Earlier this month, my husband, a friend of ours, and I went to London for vacation. I was so excited to visit London because I love history, architecture, and exploring cities. That being said, I was nervous about managing my food restrictions while in another country. This was my first trip out of the United States since I was diagnosed with fructose malabsorption.
Within the US, I have apps, recommendations from friends for restaurants, and have enough experience that I know if I go into a restaurant asking for a dish without wheat, onions, garlic, or sugar, that they will be able to give me one or two options. It might not be the most exciting meal, but it will be good and I won’t get sick. In London, in addition to not knowing where to eat, I was concerned that restaurants might not be as receptive to modifying their menu items.
That fear was immediately dismissed with my first meal. We arrived late at night and all we wanted to do was grab something to eat and get a good night’s sleep before heading out the next day to tour London. We walked into the first restaurant we saw located next to our flat, Pizarro, without even checking the menu. After I gave my list of restrictions to the waiter, he left to find out my options and I saw the chef, our waiter, and someone else huddled around a counter looking at the menu. The waiter came back with a list of multiple and interesting options for me to choose from. It was a fantastic meal and start to my vacation. At Modern Pantry, the chef went out of her way to make me a custom meal because there was nothing on the menu that I could eat and it was delicious. Zucca was another restaurant where I had a fabulous meal and the chef and staff were extremely helpful. For other recommendations, check out the article in the London Evening Standard entitled London’s best restaurants for food allergy sufferers and gluten-free options.
The wait staff and chefs at more casual restaurants and pubs were equally as helpful and the food chains itsu and Pod offer gluten-free options. A more comprehensive list is available at Gluten-Free Guide to London: Eating Out. An additional nice surprise was that I was able to find food items at convenience store such as gluten-free bread and peanut butter without sugar. The ingredients of their prepared foods highlighted allergens including nuts, milk, shellfish, and wheat. I did have to dig around to find options without onions or garlic, but I was always able to find one or two items.
Since returning from my trip, I learned that 1 out of 100 people in the UK are estimated to have celiac disease compared to 1 out of 133 people in the US. So in hindsight, maybe I should not have been concerned. After I spent a week touring around and eating in London, it is now on my list of places to visit again and one of my recommended cities for everyone, including those of us with food intolerances.
Do you know of other vacation places good for those of us with food restrictions?
Photo taken by Hernan Pinera on Flickr.