After I was diagnosed as a coeliac in 2005 I quickly stopped missing the convenience (and tastiness) of fast food. Don’t get me wrong I was never an enormous purchaser of takeaways; MacDonald’s was nice but often left me feeling hungry half an hour later, and I always felt pizzas’ left me feeling bloated and stuffed more than the stuffed crust. Nicola and I would have the occasional Chinese or Indian takeaway (I loved Peshwari naan). However, the one thing I really missed was fish and chips.
On holiday I was (and still am) really jealous when I see Nicola and the kids tucking into their fish and chips whilst I’m sitting there with simple chips, picking out all the batter bits very carefully and praying to the God of digestion (if there isn’t one then there should be) that I don’t get a reaction in about 4 hours time. I’m sure I don’t need to go into the reaction I get.
Over the years a growing number of fish and chip shops have started to offer “Gluten-Free Nights” where alongside their normal offerings they have a gluten-free alternative. From looking around it appears these nights are usually a Monday as this is when they clean their fryers.
Peter’s Pan Fish Bar in Barnt Green is one of these and has a “Gluten-Free Monday” every week. Please note I know the apostrophe is in the wrong place but that is the way they spell it.
We’ve been a few times as it is our most local to offer us coeliacs anything (even though it is a 20-minute drive).
This is my personal review and is based on a number of visits rather than just one visit where you may be lucky or unlucky.
When it comes to contamination I am a bit fastidious and so hygiene in the takeaway or restaurant is a key indicator to me. If the place looks and feels grubby can I really depend on the establishment to be careful in the cooking of my meal? Personally, my answer is no and so I clear out quickly if the place isn’t perfect.
We usually arrive at Peter’s Pan early (5 pm) and the place is gleaming. The worktops are uncluttered, the floor is shining and the serving point is sparkling.
Quality of Food
Major drawbacks of gluten-free food are sometimes the lack of taste and eating establishments offering something completely different to their main menu.
No problems here, they seem to offer the full range you would expect in any chip shop. I haven’t tried everything but the fish is tasty and the sausages are nice and meaty. The main part of the meal for coeliacs – the batter – is really nice and crunchy/crisp. Cooked perfectly and just thick enough. I can’t quite remember what gluten-containing batter tastes like so I asked Nicola to taste it and as a non-coeliac, she said she would be more than happy to eat it.
It’s rare to have really bad service nowadays (at least in my experience), but it is still important to keep an eye on it. The staff at Peter’s Pan are all friendly and welcoming and cannot be faulted. It’s obvious they know their regulars but they don’t change their attitude to strangers, they seem to treat both equally.
The price of fish and chips always shocks me (maybe it’s a sign of getting old). However, compared to other chip shops, the prices are fair and proportionate.
This may seem like a strange thing to mark a takeaway on, however, because coeliacs have to research the establishments first it can be a major deal-breaker for them. I have decided not to go to many restaurants and takeaways because I couldn’t find the required information about them or their menu online.
The design of Peter’s Pan website is okay, nothing fantastic but simple and functional. It offers a nice map to find them, has clear opening times and a contact number. However, it is let down by its lack of details regarding the menu.
The gluten-free menu page is nothing more than a cut-down infographic. Really it needs a list of the food on offer along with prices. In addition information about the batter, the recipe would also be advantageous. This would enable potential customers to reassure themselves of the gluten-free credentials of the establishment.
In a similar manner, the pizza page announces “ask about gluten-free”, this should really go into more detail and state what is available along with prices.