What are the best and worst restaurant/cafe chains for offering safe choices for food allergies/coeliac disease?

Some of this came up in other posts, but thought it might be handy to have a thread capturing the best and the worst.

From my experience:

Best:

- Nandos - piri piri chicken (good knowledge, good choice of gluten and dairy free options and detailed fact-book)

- Zizzis - Italian (gorgeous duck dish, plus gluten and dairy free pasta and sauces)

- Las Iguanas - South American (good awareness and flexibility, )

- Welcome Break Services (not a lot of choice, but they do have a detailed allergy guide and helpful staff)

- Old Orleans (good range of choice and awareness)

- Novotel hotels (apparent limited choice, but their staff are trained well and they employ "proper" chefs who are prepared to go completely off menu to satisfy; they also usually stock gluten free bread)

- MacDonalds - will supply gluten free burger if you bring a bun, fries are gluten free

- KFC - can't eat chicken but fries and sweetcorn are gluten and dairy free

- ASDA - believe it or not, their cafes are quite switched on and you can have roast chicken (minus gravy) or bacon and eggs and have detailed guides. More than once ASDA cafes have saved me from starvation.

Worst:

- ASK (lack of choice (despite having a detailed allergy guide)and cross-contamination issues)

- Pizza Express (lack of choice and cross contamination issues)

- Travelodge, Ibis, Premier Inn - poor choice, cross contamination issues

- Burger King - fries are coated in semolina

- Sainsburys cafes - poor knowledge and choice

18 Replies

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  • Burger King do not coat their fries. They do cook onion rings in the same oil sometimes though.

    Starbuck's do a GF sandwich if you turn up early.

    Apart from that, I don't eat out as I am GF, lactose free, fructose free. Cooking at home is hard enough!

  • Apologies, you are right about Burger King. They used to coat them in semolina; checked current nutrition and fries are listed as containing gluten as they cook fish, chicken and onion rings with gluten in within the same fryer.

    Unfortunately my job means I have to eat out, so its a question of damage limitation.

  • No worries. Chicken and fish are cooked in separate fryers (for veggies) and most will have double chip fryers, with onion rings going in one side and chips in the other. However, depending on the restaurant, some may fry onion rings in both if there is a promotion on. 9/10 times their chips are ok, but I always ask before I buy, and I only eat if really desperately hungry!

    Their burgers don't contain gluten, but they do fall out onto the same surface as the toasted buns, so avoid them at all costs.

  • It's years and years and years since I last used either a cafe or a restaurant. Perhaps it's all of those Gordon Ramsay programmes with all of the filthy kitchens that's put me off, I don't honestly know. I never get the urge to use them any more now though!

  • Good idea..our top ones including yours are:

    - Leon - great GF listing on menu - helpful staff

    - Cote Brasserie - a great frugal yet fab french restaurant chain where front of house staff are clued up on GF (£9.95 weekend minute steak & frites cooked in own oil, veg risotto great, chicken fab, and buckwheat pancakes for light mains) - mainly in the south but growing

    Our personal experience is that Giraffe needs to learn more - Mgr told us fries labelled GF cooked in contaminated oil would be fine as it's so hot it kills gluten. We avoid most chain Italians as they are owned by big parent caterers and aren't so clued up - just focused on £, although Zizzi & Carluccios buck this trend.

    Brula in St Margarets is great as is Bruschetta in Kingston - totally GF !

  • I noticed that Bella Italia have a GF menu - haven't been there yet though.

  • Bella Italia is wonderful, any pasta dish with gf pasta plus gf pizzas, well in Edinburgh anyway well worth it

  • That's great to know - thanks. It's my 3 year old who is coeliac so it's good to know somewhere we can take him out for a little treat occasionally.

    Thanks, D

  • i also have tried bella italia a few times and have tried pasta & their pizza, the pasta isn't too great, the pizza is good, they made me feel safe and seemed to know about cross contamination, the chocolate cake is to die for!!

  • Further to my earlier post, re-checked KFC and fries are listed as potentially containing gluten :-( (I would imagine from cross contaminated frying oil) and corn on the cob is listed as containing milk.

    Just thought I would update!!!

  • I haven't eaten out in ages but on a stop for a cuppa in Sainsburys the cafe staff seemed well clued up on GF, offering me their GF option, showing me a printout showing potential allergens and suitable options for coeliacs etc (pinned behind the till). They told me the courses they'd been on and I was (for once!) impressed that they were going to the trouble. They said they catered for a lot of coeliacs, so maybe that's the difference between this one and your experience. All this came to light when staff noticed I'd produced my little Lactofree milk portion for my tea.

  • Visited Cardiff castle earlier this year and was amazed at the range of GF foods on offer in the cafe/restaurant. very good.

    Also had a lovely GF hock salad from starbucks a while ago,haven't been able to find one since though...

    I always like to ask wherever we go for GF/ dairy free foods as think if enough of us ask more will become available.

    Love the larger Sainsburys supermarkets have a good range of FF

    Knorr stock pots some GF some coeliac suitable

  • Re takeaway salads:

    Pret a Manger do a quite nice prawn salad which is gluten and dairy free too.

    M&S do a gluten free Tuna Nicoise salad.

    Forget Boots/WH Smith for salads as theirs is full of couscous, pasta, etc

  • Hiya I'm really new to this , cous cous is gluten free ? This still makes me bloat so .......

  • Popped into a McDonalds in spain recently and to my delight I didn't need to get my baps out as they had gluten free bread rolls!! Going to visit my local McDonalds later to ask if they are doing the same and if not why? On the whole I find Spain much more switched onto 'sin gluten'.

  • I thought the whole point of going to Spain was so one could "get your baps out" :-)

  • In Sweden there are GF bread rolls at McDonalds, Burger King and Max (Swedish hamburger chain), and I think it's the same in Norway and Finland as well :)

  • Unless GF stuff comes in totally sealed packages from a GF manufacturer produced in gf environment, I find that no restaurant is 100% safe and it really comes down to the knowledge and understanding of staff about cross contamination. If there is a gluten free chef then its wonderful! They know exactly what to do to minimise cross contamination, which I think is the major limiter for safe GF eating. So many other places just scare me silly, when you see someone putting GF bread in the same toaster, or on the same plate, or using the same tongs for GF and non-GF, etc.

    Also if you have other problems than just GF it can be difficult in some of the chains. I can't even get a safe meal in our nearest hospital, because the GF meals are just labelled GF and don't say what else they contain - and in my case I have to avoid corn as well.

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