Product Reviews, Restaurant Reviews and Recipes: All GLUTEN FREE!
As a Coeliac, Chinese food is a real challenge: primarily because of the Ingredients (specifically Soy Sauce [which is made from distilling soya beans through Wheat] and is included as a base to many dishes) and because of the real risk of cross-contamination (as in Chinese cooking with a wok, there is limited cleaning and scrubbing the pans, as many dishes are flash-fried in the wok), therefore, I often avoid it despite my cultural roots. Although I have noticed a change with some restaurants offering GLUTEN FREE options (such as Ping Pong who offer a handful of dim-sums which are Gluten Free (reviewed in 2014 and 2015). Coeliac UK have worked with Naturally Chinese, a restaurant in Surbiton which will adapt dishes so they have a great GLUTEN FREE Menu which I have enjoyed in 2014 and 2015, and further afield, attending a USA Food Fair, I tried GLUTEN FREE Egg-Rolls available in USA Freezer Cabinets made by Feel Good: GF Chinese Dim Sum Dumplings: vegetarian and meat-filled).
And then, when a friend offered to take me to a Chinese restaurant: Hunan without a Menu, you can guess my nervousness. At first, it made no sense: “No menu? What will I eat?” but it was explained that you advise the staff what you will eat, and clearly what you will not eat (or tolerate) and they will accommodate you! Maybe, being British but this seemed a completely alien concept but one I was willing to try…
I found it hard to accept that the “London restaurant [is] known for not having a menu. Diners don’t choose – they just tell what they don’t eat and how spicy they like their food. We then do the rest, serving up small tapas-size portions of food with the emphasis on sharing many courses. It’s like having your own personal chef – and the result is a unique meal you will treasure forever” but it was an amazing GLUTEN FREE Delight.
Located in Belgravia, this smart restaurant was very busy, with almost every table booked (despite not having a Menu!). The decor is very simple but you feel a million miles away from the hustle and bustle of London’s street whilst sitting in the restaurant. The waiting staff were quick to discuss my food allergies. It was reassuring that this was not a concern or issue and they made me feel very welcome (despite my very specific requirements). It was explained that they would serve some dishes with four portions (for all of us to enjoy) and some would be served with three portions (as they contain GLUTEN and /or contain shellfish /fish [one of our party has a different allergy to add into the mix]).
I started with a different soup to my fellow diners but it was delicious with soft prawn balls inside the salty broth:
We all enjoyed the Chicken Lettuce Wraps which were spicy but no too hot! And then the dishes kept coming. I guess it’s very similar to a traditional Dim-Sum with several medium sized dishes arriving when they’re ready and served simultaneously. These were always introduced and the staff were always very good at explaining the spiciness as well as which dishes I couldn’t eat. (And if there was something I couldn’t enjoy, they would bring me an alternative or something else.
More dishes (including Cuttlefish, spicy Beef and sticky Pork).
And whilst these were medium-sized dishes of GLUTEN FREE Delight, they kept on coming. There was no stopping the staff as once we had finished the current selection, a new set of dishes would arrive. Indeed, some were too spicy for my palate but you move on and there’s another dish ready for trying. The meat was always very tasty and with a little portion of vegetables, it felt healthy and fresh.
My favourite dish was the Ox Tongue Salad. I do enjoy eating Ox Tongue so this was a treat: and whilst the meat was cold, the sauce was warm which was a lovely contrast. It was melt-in-your-mouth meat with just the right amount of saltiness. And then came a “main course” of duck! What more food!
Like many establishments, they present the duck to you before removing the bones and pulling off the meat which was an elaborate affair before we tucked in. In place of the pancakes, I was given lettuce wraps which meant I didn’t miss out, and my fellow diners helped me out (as they found the lettuce wraps a great lighter alternative!). We were then offered desserts (which we declined as we we’re all very full and had spent several hours eating delicious food)! They were rather surprised but I suspect we’re not the first party to say no to dessert as they surely fill you up with amazing dishes.
And delightful to see the restaurant has a beautiful cook book which was the perfect gift for our host (who treated us for the lunch). It is a beautiful cookery book with clear mouth-watering photographs and clear instructions for a competent chef. A nice touch that the Chef (and Author) came up from the Kitchen to personally sign and message the book. Another small detail which made this lovely dining experience…
It wasn’t a cheap meal but given the amount of food we ate (at £40.80 per head), it was great value-for-money. And they wanted to feed us even more, it was us who turned the food down.
It is strange to eat food which is just presented to you, rather than selected your own dishes but it was a communal feast and for me, GLUTEN FREE Chinese at it’s best. And one that I shall definitely return to try again and maybe next time, I shall have room for dessert!
Other Gourmet Dining experiences in London and rather special-treat GLUTEN FREE meals reviewed on my blog in London include Afternoon Tea at the Shangri-la Hotel up the Shard, Searcys at the Gherkin, Afternoon Tea at Fortnums & Mason, GF Lunch at The Ivy, GF Lunch at Niche (100% GF), Skylon at the Royal Festival Hall and Galvins at Windows, Hilton Park Lane.
If you are a member of Coeliac UK, they produce a comprehensive directory which covers over 16,000 food and drink items (including GLUTEN FREE Chocolate Bars). And at Christmas, they produce a highlights sheet which outlines key products. This is available in a paper-based Manual and online FREE to members of Coeliac UK.
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