Posts Tagged ‘Coeliac UK’

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Our worst gluten-free dining experience ever: Pizza Express

November 23, 2013

In June this year, we were delighted to report that Pizza Express had worked with Coeliac UK to create an accredited gluten-free menu including gluten-free beers, pizzas and other menu items. We were really pleased with our first experience and found our waiter to be knowledgable and very well-trained.

So, last night, we were confident that we would have the same great gluten-free experience at the busy Pizza Express on Euston Road in London. We’d had a great evening catching up with friends in a pub in King’s Cross and decided to nip in to Pizza Express to share a meal before heading home. We agreed to order a completely gluten-free meal so we could share.

The first thing I said to our waiter was “We need two gluten-free meals” as I pointed at the gluten-free advertisement on the menu, which he acknowledged. The “gluten-free choices” part of the menu is very clear as you can see below.  I ordered a “gluten-free La Reine pizza on a gluten-free base”, pointing again to the gluten-free choices sign.

Pizza Express Euston Road gluten free menu

 

I then ordered a “gluten-free aubergine parmigiana”, not bothering with trying to pronounce the confusing “Melanzane”, again pointing at the menu and the gluten-free choices sign.

Pizza Express gluten-free menu aubergine parmigiana

 

Finally, I ordered a “gluten-free beer” and a small Peroni.

Pizza Express Gluten Free drinks menu

 

At this point, I had said “gluten-free” and pointed at the menu so many times it’s safe to say we had a complete understanding. Our waiter repeated the order back and it was bang on.

We were buzzing after a fun night with friends and happily chatted while sipping on our beers. Our meals arrived really quickly. The waitress mumbled what I thought was “Melanzane” or “Parmigiana” as she placed my meal in front of me.

After a few bites of his pizza, my partner said “This is terrible. It tastes of nothing.” I was already a few bites into my parmigiana and was thinking, “This is nice. There are pieces of aubergine, but are these layers aubergine or pasta?” We were starting to get worried but kept eating. After a few more bites I said “I have to ask the waiter about this. This is pasta.”

I called the waiter over and said, “Can I just check? Is the aubergine parmigiana gluten-free?”. He said “That’s a lasagne.” I said “I ordered two gluten-free meals.” He whipped the dish away and sped off.

By this point we were absolutely furious and decided we weren’t going to pay for the meal. I tried a tiny slice of the pizza to see if I thought the base was gluten-free or classic. It was doughy, and undercooked, like a frozen base had not been in the oven long enough. No wonder it tasted insipid. But we still weren’t 100% sure if we’d been given a gluten-free pizza or if my partner had just eaten two slices of normal pizza.

When the waiter got back he said they were cooking new meals for us. I was completely fuming inside but I stayed calm and was very polite. I said “No thank you. We’re going to leave but I’m not happy to pay for these meals. This pizza is undercooked and my meal wasn’t gluten-free so we’re not going to pay.” He called his manager.

The manager apologised and offered to cook us new meals. We politely declined. He said we don’t have to pay for the meal and the drinks are free. We explained how important it is for his staff to get the order right and that our whole weekend could now be ruined. We asked if the pizza was gluten-free and he said “if it’s served on a black board it’s gluten-free. It’s definitely gluten-free.” I know that’s not the truth; all Romana pizzas are served on a black board. He invited us back to have a free Christmas meal on the house, but we had already decided never to eat a gluten-free meal at Pizza Express again. We thanked him for the offer and got ready to leave.

We started to talk about what you should do if you’ve mistakenly eaten a lot of gluten. Do you go make yourself be sick? We were worried our weekend was a write-off at this point and we still weren’t sure if he’d had gluten or not. I decided to ask the waiter if the pizza was gluten-free. He said “you had a classic pizza.” I queried that and he said he’d get the menu. Thankfully, he pointed to the gluten-free sign and we were a bit more confident that we’d be OK.

This completely ruined a really nice evening. We were polite and explained how important it is to get the orders right and the consequences of getting it wrong so it never happens to anyone again. If we started off with the opposite meals we could have been in for a terrible weekend. It might sound harsh, but we are never going to eat at Pizza Express again. Their accreditation gives you false confidence and trust, which is quite dangerous if they don’t deliver. Despite the undeserved trust, I think we were extremely vigilant with our order. How could they get it so wrong? They have a lot of work to do and I question their Coeliac UK accreditation. Other unaccredited restaurants like Carluccio’s can get it right every time. Pizza Express completely failed. I recommend that you don’t eat there.

 

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Gluten-free pizzas and BEER at Pizza Express

May 12, 2013

Pizza express pizza

Sometimes at the end of a tough week you just can’t wait to relax and enjoy a pizza and a beer and forget about cooking for one evening. But in our case, the wait on a pizza and beer night has been roughly a decade.

Which is why I can’t tell you how excited we were to hear that Pizza Express have brought out a gluten-free pizza range as part of their new Summer menu. But the excitement was ramped up another notch when we investigated further and found out that beer is also involved.

In fact, those smart cookies at Pizza Express have launched an entire gluten-free menu featuring risottos, salads, pizzas, parmigianas and brownies. They’ve also provided a list of menu items to avoid. And as a bonus the menu has been endorsed by Coeliac UK.

Pizza Express say:

“We’ve worked hard to ensure that you can be fully confident of no issues on entering any PizzaExpress. This includes changing processes in our kitchens – including labeling and storage, using new equipment only for gluten-free food, as well as changing the flour we use for tossing and stretching our dough to be Gluten free.”

Amazing. I think it’s pretty safe to say we’ll be there next Friday!

Have you tried the Pizza Express pizza? What did you think? Any other recommendations?

 

Image via pizzaexpress.com 

 

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Is Worthenshaws Freedom gluten-free?

January 12, 2011

A few months ago I wrote about the exciting launch of Worthenshaws Freedom free-from desserts and claimed that they were suitable for coeliacs. I thought this because their website and labelling state that Freedom is free from gluten and suitable for food allergy sufferers.

However, there is some interesting chatter about Freedom on Coeliac UK’s Facebook page this week that has made me rethink that and want to double-check the facts.

A member has posted a question asking whether Worthenshaws is safe for coeliacs to consume seeing as it is produced in a factory that also handles gluten.

Freedom’s packaging states the following: “recipe free from nuts, soya, dairy, gluten, wheat, egg, added sugar (contains only fruit sugars, artificial colours and flavours.” So, that’s the recipe. But the labelling goes on to say, “ALLERGEN INFORMATION: Produced in a factory that handles nuts, soya, milk, wheat, gluten and egg” so there is the potential for contamination with allergens.

Coeliac UK has responded to the query saying they don’t list Worthenshaws because they haven’t been provided with suitable information but  add that the Worthenshaws website provides information about the risk of contamination.

The Worthenshaws statement, available here, explains that all of the ingredients used in the dessert are gluten-free. However, nuts, gluten, eggs, milk and soya are all handled on the manufacturing site.  Because of this they adopt strict procedures for segregation and handling of all allergens and for cleaning of equipment prior to production to ensure that the risk of cross-contamination is remote.

“Testing has shown that there are no traces of these allergens, to within the current sensitivity of testing at our UKAS accredited laboratory; therefore we believe that these products are safe for the allergen sensitive consumer. The addition of the statement ‘produced in a factory that handles nuts, soya, milk, wheat, gluten and egg’ is intended as information to the consumer so as not to mislead, rather than a warning.”

I’m not entirely sure that means that there are less than 20 parts-per-million of gluten in the dessert but it sounds like that’s what they mean. There are rumours in the Coeliac UK posts that some coeliacs have felt unwell after eating the dessert so if you suffer from coeliacs it would be worth keeping this in mind if you choose to eat the dessert.

I have sent an enquiry to Worthenshaws customer care to see what they say about their gluten-free labelling and will post their response.

Related posts: Dragons Den dairy-free desserts now available

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Are you the Gluten-Free Chef of the Year?

September 7, 2010

As of today there are only 38 days left to get your entry in for Coeliac UK’s 2010 Gluten-free Chef of the Year competition.

Professional chefs and catering students are invited to compile recipes for a three course gluten-free menu for four people that can be prepared in 90 minutes. Shortlisted entrants will be invited to recreate their menu in a 90 minute live cook off to serve to four judges in November.

Judging the competition is resident celebrity chef on ITV’s This Morning and author of Seriously Good! Gluten-Free Cooking, Phil Vickery. Entries will be judged according to originality, taste, texture, seasonality and balance. In the taste test, judges will be looking for dishes that aren’t noticeably gluten-free.

Professional cooks could win a stage at Gleneagles with twice Michelin starred chef Andrew Fairlie. The winning up and coming chef or catering student will win a stage at Pennyhill Park working alongside Michelin starred chef Michael Wignal.

All written entries must be received by Friday 15 October 2010. For more information, visit the competition page on the Coeliac UK website.

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Coeliac Awareness Week

May 10, 2010

From the 10th to the 16th of May it is Coeliac UK’s Coeliac Awareness Week. This year’s event has a different focus to previous years as UK laws around gluten-free labelling have recently changed and may impact the ability of coeliac sufferers to identify gluten-free foods when eating out.

The new law states that foods must contain less than 20 parts gluten per million to be sold as gluten-free. This will be near impossible for restaurants and caterers to achieve meaning that few menu items will continue to be labelled as gluten-free. Coeliac UK are using this Awareness Week to voice the concerns of coeliac sufferers about how this new law will impact their dining habits.

If you have coeliac disease or follow a gluten-free diet please spread the word about gluten-free eating this week. This may be with the chef at a local restaurant or your staff cafe at work, or by hosting a gluten-free event with friends.

Coeliac UK are also gathering evidence of eating out gluten-free. If you have any examples of great restaurants in the UK that make the effort to provide GF dishes make sure you enter Coeliac UK’s competition. The prize is a weekend at a National Trust cottage.

You can also sign Coeliac UK’s petition to the FSA “to ask the FSA to recognise the need for easy and simple signposting on menus and open dialogue with caterers to identify which foods are suitable for people on a gluten-free diet”.

If you live in the UK, I implore you to take part in some of the activities of this Awareness Week. Please consider signing the petition too. Losing gluten-free labelling on menus would be very sad for everyone in the UK who follows a gluten-free diet and already finds it an uphill battle to find adequately labelled food when dining outside their homes.

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