Here are my gluten-free restaurant reviews – mostly in London, but anywhere that I find absolutely delicious. Any meals that have been comp’ed have been specified – and I always give my honest opinion – there’s nothing worse than a shoddy meal!

Friends the Restaurant, Phnom Penh

I arrived in Phnom Penh on Monday. It’s the second time I’ve been here in 2014 and I am so glad to be back! After a fairly uneventful journey (the only blip being Cathay Pacific serving regular bread with the on flight gluten-free meal, which was not ideal – never trust the bread!), I’ve been spending my first week unwinding by the pool, going for walks with the family and catching up on some last-minute Christmas shopping.

Friends the Restaurant, Phnom Penh

One of my favourite things about Phnom Penh is the great boutique hotel and restaurant scene. Sure, you get some of the same chains here that you do everywhere else, but there are so many options for going out – great bars, independent restaurants, shops and galleries that I can’t wait to cover this trip! The cocktails here are also incredible – and for about an eighth of London prices too. It’s safe to say that so far, I’m having a pretty incredible Christmas.

One of the first places I went for lunch here was Friends the Restaurant, #215 Street 13 in Phnom Penh. It came highly recommended by my friends, not just due to the menu – a selection of Asian and Western-inspired tapas – but because of the restaurants’ work with the local community. Friends is a TREE restaurant, providing on-the-job training and skills for marginalized street youth, giving them valuable skills to help secure their futures. I love this idea, and there are several places throughout Cambodia that have initiatives like these, which are absolutely great as you can really see the programs at work. Last time I was here, I went to Dine in the Dark, another great experience that I thoroughly enjoyed, and a great social initiative.

Friends the Restaurant, Phnom Penh

We sat in the outside area, guided there by a member of staff in a ‘student’ t-shirt. The students and the teachers of the program can be told apart in this way – often the students would be waiting on tables with the watchful eye of the teachers nearby.

I loved the concept for this restaurant, and for this reason I hadn’t particularly set the bar high regarding the food. I was really pleasantly surprised after being presented with a simple but charming and imaginative tapas menu, with locally sourced ingredients and flavours.

pineapple and chilli margarita Friends the Restaurant, Phnom Penh

I had a pineapple and chilli margarita with my meal, and really liked the combination (I’ll have chilli in anything given half a chance), but it’s certainly not for everyone. The drinks menu was extensive, with lots of variety, which is always a plus.

zucchini cheddar fritters Friends the Restaurant, Phnom Penh zucchini cheddar fritters Friends the Restaurant, Phnom Penh

2-3 plates per person are recommended, between $4.50 – $8 per plate, with some dishes (like the 3B burger) slightly more, around $15. We went for the crispy zucchini and cheddar fritters, baby squid with Kampot pepper and rice wine, a grilled beef fillet with daikon and chive flowers served with a wasabi mirin vinaigrette and the sun-dried tomato hummus with crispy wonton wrappers.

hummus and wonton wrappers Friends the Restaurant, Phnom Penh beef with kampot pepper and daikon Friends the Restaurant, Phnom Penh

The vegetarian options were my definite favourite – I loved the fritters, which were served with a chilli mayonnaise sauce, and the hummus, tomato and basil-topped wonton wrappers were lovely.

The squid and beef fillet were also tasty – I love daikon, but the whole Kampot peppercorns were a slight surprise and biting into them was not a particularly pleasant experience, despite the fact that I love the stuff.

Baby squid with kampot pepper, Friends the Restaurant, Phnom PenhFriends the Restaurant, Phnom Penh

Besides the fritters, the dessert was my favourite part of the meal. I clearly hadn’t had enough pineapple or chilli with my margarita, as I went straight for the caramelised pineapple with chilli ice cream. The warm caramel and pineapple combined with the cold ice cream was a real treat for the senses. I loved the ice cream – it seemed to be warm and cool at the same time, really unusual and something I’d definitely try again.

caramelised pineapple, chilli icecream Friends the Restaurant, Phnom Penhcaramelised pineapple and chilli icecream Friends the Restaurant, Phnom Penh

At some points there seemed to be a lull in service, despite Friends the restaurant not being particularly packed, but that might be due to the fact that we missed the lunchtime rush. I really enjoyed my Friends dining experience – a nice, interesting meal for a worthy cause.

Friends the restaurant is located at : #215 Street 13, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
+855 12 802 072

3.5 Stars (3.5 / 5)

Shoryu Soho – Delicious Gluten Free Ramen in London

Shoryu’s tonkotsu bone broth with gluten-free rice noodles packs a whole lot of flavour and umami, while their gluten-free hirata buns are filled with deliciously crisp fillings and perfectly matched sauces. Shoryu have completely mastered the art of creating delicious gluten-free dishes that don’t compromise on flavour or texture.

Shoryu Sohoshoryu ganso tonkotsu gluten free shoryu london

It wasn’t the first time I’d been to Shoryu, but it was my first time at the Soho location, just near Piccadilly Circus on Denman Street. I’ve been a massive fan of Shoryu for a while – I’d done a review around a year ago on this site, but wanted to focus more on the gluten-free offerings available.

Shoryu Soho, London

The atmosphere at Shoryu is pretty casual – the trendy black and gold Asia-inspired fusion decor, combined with the fact that it’s always brimming with people gives the place a lively atmosphere. Depending on the size of your party, you’re usually sat immediately next to strangers on a long table, in line with the way ramen is traditionally consumed – hurriedly eaten seated beside strangers. One thing worth keeping in mind is that they refuse to seat incomplete parties, so if you are the type to get ‘hangry’, it might be worth coordinating beforehand.

Salmon Hirata bun - Shoryu London

My dinner companion was the lovely Priscilla from Food Porn Nation, formerly based in Sydney but currently blogging in London, and a fellow ramen fan. Once we’d been seated, we immediately got stuck in to the menu, questioning the waitstaff thoroughly regarding their personal preferences and recommendations. We started our meal with a bottle of umeshu – a Japanese plum wine which is a particular weakness of mine. Although delicious and enjoyable, it is quite sweet, and not necessarily a beverage I’d recommend with savoury hirata buns or ramen (although I will definitely end up ordering it again).

Tori Karaage Gluten Fre Hirata Bun - Shoryu London

For starters, we went for the Shoryu hirata buns – their take on the steamed Taiwanese street food trend, which involves steamed bread-like buns filled with various savoury fillings. The gluten-free options for the buns included chicken karaage, a Japanese fried chicken dish made with potato starch (see my recipe here), as well a ginger salmon option. I was completely enamored with the latter – the crispy salmon skin combined with the soft texture of the warm bun was exquisite. The gluten-free buns were really something – I didn’t feel, as I often feel when having the gluten-free option, that I was missing out on anything at all.

Chicken karaage gluten free hirata buns shoryu londonchicken karaage gluten free hirata buns

For the main course I went for the restaurant’s signature dish – the Shoryu Ganso Tonkotsu ramen. I substituted the regular wheat noodles for gluten-free rice noodles, similar to those found in Pho. The Tonkotsu broth is made by boiling down and reducing pork bones for hours on end, creating a rich, creamy flavour and consistency to the broth. I decided to go for the Shoryu Ganso Broth and skipped the nitamago which accompanies many of the ramen dishes, as the boiled egg is flavoured with soy sauce. Other gluten-free options are available, like Tori Karaage-men, which is made with a shiitake mushroom and kombu seaweed and soy broth.

Shoryu ganso tonkotsu ramen gluten freeshoryu ganso tonkotsu ramen gluten free shoryu soho

As always, the ramen was spot on – the flavours of the broth were rich, delicious and comforting – and while the rice noodles didn’t quite compare to their gluten-filled equivalent, they were still satisfying.

shoryu ganso tonkotsu ramen gluten free

Despite thinking we were well and truly stuffed, we ordered a couple of the mochi on the strong recommendation of our waiter, who favoured the raspberry and chocolate one in particular. Luckily, these were also gluten-free: the first bite was slightly surprising, as I was still expecting the traditional red-bean filling for the dessert, but the raspberry mochi (a sweet rice cake) was unbelievable – tart yet sweet, indulgent yet light – a definite winner. I wasn’t as keen on the Tiramisu, but that could be due to the fact that I am not a Tiramisu fan generally.

Shoryu mochi

Around three or four sets of diners had come and go in the time it had taken us to finish our meal – not particularly unusual when a couple of food bloggers go for dinner.  The service was prompt and efficient, yet I didn’t feel pressured or rushed at all to leave – the entire meal was extremely pleasant, and came to around £35 per head.

I strongly recommend Shoryu for gluten-free diners and their companions – a delicious meal in a low-key, smart-casual atmosphere in several locations: you’re onto a winner.

4.5 Stars (4.5 / 5)

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Burger & Lobster, Farringdon

Looking for the perfect place for a payday lunch? You really can’t beat Burger & Lobster in terms of value, and it feels really indulgent, too. I’d been to the Dean Street location previously, but I much prefer the Farringdon location – much less chaotic. At the chain’s Soho location you are more likely to face a crowd, and there’s something unsettling and off-putting about eating while the people around you are angling for your table – personally, it doesn’t make for a particularly pleasant dining experience.

Burger & Lobster, FarringdonBurger & Lobster, FarringdonBurger & Lobster, Farringdon

The menu is simple – you have the choice of lobster (grilled or steamed), lobster roll, or burger – all with a side salad and chips for £20. For those who can’t be forced to choose, if you have a willing companion you can split both – each get a burger, and half a lobster for around £30 which also comes with a dessert, as seen below.

Burger & Lobster, FarringdonBurger & Lobster, Farringdon

I went for the grilled whole lobster, which came with a buttery sauce, salad and fries. Deliciously succulent lobster, perfect fries and a lovely salad – it’s so simple, but it’s a recipe for success.

Burger & Lobster, FarringdonBurger & Lobster, FarringdonBurger & Lobster, Farringdon

Unfortunately, the dessert options for those on a gluten-free diet are non-existent – the choices are either cheesecake or chocolate brownie, so I ended up opting for another glass of prosecco.

All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable working or payday lunch, at excellent value. The atmosphere is pretty casual, so although the menu might seem impressive this is more a place to come with friends rather than a date. And leave your vegetarian friends at home – there’s nothing for them here!

Burger & Lobster: 4.0 Stars (4.0 / 5)

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Chez Elles, Brick Lane

Chez Elles is definitely worth a visit if you’re around Brick Lane or Spitalfields – a delicious, kitschy gem hidden among the sea of curry houses.

Chez Elles

We stopped in on our way to a concert at the All Saint’s Church in Spitalfields (the Camden Symphony Orchestra – they’re playing Handel’s Messiah next) for a quick bite. Chez Elles were able to accommodate the six of us at 6pm, but we were told the table was booked from half eight.

The decor in Chez Elles is eclectic and adorable – the birdcages, plates and framed vintage prints, along with the loveseat in the corner and French tunes are the stuff of instagram dreams. It has a really nice atmosphere, and with a lot of conversation pieces it’s the kind of place that would work well for a meal out with friends or a first date. I also thoroughly enjoyed the mismatching cutlery and plates – it added to the character of the place: life is far too short for matching sets.

Chez EllesChez Elles Menu

We went straight for the mains in order to make good time to make the show, though I was particularly tempted by the Foie Gras. The service was friendly and helpful, which is always a bonus, particularly for Brick Lane (in my experience) and when it comes to French cuisine (also from experience).

Chez Elles Steak Tartar

Always a fan of anything raw, I went for the tartare de boeuf et frites maison, or steak tartar. I also find it tends to be a ‘safe’ (gluten-free) choice, as flour tends to be rife in French cooking. It was seasoned beautifully, accompanied by a perfectly dressed salad and crisp frites. The best steak tartar I’ve had in London yet!

Chez Elles Steak Tartar

My fellow diners went for the special – lamb burger – and classic French staple moules marinieres. I only sampled the latter – and I found the sauce was creamy and rich, simple and delicious.

Chez Elles Lamb BurgerChez Elles

Chez Elles have really nailed it – a charming vibe, excellent food, great location – which is a refreshing change from the increasingly anonymous monotony of Brick Lane curry houses (though I’m open to recommendations). It was an absolute pleasure. The only vague criticism had by the table was one I hear almost every time – the usual grouching about eating off of slate trays instead of plates. Not a problem for me, although admittedly their collection of crockery is infinitely more charming.

Again, due to time we only stayed for a coffee – but like the Terminator, I’ll be back (for Creme Brulee).

Chez Elles: 3.5 Stars (3.5 / 5)

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Introducing: Old Tom and English

London – have I got a treat for you. I was so excited to come home and write up this post because I’ve just come from the incredible soft opening for the Old Tom and English, a new restaurant opening up on Wardour Street in Soho.

Old Tom and English Old Tom and English

In contrast to the ‘no-reservations’ policy of many popular restaurants these days, the Old Tom and English take a much more civilized approach, with quite the opposite policy: they take reservations only. Personally, I’m a fan of this – you can enjoy your meal without the curious eyes of the next party angling for your seat, as well as getting the ‘private members club’ feel without the extortionate membership fees. Through a speakeasy-style front door, you are led downstairs to a charming bar and dining room done up in exquisite ’60s style, with little alcoves for a few parties who might enjoy a little privacy. My date for the evening was the lovely Joy from the Joyous Living, and we both remarked on how it would be an amazing place for a romantic date – the sharing plates and soft lighting in particular.

Old Tom and English Old Tom and English Old Tom and EnglishOld Tom and English

So far, so good – we were really impressed with the ambiance of the place, and we’d hadn’t even looked at the drinks menu yet. For those of you who might not know, the ‘Old Tom’ refers to a particular gin recipe – or the Cockney rhyming slang for prostitute (perhaps the cheeky pun is alluding to the reputation of its location in Soho?) As someone who is obsessed more than a little partial to a nice gin, I was really impressed with their cocktail menu, of which there are several containing my favourite spirit. I found a kindred spirit in Joy, who is also a gin fan, and we started off with a Wardour (for me) – a gin cocktail infused with basil and black pepper, and the South Side of Oxford Street for Joy, a gin and sherry cocktail which were both amazing.

Old Tom and English Old Tom and English Me and Joy

The Old Tom and English specialise in sharing plates, or an English take on tapas. Coming from a Japanese family, where eating ‘family-style’ is a massive part of the culture, I love sharing plates, and Joy and I ordered several between us.

For an extremely new restaurant, and despite the fact I hadn’t called ahead to enquire about anything gluten-free, the staff at the Old Tom and English were amazingly accommodating and helpful – the service was spectacular. Our waitress was really attentive, and I really felt looked after – which is something you definitely want if you have an allergy or an intolerance of any kind! Everything I tried was gluten-free – anything that wasn’t I’ll mark with a *.

Old Tom and English Our food came in waves – we started with the beer sticks, Old Tom’s salmon tartar with poached egg and pan-fried kings scallops with courgette and black pudding.

Old Tom and English: salmon tartar with poached eggOld Tom and English: scallops with black pudding

It was incredibly hard to decide which dish was my favourite as they were all virtually faultless, but I was extremely fond of those scallops, which were really flavourful. They even impressed Joy, who by her own admission isn’t the biggest fan of the mollusc.

These were followed by the egg and mushroom on a bed of pureed jerusalem artichoke, with a touch of marmite butter. This was served with melba toast*, but can be served without. Although braised gem lettuce with anchovy and garlic might not seem like the most exciting thing in the world, even this defined the word umami for me.

Old Tom and English: mushroom and egg with melba toast

My second favourite dish was the slow smoked guinea fowl with anchovy mayo. The skin was light and crispy, yet the meat fell off the bone – the slow cooking and smoking technique they used made this dish really memorable.

Old Tom and English: smoked slow cooked quail

Our final two savoury dishes were the triple cooked chips and the smoked wood pigeon. I’d never quite understood the appeal of triple cooked chips before, but these were so light – almost like tempura. The wood pigeon was served rare with some grated beetroot and samphire.

Old Tom and English: smoked wood pigeonOld Tom and English: triple cooked chips

At this point, we were well and truly stuffed – but couldn’t resist another cocktail: a fragrant elderflower collins for me, and the OT&E gimlet for Joy, as well as a look at the dessert menu. Not a massive fan of chocolate, or cake, I was really impressed with the flourless chocolate cake – it was deliciously rich and simply delectable. Joy sampled some of the other desserts on offer – including the banana bread and lemon and thyme doughnuts. The only fault I heard all evening was the fact that Joy found the cream slightly too rich for the banana bread, but the dessert menu certainly didn’t disappoint.

Old Tom and English: flourless chocolate cake

Without a doubt, this has been the best meal I’ve had out in 2014 – bravo, Old Tom and English!

Old Tom and English is located on 187b Wardour Street, W1F 8ZB – you can book via phone 020 7287 7347 or at info@oldtomandenglish.com.

Old Tom and English: 4.5 Stars (4.5 / 5)

Although my meal was provided free of charge, all opinions are fully my own.

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