Thursday, May 19, 2011

From the Ritz to the Pub...Gluten-free

You could do so many things with a London afternoon. I usually spend my time walking through parks and exploring neighbourhoods. Walking and exploring are both naturally gluten-free, but at some point you have to stop all that walking and exploring and wet your whistle. For me it’s usually a glass of wine or a cider. There is, however, afternoon tea if you want quintessential British.

But you’ll have to be organised. Most establishments offering a gluten-free afternoon tea require at least twenty-four hours’ notice, some more. Be sure to check the website or get help from your concierge.

I was surprised to find that afternoon tea in London comes in all classes, from the not-so-many-frills-but-popular pastry shops to the madly expensive hotels. Working on this blog post, I began to realise that the more you pay, the less you actually get. At The Ritz, for instance, apparently you’ll get three pastries. And apparently they aren’t life-changing pastries. And do I get any sandwiches? The menu didn’t say, but the email I received from The Ritz confirmed that they do offer gluten-free sandwiches and scones (despite reports to the contrary).

Through the eyes of The Gluten Free Foodie—bless him for taking his camera along—we can see a world of difference between The Ritz and Claridge’s. I’m sold and I’m making reservations for June . . . at Claridge’s.

If you don’t want to fork out around £50 or more per person for afternoon tea, there are other options (cheapskate). At Orange Pekoe the gluten-free afternoon tea consists of finger sandwiches/ one hot scone with Cornish clotted cream and jam/one slice of cake and a pot of tea of your choice (£16.96 per person, 48-hour advanced booking). High Road Brasserie also comes recommended, but if you’re the type to hang out at a coffee shop in the afternoon, hunched over your laptop and lurking on Facebook, you’ll find a Starbucks or a Costa Coffee or a Cafe Nero on every corner. Problem is, you’ll find the same tired gluten-free brownie in all of them.

There is also the option of spending a rainy afternoon at Vinopolis, London's delicious wine museum. When I was there a few years ago, they offered tastings at a few exhibits. Very interactive and tastefully informative. 

Quintessential British can be the pub, and there’s no better place to be on a sunny London afternoon than stuck in a dark, not-especially-clean pub, right? Actually, though I love dark places, lots of pubs have outdoor seating where you can enjoy the sun, a pint of cider and a plate of chips. You can even eat the Walkers crisps on offer at practically every pub in the UK (although recent news from Walkers indicates that their products are NOT gluten-free!!).
If you’re not used to drinking cider, careful. It sneaks up on you. But, hey, wait. If cider’s not your cup of tea, you can check out The Stag. They have two gluten-free beers on the menu. My experience with gluten-free beer is not the best, but maybe you’ll like it. Go on. Give it a go.

I must be off,


Christopher Allen writes fiction and creative non-fiction. His absurdist satire Conversations with S. Teri O'Type, a sideways glance at sitcom culture's influence on gay identity in America,is available from Amazon Anything.