Product Reviews, Restaurant Reviews and Recipes: All GLUTEN FREE!
As seen in a Coeliac UK Facebook group, a invitation was made by Marks & Spencer to attend a GLUTEN FREE Insight session. Primarily, this was focused upon new products they are looking to release in their M&S Store Cafes as well as trying and tasting some of their new range. (They did allow photographs to be taken of the dishes and this posting does not share any commercially sensitive information such as the exact pricing discussion undertaken).
The group of Coeliacs met in the lobby of M&S Headquarters (located in Paddington Basin, West London) and we were walked up to their Test Kitchens. They advised us that they were looking at new products to be introduced into their M&S Store Cafes that would be suitable for Coeliacs and wanted our feedback on two specific products as well as a wider discussion on Where we eat out? What choices do we have to make? What we like and dislike about eating out?”
So they presented each of us with a Cheese & Tomato Toastie and a Bacon Roll: both served hot. I would have to say the toastie was a great large half although a lot of the cheese had melted out and run onto the plate (not that it stopped me from enjoying it). It was filled with several thick slices of ham and the malted loaf really held together. It was a good cheesy toastie. Interestingly, I was also served (half) a hot bacon roll which was a little disappointing. The roll was hard and after questioning our hosts, these had been warmed in an oven but still had a crusty texture. It was well filled with bacon although I found mine to be a little fatty (as I trim all the fat off my bacon) and without any sauce or butter, this was quite dry.
A open discussion on pricing (of these potential new entrants at their cafes), the quality (of the tastings) with the M&S staff followed by a wider discussion on where we like to eat out, the issues and challenges with eating out as well as what we like when we are choosing somewhere to eat: a separate Menu (like Carluccio’s) or additional information on the regular Menu (like at Pizza Express). We also discussed what personal preferences we had in selecting a “Made without Wheat” pasta dish we would like to see in the M&S Cafes. This was an interesting one for me as I don’t think I would choose a M&S pasta meal if I was out-and-about but from their new Ready Meal range, it looks like some of new dishes will make the journey from the shop floor to the cafe. Personally, I would love to see the “Made without Wheat” Quiche (maybe served with a salad) in the cafes or even better, the Hot Chocolate Fudge Dessert (although this can be a little messy to eat). We were then invited to taste a new loaf which is still in development:
This had a great texture (which felt light and bouncy) and a good strong crust all the way around. Indeed, there were no holes which is often the case with GLUTEN FREE bread and there was a brief discussion on pricing (and feedback given on existing bread products that M&S sell) such as the Boule Loaf which I really enjoy.
And we got to try the new Blackcurrant Ripple Loaf (which has been launched in selective stores already as part of the new “Made without Wheat” range). I hadn’t seen this in the stores, at this point but disappointingly this actually had been left out in the Test kitchen and had gone a little hard. Indeed, the photographs I took do not do the cake any justice (which might be the harsh lights of the Test kitchen nor taking the first slice which doesn’t really have much blackcurrant jam running through it) as it was really light, tasty with the tartness of the blackcurrant contrasting with the buttery sponge. (On a subsequent shopping trip at my local M&S, I have found it and enjoyed it:
This is a real treat and whilst similar to the Chocolate Loaf, it does have a summery feel to it). And as we left, the volunteers were rewarded with a M&S Goodie Bag which was full of “Made without Wheat” products, so look out for new product reviews on my blog…
On my blog, other M&S “Made without Wheat” products reviewed include Sweet Treats: ( NEW Desserts including the New York Cheesecake, Apple Pie and Strawberry Trifle (AMAZING), Victoria Sandwich, Lemon Drizzle Cake, Mince Pies, Hot Fudge Pudding and Triple Chocolate Cookies) Savoury Items (Quiche Lorraine, Chicken & Mushroom CrispBakes) and M&S Bread products (Soft White Baps, Sliced White Boule, Soft Brown Baps and Fruit Loaf).
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). This is available in a paper-based Manual and online FREE to members of Coeliac UK. They have also published an Easter listing (although it is not as visually EGG-citing as this posting and excludes many of the included Chocolatiers and High Street stores covered in my posts).
SIGN UP so you do not miss out on future updates to the Chocolate Bar listing, Chocolate Bags and Boxes, as well as new Restaurant Reviews, Travelling experiences, Food Shows, Product Reviews and (occasional) Recipes. Also check out my posts on GLUTEN FREE Ice Cream, GLUTEN FREE Advent Calendars, GLUTEN FREE Mince Pies and GLUTEN FREE Valentines Treats.
This information was correct as of April 2016.
But as I am learning, ingredients do change and therefore you should always read the label and check for yourself whether it is GLUTEN FREE or not!