This has to rate as The Girliest Thing I Have Ever Done- an exhibition of Christian Louboutin shoes at the Design Museum followed by a ladies lunch. My inner lapsed feminist was screeching and muttering about “can’t believe these women buy into literally hobbling themselves in the name of fashion” whilst I stomped around in my clumpy weekend boots, but despite my better instincts this was lots of ostentatious glittery fun complete with dancing Dita Von Teese holograms. Besides which there is a cool shop where you can ogle a whole array of interesting expensive cookware. (No, the irony is not lost on me but Coeliac makes you covet things like designer lunch boxes!).
When I’m not being an uncultured shoe-phobic grump, I am of course eating, and eschewing standard of femininity further by ordering massive ruddy pork chops for lunch instead of a ‘hold the carbs’ superfood salad. We had a quick peek in the Design Museum Grazing Cafe, which you would think would be exactly the sort of place to cater for coeliacs, but there were cakes aplenty, hundreds of sandwiches and no obvious options for me, so after a diet coke we gave it a miss to peruse the many other eating options in Shad Thames.
We settled on the riverfront Butlers Wharf Chop House, which cuts a mid price line between the white tableclothed Pont de la Tour and the other neighbouring chain branches; and has some rather fetching fake grass for carpet.
Service was a little slow, but friendly, the waitress was reassuring and seemed to know about gluten: “pick something you like and we can work together to make it ok for you”. I nervously went for the aforementioned pork chop with mashed potato, hoping for the best on the gravy front- I’ve had too many dry Sunday dinners! The waitress didn’t confirm back with me that my choice was ok, which always makes me worry a little (have they understood? I need reassuring that you will look after my digestive health!)
When it came, my heart did a little sink- were those onion rings? I don’t think I could bear having the contamination chat again (no you can’t just take them off the top) but as the waitress came closer it dawned on me- crackling! Proper crackling! And real gravy!
The mahoosive pork chop was a little on the chewy side, but satisfyingly meaty, and at the time I was chuffed with the buttery, creamy mash, plenty of cracked black pepper and yes, the gravy, so I’m sorry to report that I have been glutened and this meal is the primary suspect (my symptoms don’t appear immediately but this is the only non-homemade culprit). Perhaps some cross-contamination, or maybe the gravy really was too good to be true?
I have since sent The Letter to the restaurant who have to their credit very quickly investigated the issue, confirmed the ingredients of the dish were gluten free and spoken with the staff to ensure steps were taken to avoid contamination. I have posted their response below. It is a sad fact that no matter how much care you and a restaurant take, there is always an inherent risk of evil crumbs with eating out in a normal restaurant. Should a coeliactivist become a packed-lunch hermit, or strap on the Louboutins, take the risk and get on with life – suffering a few poorly tummies along the way?
A shame that this happened as at the time it was a very pleasant afternoon, the restaurant has fabulous views of Tower Bridge, and rounding it off with a ladylike saunter home on a Boris bike with my geeky helmet on made me feel all kinds of virtuous. Not so today on a rainy, glutened Monday. With your right to a decent Sunday dinner to campaign for – who has time for feministing?
Glutenfreeability: 7/10 – the elements were there – something went wrong along the way
Response from Butler’s Wharf Chop House:
Dear <Gluten Free B>,
I have completed my investigation and spoken with all my staff who served you on the day.
First I would like to assure you we take all dietary requirements very seriously here at the Chop House, anyone who informs us of such requirements we go to great lengths in ensuring we take all the correct steps to ensuring no cross contamination can accrue.
When we take reservations on the phone, we have a standard of asking if there are any special dietary requirements we need to know of, ensuring we can meet all requirements.
<Name> your waitress explained to the chef that you had enquired about the pork dish and its contents to which we can confirm that there is no flour in this dish whatsoever, I have attached the recipe for you to look at.
I have also spoken with the head chef who was on the pass that day and he cooked you food personally, I can confirm that there is no flour used on the service line where your food was prepared. Although as you state we can never guarantee a 100% gluten free preparation area due to the nature of the business. We practice caution in preparing our gluten free items and do our best to ensure a gluten free product, but Butlers Wharf Chophouse is not a gluten free environment.
In consuming our gluten free products, there may be a chance of cross contamination.
I have looked at your bill, I can see that your guests ordered the fish pie and the cauliflower cheese both of these dishes do contain flour as both are made with a béchamel sauce (flour, butter and milk).
I believe that we have taken every step to ensure we have delivered your food within safe working practices.
If I can be of further assistance please do not hesitate to contact me.