Going to a restaurant should be a great experience where you just go out, relax and enjoy yourself. Unfortunately for coeliacs, this is not always the case. Being a coeliac presents its own set of challenges, ensuring that we have a good night and we’re served food that will not make us ill. In order to do that, I like to establish a basis of trust with waiting staff. Not only does this tell me how knowledgeable they are about the condition but also determines the risk of ‘glutenation’. Once when out and I was going through possible menu options, it was suggested that I could have a burger without the bun, but when I asked if there was definitely no breadcrumbs in the burger, it was unknown.
I find that it’s the hidden sources of gluten that cause the most confusion and present a bigger risk. Therefore, if I know that something may contain this hidden source, I’ll always ask. My advice for going to a restaurant is to be confident enough to ask questions. I would rather go for overkill asking questions than become ill and regret not asking those questions. When in a restaurant, we are paying for the service as well as the food. Just because we are coeliac, does not mean that we should be made feel like we deserve lesser quality food and that we are an inconvenience to the chef, as I’ve had happen in the past. Now, if I’m not happy with the attitude or the menu options, I’ll leave and go to another venue.
I suppose being coeliac, I always try to choose a restaurant that I will have vetted online beforehand. Wherever possible, I always check the menu online to ensure that there are options for me. It’s difficult when you are the only coeliac in a group and if like me, restaurant choice for nights out are often left to me as I’m the one who experiences the most difficulty in finding suitable food. That’s why I like coeliacpages as I want to create a sense of community and trust amongst our coeliac peergroup on where we can go and actually relax about getting a good meal without gluten. Always inform the restaurant or hotel at the time of booking that you are coeliac, that way at least you hope that the chef has some advance warning.
QUESTIONS FOR RESTAURANTS
- Is your deep fat fryer used for anything other than chips?
Unfortunately, the issue of cross contamination with other fried food is one of the big areas that I find the restaurant industry is the least knowledgeable on. If I eat food that comes out of a fryer that has been used for breaded or battered products, within 20 minutes I get severe stomach cramping and that’s the end of my night out! So to make the most of my freedom and kind offers of babysitting, I make sure I double check every little detail that I think might impact my gluten free meal.
- Does the soup/sauce have any wheat flour based products/thickener in it?
Again, this hidden source of wheat is a difficult one to detect. I always ask, if there is any doubt with the waiting staff I ask them to double check with the chef/kitchen staff. I would rather be double sure than risk being “glutenated”!
- Do the burgers have any breadcrumbs in its ingredient list?
Gluten free option with some restaurants is the burger without the bun. I always double check with waiting staff that there is no hidden wheat in the burger. Better safe than sorry!
- Is it garam flour used?
Indian cooking is generally quite coeliac friendly as they use Garam flour which is a derivative of chic peas and can form the basis of popadoms. However, I’ll always ask, even if visiting a restaurant that I have been to before. I prefer to be over cautious than risk ‘glutenation’.
- Salad dressing suitability.
Salad dressings can be another hidden source of gluten. I always ask that it is double checked as suitable for coeliacs.
If you have any other useful tips, leave a comment below, thanks.