One of the best trips I’ve ever taken was my family’s summer vacation to England last year. It was amazing for a lot of reasons: lovely scenery, fascinating historical sites, world-class museums, and of course… the food. Although England tends to get a bad rap for its cuisine (black pudding, anyone?), my family and I were shocked to find that England could serve up some of the best meals we had ever eaten. I was especially surprised to find that the gluten-free trend is even bigger across the pond!
Every restaurant we visited had an extensive gluten-free menu and went out of their way to ensure that I was happy with my meal, and bakeries always had at least a couple gluten-free pastries to choose from. This was night and day from here in America, where we are hard pressed to even get a gluten free bun with our burgers!
We traveled all over the country, from London to Oxford and up into the Cotswolds, and I swear we didn’t have a bad meal the whole time. Here were a few of my favorites:
Jamie’s Italian: Jamie Oliver’s Italian restaurant in Oxford was our first meal we had in the country. After a red-eye flight, renting cars and driving into Oxford, we were all delirious and starving; this was the perfect remedy. Italian food usually doesn’t bode well for us celiacs, but to my delight, I was actually able to enjoy homemade gluten-free pasta for once!
Traditional Afternoon Tea at The Brown Hotel: you know something’s good when your mom steals your GF scones because they are better than the ones with gluten. I ate my weight and then some in scrumptious tea sandwiches, cookies, scones, and desserts of every kind and did not regret a single thing. For anyone who even remotely enjoys tea, this is a MUST.
Bread Street Kitchen: despite the name, this restaurant had plenty of gluten free options, and even had homemade gluten free bread! One of Gordon Ramsay’s 14 restaurants in London, this is the perfect spot for a high-quality GF feast (the duck was amazing)- and maybe even a sighting of the famous chef yelling at some unlucky chaps like he does on TV.
The Wild Rabbit: this was truly the most charming inn I have ever stayed in, and the food did not disappoint either. Everything was fresh from their own gardens or from the Daylesford Farm just down the road in Kingham, England. The shop and restaurants at this all-organic farm were phenomenal, with everything local, fresh, and in season. As always, homemade gluten-free bread was served, and it was delicious.
For those of you who scoff at gluten-free food, I want to remind you that my parents (who are quite the food snobs- in a good way!) thoroughly enjoyed both the allergy-friendly options as well as the gluten-filled meals at these restaurants. That’s what made them so perfect- there was something for everyone!
Although visiting some of the many breweries and pubs around England was a fun experience, unfortunately beer was out of the question for me. Luckily, most also offered ciders- they are usually gluten-free, but the staff was always very helpful in helping me find something I could drink!
Besides eating and drinking, England is filled with so many lovely things to do. Summertime is a perfect time to visit, so you can soak up the sunshine doing a biking tour of all the sights, or stroll along the Thames river sipping a Pimm’s (literally the best drink ever!). In the summer, there are also plenty of farmer’s markets and stands selling local produce and freshly made baked goods (with GF options, obviously). Don’t be afraid to travel off the beaten path, because you never know what you might find!
The Wandering Celiac