Tag Archives: gluten free

Lupe’s Cantina Mexicana, Leeds

Social media is still my first port of call when it comes to finding out what’s new and worth trying out, so a quick twitter request threw up a couple of suggestions prior to my Leeds visit. There’s so many new places opening up it can be tricky filtering out the good from the bad. One that instantly appealed was Lupe’s Cantina Mexicana on Cardigan Road, thanks to blogger bigspoonlittlespoon.com for the recommendation! The place doesn’t have a website, but it’s Facebook page had lots of glowing reports and so my decision was made pretty swiftly.

Located on the lower part of Cardigan Road, for those in the know it’s just passed the Spar petrol station on the left, opposite the Harold’s (as I call them) and from the street looks like a roadside cafe that’s been pimped up with vivid yellow walls and Mexican skull wall art – I loved it straight away!


The place was definitely deceptive in terms of size, from the street it looked small, but its open kitchen and bar sat nicely alongside the dining space leaving enough room for plenty of tables. A comprehensive menu, very clearly laid out was on show with guacamole, salads, ceviche, street food, seafood sides, meat dishes, tacos and enchiladas – lots being gluten free, great for when the other half comes back for a visit too; if it was any good that is! Drinks-wise they offer beer, cocktails and soft drinks, including some traditional Mexican offerings, we went for the Agua de Jamaica; intrigued by a concoction of hibiscus flower, sugar and water. Sweet without being sickly, it was perfectly refreshing.

The place itself had only opened a few weeks earlier, after lots of eager diners kept asking when it was opening. A relaxed, warm welcome made us feel at home quickly and our food came out at a steady pace, we were in no rush and were happy to graze. From the four items we picked, there was lots to enjoy and commend – homemade thin, crisp tortilla chips served with salsas that tasted homemade too – the tomato one didn’t resemble a standard chunky salsa I’m more accustomed too, was full of freshness and heat where required. From the street food section the flautas was a highlight – a crispy rolled tortilla filled with mildly spiced chicken and topped with earthy black beans, a tomato salsa, sour cream and mild queso fresco which all worked so well together. The sopes rancheros was another tasty mouthful – the shredded beef in an adobe sauce had a delicate piquancy, more hearty black beans, all balanced out with avocado and queso fresco.

Agua de Jamaica
Tortillas w/ salsa
Flautas
Sopes rancheros
Queso Fundido

It’s probably obvious I really liked Lupe’s Cantina Mexicana, it’s open for lunch and dinner so get yourself down there!!! It’s an informal and relaxed affair, the food is so so good, there’s plenty for meat lovers, veggies, also lots of gluten free dishes and it’s all kind on the pocket!!

Lupe’s Cantina Mexicana 

204 Cardigan Road

Leeds

https://www.facebook.com/lupescantinamexicana/?rf=203829306636135

Chinese New Year @ Naturally Chinese, Surbiton

Increasingly more places are getting to grips with catering for those with a gluten intolerance, however it can still be a challenge at times, in particular for those with a love of asian food. When Chinese New Year arrives the other half would usually have slim pickings, where dishes not containing the dreaded gluten would be few and far between. Luckily since moving down south, we’ve found Naturally Chinese – the first Chinese restaurant to be gluten free accredited. As you can imagine this is no mean feat, making it the obvious place for us to go for Chinese New Year. 

Having been last year we knew it was good, booking in advance to avoid disappointment, we turned up Friday evening. For me it was a bit of a triple whammy meal – Chinese New Year, end of half term and Valentine’s Day.

img_6333

Automatically my eyes head straight towards the starters to see if there’s any dim sum on the menu. My favourite ha gau dumplings were a given, juicy prawns wrapped in gelatinous translucent wrappers, followed by crispy belly pork (of course) with a good meat to fat ratio and decent crackling. Whilst gluten free goodies included crispy squid, spring rolls made with rice paper and a beef brisket hot pot. Service was friendly, not over-facing and like our previous visit were on hand for advice with the gluten free menu. Personally I can’t fault Naturally Chinese – it’s a popular restaurant, however still retains a relaxed ambience, the food is spot on and those with a gluten intolerance can rest easy in the knowledge that all the highest standards and guidelines have been followed to the nth degree.

Starters – ha gau, prawn toast, spring rolls and crispy squid
Crispy squid
Rice paper spring rolls
Sesame prawn toast
Roast pork belly, beef brisket hot pot
Beef brisket hot pot
Crispy pork belly

Naturally Chinese

59-63 Brighton Road

Surbiton

Surrey

KT6 5LR

http://www.naturallychineserestaurant.co.uk

Ed’s Easy Diner, Woking

As far as I’ve noticed, the majority of additions to Woking’s food scene, which tend to be chains such as Bill’s, Las Iguanas and Carluccio’s occupy the town centre’s main pedestrianised street, unlike recently opened Ed’s Easy Diner which is found inside the town’s shopping centre. This could be seen as an unusual location, but with its eye-catching neon signage and interior retro 50’s look it’s caught my eye and it seems to have lured in lots of customers since opening. 

From the interior I could imagine being sat dressed up like the characters from Grease ordering a burger with everything on it and a milkshake, wearing a 50’s style dress with lots of petticoats and a neck scarf, all the while singing along to tunes from the jukebox.

  

It’s not often you see establishments advertising a gluten free menu that’s certified by Coeliac UK, VERY rare for those serving up burgers and hot dogs. It’s probably the only reason why we stepped into Ed’s because of the GF menu, my husband wanted to see if was it any good, could GF burger buns be redeemed or was it going to as bad as most of the others he’d regrettably tried before? Having struggled to find menus with GF beers, seeing Celia on the menu was more than a pleasant surprise and it also good to see food prices were the same whether it was GF or not!

Burgers are probably right up there for my husband’s favourite food, but a spanner was thrown into the works when the whole gluten intolerance kicked off! There have been times when he’s succumbed, knowing the consequences he’s eaten one anyway just to satisfy the craving, so when a menu advertises GF burgers he’s always gone for it! Now imagine when you think at last you can enjoy eating something without pain and discomfort etc, just to be wholly disappointed….well in most cases the bun’s are a real let down; dry to the point of falling apart because of its brittle nature. Damn you gluten for making bread so awesome!! The number of times the goods have been well below par, leaving one very deflated burger lover! I’ve even suggested the notion of a naked burger, but to him it completely defeats the object and takes all the joy out of eating one. I can see his point!

His Big Bubba’s bacon ‘n’ cheese burger came with a bun that was surprisingly spot on – soft, nicely holding its shape and actually tasted of something resembling bread! The bacon was crisp and patty was cooked well – they could make them a bit thicker though, as they’re a little meagre for the price (£7.75)! The American cheese to me looked like a bit plasticky, it’d be good if they’d take the time to let the cheese melt with a little steam and a cloche doing all the work.

I fancied an original fried chicken burger, it was alright but probably a little forgettable. The good bits – chicken was golden and moist, iceberg was crisp and it was housed in a decent sesame bun. Not so good bits: the chicken’s thin and a little flimsy, it was all a bit safe and that’s coming from me – who loves simplicity when it comes to burgers. To elevate it the burger would need a juicy chunk of meat and extras of which there are plenty to choose from, but at a quid a pop for each the price of a burger can quickly sky rocket if you feel the need. I’ve definitely had much better fried chicken burgers for less, such as old faithful Leeds’ Patty Smith’s Colonel Patty and Manchester’s Mumma Schnitzel’s Mumma Burger!

Maybe against my better judgement I’d topped my fries with chilli con carne, the fries were fine, however the chilli con carne was underwhelming and didn’t really add a great deal. Maybe as it’s a family orientated menu their trying to play it safe on the level of heat, but it needed more oomph and was lacklustre in depth and meatiness, rather than being a meaty chilli with a nice warming feeling.

Overall I think our experience was just OK, it’s great the GF buns do the job, but the food didn’t blow us away. The staff are friendly and enthusiastic, service was pretty good and I can see why family’s may want to go there, but with an extra beer and a tip we didn’t get much change out of £40 quid though, so as far as value for money goes I’m not so sure. 

Ed’s Easy Diner

Woking Peacock Centre
Unit 42
Peacocks Centre,
Woking,
GU21 6GD

Get The Glow

Now I’m not the healthiest of people!! I eat A LOT, whether it’s at home or when I’m out, and I don’t always go for a healthier option. Yes, I run a bit, I enjoy it, but if I didn’t do that I wouldn’t do any other exercise, and when I haven’t run for a prolonged length of time the weight comes back on far too easily.

So when I received an invitation by Harvey Nichols to meet nutritional health coach Madeleine Shaw, and try out some dishes from her new book ‘Get the Glow’ I was intrigued. Maybe I could get some inspiration to be a little kinder to my body. That evening myself and a group of local bloggers were given time to informally chat and find out more about her ethos and philosophy behind her food and lifestyle.

Madeleine suffered from IBS at an early age, then an impulsive move to Australia opened her eyes to a new approach to food, she developed a more holistic approach to eating, health and well-being and resulted in her combating those dietary problems. Living in a place where food and a healthy lifestyle are inextricably linked and so integral, she was fortunate to work in a cafe where Madeleine realised she enjoyed cooking tasty food, that was also nutritious and great for the body. 

The recipes in her book are all gluten free, which for me is a brilliant thing because of the other half’s issues with the dreaded gluten, and they use healthier substitutes for sugar like honey or coconut sugar! Don’t be deceived in thinking it’s all devoid of things we love, Madeleine’s doesn’t follow the low-fat mantra, infact she opts for healthy full-fat ingredients as they fill you and provide more nourishment. I love that!! Studying nutrition in Sydney means she knows what’s she’s talking about when it comes to beneficial ingredient choices, something she talks passionately about and uses to the full in the book.

IMG_0521

One other part of her philosophy which I think I should follow a lot more is how diet links to your health and well-being, it’s probably something we all know, but it’s whether we eat things which are good for you and make you feel good in the long term that counts. For example, I know that sometimes I’ll go running early, maybe 6:30/7am now that it’s light, but because of what I’ve been eating my body’s more lethargic than it would be if I’d been more thoughtful over what I was eating, not just eating anything I fancied. Madeleine’s recipes promote more consistent energy levels, nourishment, less fluctuation in mood from having less sugar slumps and cuts out the horrid bloated feeling by waving goodbye to gluten. 

We were treated to a dinner filled with recipes from her new book ‘Get The Glow’, this was the menu:

SALAD

Green Goddess Bowl

Mexican BBQ – grilled corn and quinoa, chilli salsa

PROTEIN

Thai beef salad, salt and pepper cashews

Spicy salmon, cucumber and yoghurt 

DESSERT

Raw chocolate cherry fudge, vanilla and coconut dairy-free ice cream

I found each plate really tasty, there’s a clever use of ingredients keeping them inventive and interesting. A salad can be the most boring thing I think, but both of these were anything but, in particular the Green Goddess bowl packed with nutrient laden spinach, kale and avocado, which seem to make every dish a winner, paired with soft boiled eggs (a personal favourite of mine), finally the mustard vinaigrette bringing it together made it altogether awesome!

IMG_0498
Green Goddess bowl
IMG_0495
Mexican BBQ – grilled corn and quinoa, chilli salsa

Of the two protein dishes, it was hard to pick a favourite here as they were both great in their own right. If I was pushed I would probably say the Thai beef salad, I think it’s the tahini in the mix that just gives it an extra something that I loved!! Once again, a great combination of tastes, textures and good balance between chilli warmth, sweet, salty, nutty, umami-ness from soy (gluten free) and with the beef juicy and pink it was a complete winner. 

IMG_0506
Spicy salmon, cucumber and yoghurt

IMG_0508
Thai beef salad, salt and pepper cashews

IMG_0515
Raw chocolate cherry fudge, vanilla and coconut dairy-free ice cream

The dish that surprised me the most was the dessert!! For me to actually enjoy something where chocolate is the main ingredient is literally unheard of, apart from Noisette Bakehouse’s salt caramel brownie of course, but that’s another story!! It was also a raw dessert, so completely new one on me. The thing I usually struggle with is the richness of chocolate and how it can be too cloying, this was light, still chocolatey being made with raw cacao, combined with ingredients including coconut oil, almond butter and honey, results in such a gooey, unctuous mouthfeel. Every now and again there was a sour pop from cherries and finally the ice-cream was so light with coconut running through it. The whole thing was simply decadent, but you knew it was doing you some good at the same time!!! 

At the end of the evening I purchased my own copy of Get The Glow and am looking forward to trying them out and hopefully feeling the benefits myself!

Madeleine’s dishes are part of Harvey Nichols’ Body Kicks campaign and will run till May 31st in all branches across the UK. 

Harvey Nichols

107 Briggate

Leeds

LS1 6AZ

http://www.harveynichols.com/store/leeds/

Naturally Chinese, Surbiton 

Ahhh, the food I grew up surrounded by, I’m not sure if Chinese food is my out and out favourite, but it’s definitely up there! The idea of feasting on dim sum all day long, grazing on steamed dumplings and fried stuff fills me with joy, literally!! But for my husband that would probably sound like one his worst nightmares, he enjoys the food but as Chinese restaurant menus go, let’s face it they’re usually laden with gluten which he has an intolerance too. 

A couple of months ago we were scouting out the Kingston and Surbiton areas, basically trying to get our bearings as possible places to set up home. On our way round we drove passed Naturally Chinese, within seconds I got onto the web for a spot of research. Brilliant, a restaurant producing authentic dishes without a hint of MSG, with its own gluten free menu, and not the kind with just a few items to make it look like an afterthought. 

The idea was mentioned and a table for lunch booked after my husband was pleasantly surprised at the variety on the GF menu! A gorgeous Saturday it was yesterday and we hopped onto the train from the flat into Surbiton, spending a little time to have a wander around the town. The restaurant is between 5-10 minutes from the train station, depending how speedy a walker you are and located on the corner of Brighton Road. Benefitting from large windows on two sides it’s a light and airy place, with a more intimate dining area to the side. 

A pot of green tea was quickly ordered, something I’d never have drunk by choice as a child, in fact I would wait to the last minute to drink it at the end of yum cha with my family, just so it wouldn’t be refilled!!   

  

The dim sum menu had all the usual classics on it, so I was in my element and picked four dishes, selecting them on a tick sheet. The other half had plenty of choice on the GF menu and even I was a bit jealous when he went for sliced belly pork!

I couldn’t fault the dim sum, I could’ve told myself off though as I wish I’d ordered more!! All made and cooked to perfection, especially the handmade dumplings which were on point! The cheung fun rolls were delicate and much thinner and less heavy than some I’ve had recently, I find that sometimes char siu pork can be overly sweet, but this had been made with a far more delicate touch.  

Deep fried taro and minced pork croquettes (wu gok)
Char siu pork rice noodle rolls (cheung fun)

Steamed prawn dumplings (ha gau)
Shanghai pork dumplings – minced pork, ginger and spring onions in superior soup (XLB)

The other half had ordered some cuttlefish and coriander cakes which looked awesome and I’ve been informed tasted equally as good. Golden and crisp on the outside, whilst being juicy and meaty on the inside making it a fantastic starter before the star of the show that was the pork belly!! Enough for two really, in our family it would normally be amongst a whole manor of sharing dishes, where you just help yourself; fill a bowl with rice and top it with the things you want. I managed to snaffle a couple of pieces and was impressed! The meat was juicy and its skin crisp, but not only that it wasn’t too salty, even my parents who know a thing or two about cooking belly pork would approve I reckon.

Cuttlefish and coriander cakes  
Crispy skin pork belly with egg fried rice

Service was quick, dishes came out in good time, in particular the dim sum. Lots of menu choice and more importantly for us no more worries when it comes to gluten intolerances. Naturally Chinese is a definite winner, I’m looking forward to my next visit!!

Naturally Chinese

59-63 Brighton Road

Surbiton

Surrey

KT6 5LR

Tel. 020 8399 5533

http://www.naturallychineserestaurant.co.uk

Naturally Chinese Restaurant on Urbanspoon