with a burger, so can you.  C’mon GBK. Rescue me from my hangover!

The contenders - Nero, Costa and Starbucks GF Brownies

Ok, we get it, you can make brownies without gluten!

Not Another Blinking Brownie
Every major coffee chain has a gluten free option. And it’s all the blinking same. Aside from the fact that I don’t really like brownies; Costa, Nero and whoever else need to take the lead from Starbucks and get on the savoury bandwagon.

What would I like to see?
Savoury options in coffee shops, and a little more imagination please.

Gluten Free and Proud
It’s all very well having the gluten free stuff, but no good if we don’t know. I dread nothing more than asking for the *manual of shame* in a high street restaurant as the server and I hold up the queue trying to decipher and cross-reference each dish.

The manual of shame at Zizzi

The manual of shame at Zizzi

What would I like to see?
Put ‘gluten free’ labels on the menu! I bet your investment in ink will pay off ten times in new customers.

Would love to know what you would like to see on the high street! What would make your life easier? Or are you a purist who prefers to support small businesses? And what do you think of the new entry to the GF market for the likes of Pizza Express?

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5 responses to “What next on the GF high street?

  1. Hahaha! Manual of shame! Brilliant :)

    I agree with you about the convenience foods – Pret and EAT really have quite pathetic gf offerings and I can never be bothered to ask anyone what’s in what – I usually end up getting hummus and crackers for my snack on the go. Either that or stop in at Waitrose for a sushi wrap.

    I’m quite partial to brownies but some of the gf ones available are really needlessly sugary – I’m talking texture rather than sweetness. The Pizza Express brownie is actually one of my favourites now, the only brownie that has come close to fudgy.

  2. I agree there are lots of high street chains that need to up their game in terms of offering gluten free- and the only way they are going to do it is if we keep asking them for gluten free options, so they realise the demand is there and they will lose business if they don’t provide what their customers want. I used to be quite shy about asking for gluten free options, but now try to do it wherever I go- it can be hard but I think it can make a massive difference. Very happy to join your #NoBunNoFun campaign!

    It is getting better though- I was excited recently to be in Waterloo station and have the choice of 3 gluten free sandwiches- 2 in M&S and 1 in Starbucks- progress!

  3. Great blog. Menu of shame I feel your pain. I feel the major problem here is also education of staff, servers, waiting staff, chefs and kitchen staff about cross contamination, how very ill they could make someone, how serious and REAL this stuff really is. Many, many places SAY they can cater, no problem, just let us know when you get here and then they make you sick because something goes wrong. More education at training colleges, catering training, not just health & Safety but food types, how to make a safe meal for a coeliac or allergic person that actually looks and tastes good. Right. Rant over. Have a fab weekend all.

  4. Love your blog! I have been coeliac since I was 3 years old; I have 20 years of experience living GF and it has got a lot easier in the last 5 years or so. Like you though, I feel that more can be done. I absolutely believe that restaurants should have to label their food, or at least have a list of allergens that staff are trained to recognise. Too often I will question restaurant staff and they will try and fob me off by saying that things are ok, because they don’t really know what they are talking about. Rosa’s thai place in Soho is one example – first two times I went there I ordered a curry that the servers assured me was definitely gluten free, third time I happened to speak to the manager and she told me it was never GF, it is full of soy sauce. Argh! And yes the manual of shame…haha…I hate feeling like an annoying, fussy pain in the arse customer but I always try and inform them why I have to ask.

    Totally agree about cafés needing more savoury and non-brownie options. Polenta cake isn’t usually that exciting either. M&S café is good, they have GF soup with GF roll at no extra cost, and GF sandwich and muffins. Waitrose sandwiches are the nicest I’ve tried. And enough with the couscous and wheatberries in almost every salad! It does annoy me when things that could easily be GF are made non-coeliac-friendly just by one ingredient or dressing.

    That said I think a lot of places are cottoning on to the fact that many people, not only coeliacs, want to see more varied options on the menu and be informed about allergens and healthiness, so this is positive! :)

  5. Pingback: My Gluten Free Year: 2013 | gluten free b·

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