Valentine’s day, a time of love and romance, when lovers the world over can enjoy a carefree evening of gazing into the eyes of each other over a romantic meal.
That is unless you are a coeliac in which case part of your evening can be spent staring at a menu trying to detect what elements of a meal may contain gluten. Fortunately, since 13th December 2014 restaurants are legally obliged to provide allergy information on food sold unpackaged (the EU Food Information for Consumers Regulation 1169/2011), however, that has only helped partly. Now instead of trying to use our powers of intuition on a menu, we may be handed an A4 folder packed with printed sheets detailing every ingredient in every meal.
Do you really want to spend part of your romantic evening looking through an enormous folder as if you are swotting up for an exam? Wouldn’t it be easier if you could ask for a gluten-free menu in the restaurant and be handed a list of exactly what you could eat with all the horrible gluten-containing meals removed? Or how about if you could visit the restaurant’s website and see what was available before you even sat down?
Well, we have put together our top 5 choices of restaurants for a romantic Valentines gluten-free meal.
Bella Italia is one of our favourites, we came across their gluten-free menu by accident whilst walking around Covent Garden a couple of years ago trying desperately to find a restaurant which our children would be happy in.
If you ask for a gluten-free menu they have one on hand, so no need to swot through a binder. You can also go on-line view the menu for your local restaurant and even download a full information sheet.
As with many restaurants, the gluten-free options are limited but many dishes are simply made with gluten-free pasta or a gluten-free pizza base. There is a choice of starters and main courses available, but the only desserts are ice cream based.
Frankie and Benny’s
Frankie and Benny’s are a favourite for our family as it is opposite the cinema so makes for a nice afternoon treat for the kids.
They have recently introduced a dedicated gluten-free menu which is ideal for what we need. The information given on their site is excellent, they have a tick box condition you need to agree to before you can view the menu on-line with which they are trying to cover themselves for cross-contamination.
It has the now infamous ‘Skinny Burger’ which is essentially a beef burger without the bun and a nice selection of main courses, if you are an omelette fan then I recommend their ‘Fully Loaded Omelette’.
Dessert wise there are the usual choices of ice cream dishes and a nice ‘Mixed Fruit and Dips’ which is ‘A selection of fresh banana, strawberry and pineapple pieces served with warm chocolate fudge sauce and red berry sauce for dipping.’
Not your normal idea for a special meal, but excellent value for money and fantastic if you miss having pizza.
Pizza Hut offers a gluten-free pizza base (although this is smaller than other bases) and has very clear indications on their menu of what toppings can be used on it. We are not big fans of our local take-away pizza hut, but we have never had any problems in their restaurants.
Their site has a very good selector for removing any gluten-containing meals, however, when used on their desserts section it leaves in all their ‘cookie dough’ desserts, before trying one of these I would recommend you asked the staff in the restaurant.
Throw in their free unlimited salad and Pizza Hut is an excellent venue if you are on a budget or just want pizza.
Nandos seem to be popping up on every corner and are even popular amongst the establishment.
You are supposed to ask the staff on duty about allergies, however, if you pre-plan and visit their site first you can filter their menu and remove all the gluten-containing items. This leaves an excellent choice of starters and main courses. For dessert, there is the standard ice cream but they also have a frozen yoghurt which is refillable (great value).
Zizzi is not as widespread as the others on our list and you may need to do some searching to find your local restaurant, however, the searching will be worth it.
We would always recommend visiting an establishments website first and Zizzi’s is the proof why this is important. The ‘Special Diets’ link gives you a 28-page pdf which details everything including 17 pages of allergy menus covering the usual nuts, gluten, milk etc as well as celery, mollusc, soybean and many more. These guys have really taken their obligation to allergy information seriously and should be commended for it.
There is a broad range on offer for all allergies so much so that I would really say it is the best range of all those listed here. However, as with so many restaurants dessert is fairly restricted to ice cream based ideas.