Category Archives: Gluten free

“I have conversed with the spiritual sun. I saw him on Primrose Hill” William Blake

One of the London spots I love the most because it’s the set of some romantic memories of mine, is Primrose Hill, the highest point of the eponymous district. You can get there after a 10 minutes walk from Chalk Farm tube station, there’s a well kept green area whose summit is almost 63 metres above sea level and where the trees are kept low so as not to obscure the view. It formerly belonged to Eton College, but became Crown property about the middle of last century and it’s a stunning sightseeing spot above all on clear sky days.

The summit features an inscription on York featuring the quote from William Blake I used for this post. The poet believed that Zoroastrian rites were performed on Primrose Hill and affirmed that this place was sacred to the sun without without giving any explanation as to why that particular site was appropriate.

Another literary reference is an oak known as “Shakespeare’s Tree” that stands on the slope of the hill, it was first planted in 1864 to mark the 300th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth.

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If you feel hungry after climbing the hill, there’s a lots of nice places to eat around there. We settled for Manna in Erskine Road because it offered a large selection of gluten free options. Here’s how to get there.

We didn’t eat in the end, but we had a lovely glass of wine (mine was a lovely, rich, Argentinian, red wine). They serve organic wines, free of synthetic chemicals and often hand harvested that are also vegan. They also have a large variety of delicious food, so I planned to go back there for a pleasant lunch or dinner as soon as I go back to London.

Primrose Hill is worth a visit if you want to have a stunning view, a romantic stroll or if you’re a simple bench warmer who needs quiet. Oh, if you go there, give my regards to “my” bench: if you listen carefully you can still hear my sighs.

TRACK OF THE DAY: Running up that Hill – Placebo (cover)

 

 

 

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“And the city itself was just a glow on the dark earth” Monica Ali

As I said before, I’ve just read “Brick Lane” by Monica Ali and I totally fell in love with it. I borrowed it from the library only because I liked the title (lately I’m only looking for novels set in London) and it was a positive surprise. It’s a choral novel even if the main point of view is Nazneen’s, a Bangladeshi woman relocated to London through an arranged marriage to a man nearly twice her age. The books tells her story, but also many other of the people of Bangladeshi origin she meets, with a look on what happens in her country of origin through what’s happening to her sister Hasina. The book is not properly set in Brick Lane, maybe “Mile End” would have been a better title, but if you’re familiar to that part of East London, there are many places that can be easily recognised. The plot is pleasant and interesting, characters are well depicted, the descriptions are vivid and the reader’s interest is always kept alive. I loved seeing the main character growth: at first she’s submitted to her husband, unhappy and prefers taking refuge into her past and happy childhood rather than taking pleasure in daily life. Then she learns English, she starts earning her own money, she gets a lover who helps her to see over the four walls of her apartment. In the end she realizes who she is and what she wants to be, so she gets rid both of her husband and lover and opens a sewing workshop with some friends of her and finally fulfill her desire to ice-skating even in a sari.

If you want to visit Brick Lane you have to hop off at Aldgate and walk for a 5 minutes. Besides the street art, the first thing that strikes the attention is the Old Truman brewery, once home to London’s largest brewery and now location to a hive of creative businesses like independent shops, galleries, markets (only at the weekends), bars and restaurants.

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If you keep walking along this long lane, you will find The Cereal Killer Cafe that sells over 100 different types of cereal from around the world. You can eat there and they have vegan and gluten free options.

Another well known place is the Beigel shop, open 24/7 whose menu is focused on beigels (not bagels, it keeps the yddish pronunciation) baked in the traditional Jewish style (it’s being boiled in water before baking, a step that produces its crisp crust and moist, chewy interior) with  a lot of tasty fillings. It also serves pastries, cakes and sweets as well as white, rye and black bread. It’s not expensive, but it has no gluten free option.

If you raise your eyes, once you pass under the railway bridge, you will see the 123 building that is a four-storey mini department store packed with recycled clothing.

And on the less known part of Brick lane, just crossed Bethnal Green Road, there’s Tatty Devine my favourite handmade jewellery shop, where you can find some original, playful, colourful, laser cut acrylic things. There’s another shop in Covent Garden, but I use to go there.

TRACK OF THE DAY: Brimful of Asha- Cornershop

“You can learn a lot about a woman by getting smashed with her” Tom Waits

When in London I use to have an intense nightlife, pity I can’t drink too much since my hiatal hernia doesn’t allow me more than a two glasses on alcohol, the same amount I need to get very drunk.

One of the fanciest places I’ve ever been, is Sketch in Conduit street (a cross street of Regent’s street): an unique place where food, art and music meet. The location is magical: there’s an hopscotch at the entrance (I loved it since it recalled  me Cortàzar’s novel) and various artworks on the walls.

 

 

It has five different restaurants and bars:

-The Gallery, where you can have a classy afternoon tea as we did (they also have a gluten free menu) or a dinner; if you’re on a budget I suggest you to check the prices in advance: the food is lovely, but minimal and, to me, a bit overpriced. The location, however, is incredible: the monochromatic pink interior contrasts with the witty David Shrigley’s artworks on the wall, since this place is a part of a of a long-term programme of artist-conceived restaurants. The Gallery’s walls host the largest group of original drawings David Shrigley has ever exhibited.

 

 

Then there are the three parts of Sketch where we haven’t been yet:

-The Lecture Room & Library that is a two Michelin starred gastronomic restaurant.

-The Parlour where you can have breakfast, afternoon teas and evening drinks.

-The East bar that is an evening bar where to have pre-dining drinks

This year we had an enchanting time at the Glade, drinking exquisite cocktails in this magic woodland bar. On the walls there is a fairy tales découpaged forest and the rattan furniture was maybe a little uncomfortable for my aching body, but absolutely perfect for the location. My cocktail was gorgeous and the company even better. I don’t like too much taking pictures when I’m in a bar or in a restaurant, so here’s only a small view of what Sketch is. If you’re interested you can visit its web site: https://sketch.london/what.php#gsc.tab=0

 

 

And here’s comes the reason why Sketch is so popular: its exclusive egg shaped toilets that completed this insane experience.

 

 

TRACK OF THE DAY: dRuNk-Zayn

 

“Climb mountains not so the world can see you but so you can see the world” Unknown

My trips are always on budget and distant away from tourists traps, so instead of paying 30€ to enjoy a 71st floor view from the well known Shard, I enjoyed an extra cool view of the City from the 35th floor of the Sky Garden for free. You just need to go here https://skygarden.london/booking and book your visit, please be aware that a limited number of tickets are available each day.

o get there I took the District line and got off at Monument station. On the way I enjoyed the view of the Monument that stands at the junction of Monument Street and Fish Street Hill. It was built between 1671 and 1677 to commemorate the Great Fire of London and to celebrate the rebuilding of the City and if you’re brave enough you can.climb the 311 spiral steps to the observation gallery and enjoy a pretty good view of London, but why getting tired if a few steps away there’s the Sky Garden? You need to queue, show your ticket or the screen of the booking confirmation, show your documents and after an airport alike scanning system (they laughed a lot seeing the banana in my bag), you’re allowed to the super fast lift that will bring you in seconds to the 35th floor.

The view from the outside terrace is breathtaking and you can have a 360° view of the whole City simply going around the garden. On the windows there’s the name of the monuments, so you can know what you’re looking at. The location is amazing because it’s not only a panoramic site, but also a garden. The roof is made of glass as in a greenhouse, I was lucky I went there on a sunny day so I had a lovely natural light for my pics.

 

There are bars and restaurants (you need to book a table in advance even if you may be a lucky walk in guest) where you can have a drink or something to eat. And at night you can enjoy some good live music. I can tell if they serve gluten free food; I saw some gf muffins, but since my visits were only alcohol oriented I simply told the waiter about my intolerance and had a lovely visit.

TRACK OF THE DAY: High-The Cure

“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well” Virginia Woolf

MC Donalds ha finalmente introdotto nel menu un panino senza glutine, notizia che, al di là dei pareri personali di chi boicotta le multinazionali o reputa insalubre il cibo del fast food, è grandiosa. Positiva per tutti quei ragazzi che adesso possono unirsi ai loro coetanei senza dover mangiare prima a casa e per tutti coloro che hanno difficoltà a reperire un pasto senza glutine.

Non l’ho provato perché a me gli hamburger non piacciono e non mangiavo al Mac nemmeno quando il glutine non mi creava problemi, quindi andate sulla fiducia. Fiducia anche negli operatori perché dovete incrociare le dita che il vostro panino non venga contaminato, le raccomandazioni non sono mai troppe anche a costo di passare per rompiballe.

A Londra non ho mai avuto questa preoccupazione: ho mangiato spesso da Honest Burger (che ha ogni tipo di hamburger e anche l’opzione pollo alla piastra), sono stata giù in cucina dove ho visto che gli ordini senza glutine venivano sbrigati dall’addetto alle insalate, quindi nessun rischio contaminazione. Il personale è gentile e attento, c’è la possibilità di take away e mangiare il panino gluten free su una panchina con veduta romantica (ma questa come sempre è un’altra storia) e le patatine al rosmarino sono tante, gustose e artigianali. Anche il panino è buono, l’opzione gluten free costa 1£ più di quelle normali e in generale i prezzi sono più alti di quelli di un fast food, ma la qualità fa la differenza. Ci sono vari locali sparsi in tutta Londra (Brixton, Soho, Camden, Portobello, King’s Cross, Oxford circus, Tooting, Liverpool Street, Clapham, Old Street, Peckham e uno appena aperto a Covent Garden) quindi non avete scuse per non andarci.

TRACK OF THE DAY: Real girl eat cake- Janoskians

MCDonald’s has finally introduced a gluten free bun to the menu, news that, beyond the personal opinions of those who boycott multinational corporations or consider unhealthy eating in a fast food, is great. Positive for young people who can now join their peers without having to eat first at home and for those who have difficulty in finding a gluten-free meal.
I haven’t tried it because I don’t like burgers and didn’t eat the Mac even when gluten wasn’t a problem for me, so go on trust. Trust also in food operators: you have to cross your fingers that your order is not contaminated, recommendations are never enough even at the cost of going through pain in the ass.


In London I’ve never had this concern: I often ate at Honest Burger (which has all kinds of burgers and also the grilled chicken option), I went down to the kitchen where I saw that orders were handled by the person assigned to salads, so no contamination risk. The staff is friendly and attentive, there is the possibility to take away and eat your gluten free meal on a bench with romantic views (but as always, this is another story) and fries with rosemary are many, tasty and hand crafted. The sandwich is good, the gluten free option costs £1 more than normal one and generally the prices are higher than those of a fast food restaurant, but the quality makes the difference. There are several Honest Burger locations scattered across London (Brixton, Soho, Camden, Portobello, King’s Cross, Oxford Circus, Tooting, Liverpool Street, Clapham, Old Street, Peckham and one just opened in Covent Garden) then you have no excuse not to go.