With 3 years of eating gluten free under my belt, I thought it would be worth writing down what would get a perfect restaurant review score from me – What am I looking for as a coeliac diner? So here are 10 points that would make my perfect GF-able restaurant experience:
1. Thou shalt display gluten free options clearly on the menu/packaging
Making a fuss is my least favourite part of dining out, and it offers a lot of reassurance if I can see from the outset that my dietary needs have been considered. It also saves your waiting staff some time!
2. Thy menu shall be varied and flavoursome
I’ve basically got used to having only one or two options on the menu, and am beyond excited when there are more, or when it isn’t just a salad! Gluten free also shouldn’t mean bland food, nor should gluten free have to mean free from everything – take note airlines!
3. Thy staff shall be knowledgeable about thine ingredients and gluten
To be honest, BC (before coeliac) I didn’t know what gluten was in, or even what it was; but I don’t work in catering for a living. Nothing puts me on edge like a waiter offering me a plain salad because they just daren’t take the risk with the other dishes, or assuming GF also means dairy, lactose and egg free vegetarian food. This rule stands even if you aren’t coeliac- if you work in a restaurant I expect you to know what’s in the food!
4. Thou shalt take reasonable measures to avoid contamination
I accept that accidents happen and busy kitchens aren’t ideal gluten free zones, but please don’t butter my jacket potato with the unwashed toast knife. (I’m looking at you work canteen). You make me feel neurotic when I protest!
5. Thou shalt serve carbs
Please, for the sake of my hangover, put some potatoes on your cooked breakfast menu.
6. Thou shalt remember about my diet throughout the meal
Offering me warm, freshly baked bread when we’ve just been through the ingredients of most of the menu just makes me sad.
7. Thou shalt offer gluten free alternatives
I don’t expect gluten free bread to be available for my soup everywhere, but it’s a real delight when it is- and not too hard to implement (hello freezer). This is standard practice in much of New Zealand for example. Alternatively it would be nice if you offered something instead- like olives when the GEH has bread, or a different dressing instead of the one I can’t have. A standby bottle of Tamari soy sauce would be a welcome addition to many a Japanese restaurant.
8. Thou shalt not compensate for gluten with calories
My weight gain is probably mostly to do with the volume of cake I eat, but I’m sure the extra sugar in free from products doesn’t help :)
9. Thou shalt not put gluten in dishes that really don’t need it
Flour in creme brûlée? Really? I’ve had one too many roast dinners without gravy. Gravy is better made with cornflour, just ask my dad.
10. Know thee that fruit is verily not a pudding
I would be interested to hear what other coeliacs think a good dining experience should have!