Tag Archives: food

Holland’s Diner Gluten Free Review

29 Sep

Update: Sadly Holland’s Diner has now closed and ceased trading

Well would you believe this is the 100th post on Gluten Free by the Sea?!  Hard to believe really that the blog has come so far from such small beginnings.  I must apologise that things have been a little quiet lately, I’m facing impending redundancy after 16 years in my current job so real life has had to be given some priority unfortunately.  So if anyone knows of any IT jobs going in Plymouth then please give me a shout!

Anyway, back to gluten free talk.  It seems like an age since I’ve added a new restaurant review, so it’s good to be able to add one for another local independent that is taking gluten free seriously.  I first heard from Chris and Tracy Holland back in March.  They informed me they were working hard to open a new retro American diner called Holland’s Diner, that would be based in Frankfurt Gate, Plymouth.  The good news was that Tracy and Chris were planning on offering extensive gluten free options.

As always my first question to them was about cross contamination.  Tracy’s reply gave me great confidence that they would be taking this extremely seriously.  If only we could get replies like this from all restaurants:

Yes we are aware of the cross contamination issues. We have coeliacs in the family – in fact my mum is coeliac and my son has a gluten intolerance. I am a qualified nurse and nursed many coeliacs during over twenty years in the profession.  Chris and I have spent many hours trying to plan the kitchen area to ensure there is no risk of cross contamination. We have separate prep areas, storage areas and cooking equipment specifically for the GF foods. We also plan to colour code everything to help staff, I have also prepared a simple teaching booklet to give all our staff a greater understanding of the disease and the implications of cross contamination. The reason we are so keen to provide the GF options comes from our own experiences of the limited options for coeliacs and the difficulty in families being able to eat together without worry. We will be offering our coeliac customers the chance to view the kitchen procedures so they can see for themselves that we know what we are doing!

In May Tracy and Chris took a table at the Coeliac UK Plymouth Group AGM and came along to show those present their proposed gluten free menu, and talked to people about their upcoming venture.  They also brought along their Wurlitzer jukebox to help give a feel of the retro look that would be the theme of the diner.  After seeing all the photos of the hard work that was going into getting the diner ready on their Facebook page, it was good to see the hard work rewarded with a grand opening in June.

Holland's Front

I’m not quite sure how it has taken me so long to get there, but the universe has seemed to get in the way on a few previous attempts to get my hands on a big gluten free burger.  However, this week a colleague was down from Exeter and we were looking for somewhere to have a late lunch.  At last the perfect opportunity!  So on Thursday, gluten eating colleagues Rich, Chris and Jill joined me for a meal at the diner.  Tracy and Chris have certainly achieved the desired retro theme, and the walls are covered with memorabilia.  The padded diner booths also looked great.  There’s also an outside eating area too.

Holland's Inside

I’d already checked the menu on their website in advance, and it was good to see the gluten free options marked.  The site also contains a page detailing the diner’s gluten free procedures.  The menus in the restaurant are also clear on the gluten free options, and in most cases GF options are available unless otherwise stated.  There are also some GF dessert options available, supplied by the previously reviewed Ladybird Bakery.  They are supplying apple pie, cherry pie and pancakes.  It’s good to see that local suppliers are being used, with all meat sourecd from local butchers.

Holland's CiderFirst things first though, having just finished interviewing for our own jobs we were keen for a stiff drink!  I was extremely intrigued to see a blueberry cider on the menu so it was a no brainer to give this a try, as did everyone apart from poor old Rich who had to drive.  Thumbs up all round on this one.  There’s also a strawberry cider on the menu which no doubt I’ll try in future.  The cider is made by a company called Hornsby’s Cider whose Anglo American roots seem to be a good fit with the diner.

Holland's Burger

As for the food, I wasn’t going to pass up the chance of a gluten free burger in a bun with chips any time soon.  There’s a good selection of burgers and from a gluten free stand point there’s barely anything to miss out on.  I opted for the Chrysler, a  half pound burger, salad, mayonnaise, Monterey jack cheese, topped with Holland’s chilli sauce.  The quality of the burger itself was excellent, really satisfyingly meaty (sorry Abby!), and the gluten free bun was extremely good too.  The chilli sauce gave great flavour, but due to the amount of sauce/mayo and salad I had to commit the cardinal sin and knife and fork it.  Oh the shame!  Overall the Chrysler was great and the chips were good too so I really enjoyed the meal.  The only downside was I was too stuffed to try any of the puds.

I’m pleased to report I suffered no ill effects from the meal.  It’s great to have another safe option to eat out gluten free in Plymouth, especially from an independent.  I should also say that our waitress gave us great service too and I’m sure this will not be my last visit.  If you’re a music fan also keep an eye out for their live music events.

Kevin, Gluten Free by the Sea

Pret A Manger “Gluten Free” Wrap

21 Jul

Some of you may have seen recently that Pret A Manger have joined the gluten-free bandwagon by launching their own “gluten free” wrap.  However, the eagled eyed amongst you will notice the small print that states “While the ingredients of this product are gluten-free, it has been made in our kitchens which are not gluten-free environments”.  Pret stated on Twitter that they use cross contamination controls, so I asked them what they were.  Oddly they emailed me to ask if this was for “business purposes” which I soon set them straight on, but I’ve now finally managed to get a reply:

pret wrap“The gluten free wrap is made with no gluten ingredients (the wrap itself is gluten free), but we can’t call it gluten-free because of the risk of cross contamination. As it is made on site every day, and not in a segregated room in a factory, we can’t guarantee ‹20ppm. (this would mean putting the product on hold, send it out to a lab for testing and then release it once the results were available. We don’t carry sandwiches over, so wouldn’t be able to retain stock for analysis and wait for the results.

There are strict health and safety standards in place in our kitchens. Team Members need to thoroughly clean their benches and equipment before starting a new batch of sandwiches, and ensure that previous used ingredients are put back tin the fridge/cupboard. But this still doesn’t guarantee gluten-free. Also, sandwiches are made throughout the day for availability of fresh product. The same product is made several time throughout the day. Production is not limited to one batch, so again, we can’t guarantee no contamination.”

Interestingly the product name on the website is “Mexican Guacamole Wrap” and makes no mention of gluten free.  However it then states underneath “does not contain gluten”, with then further small print saying they cannot guarantee completely free from any allergen.  The product is described in store as a “New gluten-free tortilla wrap”.  Clear enough?  Personally my initial reaction is to avoid this one, as the cross contamination controls just sounds like basic hygiene rather than anything to avoid gluten cross contamination.

I posted this on Facebook the other day, and some were in agreement that they would avoid and a few said they would be happy to give it a go.  There was one particular comment from Carly Talbot of Gluten Free B that was very thought provoking:

Odd one- they surely aren’t technically correct as the likes of Dominoes etc can call their product ‘gluten free’ without testing every batch, based on the controls they use. Perhaps they should be looking for Coeliac UK accreditation for their process and training.

Also, are we guilty of holding Pret to a standard we wouldn’t hold other restaurants e.g. independents to if they also served GF bread?

Carly’s first point is of course correct, if Pret had engaged with Coeliac UK to gain official accreditation they could have indeed labelled their wraps gluten free.  To do this they would have to demonstrate that clear and documented cross contamination controls were in place along with staff training.  I had mentioned in my emails to Pret that I was surprised that a company of their size had not worked with Coeliac UK when rolling out a gluten free option, unfortunately they did not reply to this point.

Moving on to Carly’s second point and that’s a really interesting one.  Rightly or wrongly I do expect more of a large chain.  They have the resources to ensure they have responsible allergen processes in place, and if they don’t have confidence to put procedures in place on-site could have brought in a wrap prepared off-site.  One of the main differences to me between a chain and an independent is the point of contact.  If I email an independent restaurant I generally get emailed back by the manager, chef or owner detailing exactly what they do (or don’t!) do to prevent cross contamination.  If I’ve contacted the customer services team of a large chain I expect some sort of standard reply.  Pret initially didn’t seem to know what I was talking about, and took a week to come back with essentially “we wash hands, counter and put stuff back in the fridge”.  No mention of separate utensils and nothing to inspire confidence, and as a coeliac confidence is what I need to enjoy food when eating out.

It is of course welcome to see more and more companies offering a gluten free option, but this one just makes me a little uneasy.  Am I being too harsh?  I am genuinely keen for your feedback on this one, and I’d really love you to comment below with your opinions or if you’ve tried the wrap.  Coeliac UK have also said they are going to look into this one so I will be interested in their response too.  I’ll be sticking to the Costa gluten free wrap for now, which is certified gluten free.  I hope I’m wrong about the Pret offering but it just goes to show that it’s the confidence gained from the first point of contact that dictates if we eat somewhere as a coeliac.

Thanks also to Sarah from the Wuthering Bites blog for the photo.

UPDATE 08/08/14: Following comments on this blog I asked Pret to clarify if other items such as salads and soups were subject to the same cross contamination risks as the wrap.  Their reply below.

I would like to explain that everything made in our kitchen does not contain gluten ingredients ie salads. Items which do not go into the kitchen such as soups, popcorn bars are definitely gluten free and not at risk of cross contamination. So we only say gluten free on the items which are not at risk. I have confirmed with our food team that there is indeed a slight risk of cross contamination for our salads.

UPDATE 15/08/14: I’ve also had some comment back from Coeliac UK via Twitter:

We’re discussing kitchen processes with Pret who are very anxious to avoid confusion and want to provide suitable options for customers.

UPDATE 10/12/14: Following some concerns from other Tweeters I asked Pret for an update on the current situation.  Here is their latest reply:

I am sorry you are concerned about the labelling of our chicken harissa wrap. We are very keen to ensure our labelling is informative and allows our customers to choose their food with confidence. With regard to the labelling of food made with gluten free ingredients, we are at present in contact with Ceoliacs UK so we can gain from their years of experience. These discussions are still ongoing but we will be more than happy to contact you once they have reached an outcome should you wish.

Just to reiterate a little of what we have said already, we are unable to label our freshly made food as gluten free as they are all made in the same kitchen throughout the day and we cannot fully guarantee there will not be any cross contamination. However we did want to let our customers know we were making the chicken harissa wrap with a gluten free wrap and so highlighted this on this particular label.

UPDATE 12/01/2015: I’ve received a further reply from Pret following my reply to their last communication, where I prompted them for further info on their cross contamination controls and raised concerns about how they were handling new allergen laws:

We will indeed let you know of any outcome with our conversations with Coeliac Uk.

With regard to your comment about customers not being able to get information about certain allergens in our food, this detailed information is available on our website and our app, and our shops have access to this information as well. As our fresh food is made on the premises, the law on labelling is a little different and we are not obliged to list every allergen for these products. We have of course made the changes to the labelling on all our products that are not made in the shop such as cakes and drinks.

As Laureanne mentioned when you contacted us originally last summer, we do have robust cleaning procedures and checks in place to prevent cross contamination between products. These include the thorough cleaning of benches and equipment, Kitchen Manager line checks, and clear storage guidelines.

I still don’t think they really “get it”.  Catering gluten free is far more than just cleaning down and good hygiene practise, and I can only hope that the discussions with Coeliac UK bring a positive resolution.  I will of course bring you an update if they get back to me in the future as promised, but I feel I’ve taken this as far as I can at the moment given the answers I am getting.  There continue to be many concerns on Twitter with Pret’s handling of allergens, and this is covered in Alex Gazolla’s excellent post covering the Pret allergen situation which is well worth a read.  I would of course as always love to hear your comments if you have experienced dining gluten free or with another allergy in Pret, be them good or bad.

Kevin, Gluten Free by the Sea

Gluten Free Plymouth News in Brief 20/07/14

20 Jul

2014-01-18 12.24.51Clare’s Gluten Free Cafe Closes

I’m very sad to bring you this announcement from Clare, though happy to report she will still be selling online, but her cafe is closing: “Hi, our shop will be closed until further notice. We are still taking orders via e-mail, telephone or website order form, for either collection (from our St. Budeaux address), or for local delivery (from £3.00). Any businesses who feel that providing homemade gluten free options in their outlet will benefit/increase their customer turnover, please feel free to e-mail/phone for more information. We will provide individually packaged gluten free items, so as to avoid any cross contamination risks. Apologies to all our customers and friends for any inconvenience.”

I will personally miss the cafe massively, and can only pass on my thanks to Clare for giving coeliacs somewhere so safe and comfortable to eat gluten free.  Be sure to check out her website for ordering options: http://www.claresglutenfreecatering.co.uk/

traditional_puddings_stallTraditional Puddings Range Change

Unfortunately Traditional Puddings experiment at making their entire range 100% gluten free has come to an end.  Sadly it seems the term still puts some people off and I think that’s still a battle we have to win.  Tina Hurford is now going back to baking both types of puddings, and note she had her gluten free puddings tested to <20ppm when doing this previously.  They are delicious and well worth trying.  Here’s the announcement: “IMPORTANT NOTICE: Due to circumstances beyond our control as from 16th July 2014, traditional Puddings will only be able to offer Gluten Free puddings on an order only basis. We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause. We will of course still attend Gluten Free fairs and venues with a the GF puddings“.

hollandsHolland’s Diner Opens

Those that attended the Coeliac UK Plymouth Group AGM in May might have spoken to Tracy and Chris Holland who were there to spread the word about their retro American Diner that was due to open in Frankfurt Gate, with a large gluten free menu.  I’m happy to report the diner is now open and in full swing and I’ve heard good reports.  I hope to be visiting and brining you a full review of this one soon.  In the mean time check out the gluten free information on their website: http://www.hollandsdinerplymouth.co.uk/#!gluten-free-/c1ud4

Mark&JulieWestcountry Produce

I am sure many of you will remember Julie and Mark Petvin who used to run Plymouth Greengrocer when it was based at Chaplins.  They are now back with a new venture called Westcountry Produce, mainly selling and delivery eggs around Plymouth and at local markets.  However, they’ve now started selling Soupy Do gluten free products and are adding many more gluten free items to their delivery options.  Keep an eye on their Facebook page for more information.

2014-06-30 19.44.53Kingfisher Fish and Chips Extends Gluten Free Choice

Hopefully you’ve read my review of Kingfisher Fish and Chip Shop in Chaddlewood that I recently posted.  Gluten free is served all day every Monday.  I’ve been informed this week that they have added sausages to their gluten free range and these will be available both battered and without batter from this Monday.  I am also very happy to report that from the same day gluten free curry sauce will also be on the menu!

I hope you will all join me in supporting the great local gluten free businesses we have in and around Plymouth, it really is a case of use them or lose them.

Kevin, Gluten Free by the Sea

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