My name’s Ciara-Jayne, or CJ as many people tend to call me. I was born in Holland and grew up in Ireland, hence The Half Dutch Cookie.
In 2012, after a number of months feeling unwell I was diagnosed with Coeliac disease. Being diagnosed hasn’t always been easy however a number of dietitians and cookbooks later and my foodie endeavours are stronger then ever.
I’m currently living in London and I’ve found I actually adore all things food – how to make it, how to cook it, how to grow it and where to eat it.
I love to share my favourite gluten free recipes, products and travels, as sometimes gluten free eating can be really confusing and stressful, especially in new places.
Last weekend my housemate and I decided to head out for a walk and some brunch. We decided to stroll along the river in Vauxhall in the hope to find somewhere new we hadn’t tried before. Despite all of the up and coming high rises in the area there strangely isn’t many cute cafes, so when we stumbled upon District cafe and were pleasantly surprised.
District is a tiny, bustling cafe hidden amongst Embassy gardens, which is directly across from the American Embassy. It’s decor is bright white, with sharing tables and wide, glass doors which were left open, letting in the beautiful morning sunshine.
They do an Australian brunch inspired menu with plenty of gluten free, dairy free and vegan options. I was super keen to try their gluten-free buckwheat pancakes, with coconut yoghurt and berries but unfortunately everyone else the same idea because they were sold out. Instead I went for the spicy corn fritters with a fried egg, avocado and greek yogurt which were amazing! I also ordered a ‘Aussie’ smoothie which was made with almond milk, avocado, pineapple and topped with bee pollen.
My housemate went for the scrambled eggs with sourdough toast and smoked salmon, which they also had as an option on gluten free bread. Would definitely recommend it, the perfect chill weekend brunch spot!
From cute cafes in Kensington market and plush restaurants on the Harbour front, Toronto is a beautiful city. It really struck me how friendly and welcoming the people are and it made exploring and trying out the different vibes on offer that much more enjoyable.
I didn’t know much about the gluten free scene, however I was pleasantly surprised by some of the gems I had the chance to try out. The staff were almost always super well informed about coeliac disease, and the food was delicious.
Similarly to London, the people of Toronto love to eat out! Whether takeaway or sit down meals the food scene is thriving and there really is something for everyone . I managed to try out some of the places recommended to me and none of them disappointed – on taste or coeliac friendliness – so I wanted to share them with you. Manoeuvring gluten free options while also exploring a new city can sometimes just be one big pain in the ass. So I hope this gives you some helpful suggestions and you can enjoy this foodie haven just as much as anyone!
Located on the 44 floor of the Bisha hotel is a stunning rooftop restaurant with views overlooking Toronto harbour and the CN Tower. It was recommended by a friend, who raved about the views and the food – she wasn’t wrong!
On first arrival I wasn’t sure I was in the correct location, as the mysterious doors of the Bisha hotel fail to give away much in regards to the restaurant. However once I entered, the receptionist kindly pointed me in the right direction and assured me I was in the correct place.
The staff were incredibly nice and set up a beautiful table outside on the terrace near the pool. The pool area is reserved for hotel guests only, however the restaurant is open to everyone. The dress code was pretty casual, however I was also there for lunch so I am unsure if the evening setting might be a little bit more formal.
The gluten free options seemed limited on first glance, however the waitress kindly checked with the kitchen and they were happy to make a number of dishes gluten free, including the burgers with a gluten free bun. I went for the kale falafel salad with grilled chicken which was divine. I’m not usually a raw kale lover, however the mix with nuts, dressing, feta and falafel was perfect under the Canadian sun – not to mention the views are definitely worth the visit!
Kensington market is the cutest, quirkiest place ever with streets that are speckled with multi coloured houses, painted cars and an abundance of flowers. At the weekends it is lively and buzzing with brunch lovers and market goers. This little gluten free bakery called Bunner’s is stowed away between the pastel coloured houses and doesn’t give much away from the outside. However I had heard good things on a number of reviews so decided to give it a try.
They are known for being a premier vegan and gluten-free bakery and they did not disappoint. Almost all of their cakes, cupcakes, muffins, tarts and breads are gluten free. I decided to go with a cinnamon bun with gorgeous white icing (big cinnamon lover!) and a caramel chocolate square that the lady in the bakery highly rated. I love when people are super enthusiastic about recommending their favourites, as they usually know what they’re talking about. Both were delicious and I was super excited to be able to find something that was 100% gluten free nestled at the heart of Kensington.
Fresh on Spadina is a vegan and vegetarian restaurant that is worth a visit – even if you are a meat lover! They have a huge variety of options including Beyond Meat Burgers (a burger made from peas, mung beans and rice that’s super popular in Canada and the US), burritos, tacos, rice bowls and also some of the most insane gluten free desserts.
We went for the Dragon Broccoli- steamed broccoli, miso gravy, banana chilies, scallions, sesame seeds, chili oil, Crispy cauliflower tacos – these looked amazing but unfortunately is not gluten free as it’s fried in breadcrumbs, the 9 layer burrito – minus the tortilla wrap this was a delicious bowl of mushroom & artichoke chorizo, marinated black beans, pico de gallo, cashew queso, jalapeno crema, avocado, shredded lettuce, brown rice and pickled jalapenos.
While I am a vegetable lover, I’m not always sold on vegan alternatives. This however was perfectly flavoured, cooked and combined and everything was extremely tasty. Unfortunately we were far too full for dessert however they do a gorgeous range of gluten free donuts and a peanut butter cheesecake I might even have to go back for.
Chef Susur Lee’s restaurant, located on King’s Street is a beautiful asian fusion restaurant named after the Chef himself. Susur Lee is himself based in Toronto and can often be found bustling amongst diners or sizzling something up in the kitchen.
The decor was a beautiful mix of asian, modern and class decor with lights which set the scene and a constant stream of attentive staff on hand at all times. Naturally we had to have the famous signature Singaporean style slaw which both my friends and the waitress insisted was a must.
This dish comes as a sharing starter plate and is a mix of 20 fresh ingredients, specifically chosen and dressed in a salted plum dressing. The waitress combines all of the ingredients together at the table in a snazzy display, while she reels off the 20 ingredients which make this beautiful dish.
Following on from this we went for Wagu beef sushi, Top Chef curry roasted chicken and tuna tartare. Dishes are recommended for sharing and they arrive as they are ready. Almost all dishes were able to be modified to gluten free, except for anything breaded or the cheeseburger gyoza (which is a shame because these sound interesting!). I would definitely recommend a visit here if you’re in the area as the food really was incredible.
Naturally, like most places there isn’t many mid week markets in Toronto however I had read a little bit about St.Lawrence’s market, a major public market located on Front Street East and decided to venture there on one of my days exploring.
While it is rumoured that this well known market is heaving with people at the weekend, enjoying Saturday morning with warm baked goods and freshly squeezed juices, Thursday afternoon hosted a slightly different feel. There were a few people mulling about, collecting groceries or grabbing a quick lunch before heading back to their offices .However the main stalls were still open for business and I had a chance to take in some of the amazing produce being offered.
Each stall boasted a rainbow of colours, whether thick slabs of fish or the vast array of olives and cheeses. There was also numerous displays of fruit and vegetables and food stalls of varying origin including oysters, pizza, pastas, mustards and cured meats. I loved experiencing this side of the Toronto food scene, and the high quality of various food products. However, I would definitely recommend visiting here on the weekend for the farmer’s market as the atmosphere would be much more energetic.
So there you have it – my Toronto recommendations. This is only a few of the places I tried and enjoyed and I hope you do too.
If you have any more suggestions, whether Toronto, or elsewhere, please do get in touch- I love adding to the foodie bucket list!
Other gluten free recommendations: Almond Butterfly – Delicious Gluten free bakery and cafe
I’m still only coming back to reality after the holiday of dreams in Mykonos. Mykonos is a stunning island off the coast of Greece which is part of the Cyclades island. The sea is brilliant turquoise blue and the sun shines almost everyday. As well as that the food is incredible and the local people are undeniably friendly.
I haven’t travelled so much since becoming coeliac so was a bit nervous about gluten free options. I was pleasantly surprised that everywhere we went the staff were super knowledgeable and there was always additional choices including gluten free breads and pastas. The seafood options are also some of the freshest you could find and cooked to perfection.
I’ve also created a map so you can find them where each restaurant is located easilyhere. Mykonos is pretty tiny so you’re only ever 20 minutes away from another area at the most, but hopefully this can help you plan your day.
Here’s a list of some of my favourites:
Pasta Fresca Barkia
Nice n’ Easy
This gem was recommended by a friend and tucked away in the centre of the old town. It’s a beautiful indoor and outdoor setting with simple, stylish decor and fresh vibes. There is an in-house DJ playing an amazing playlist and a buzzy atmosphere and the staff are really attentive. They serve a variety of sushi and fresh seafood options and even provided some gluten free bread with the starters.
This was probably one of our favourites and so simple – Gyros. I couldn’t believe that they actually had gluten free Gyros so this one was an amazing find! This is a cute little gastronomy grill located in the very centre of the old town and they serve some of the finest souvlaki in town and the corn pitta’s are gluten free.
3. Buddha Bar
This restaurant is a fine dining restaurant by the waters edge. The staff here were incredibly accommodating with gluten free and even brought down some tamari sauce in a separate dish. They do some gluten free sushi rolls as well but only the ones wrapped in cucumber as they add soy sauce to the rice rolls.
4. Pasta Fresca Barkia
This divine Italian restaurant is straight across from Pepper and they have a stunning pasta display located outside. This little spot is a 41 year old family restaurant and the food is incredible. They make all of their own pasta in various shapes and flavours including a divine gluten free spaghetti or penne.
There are many beautiful greek restaurants dotted throughout the old town. Kastros is located on the edge of little Venice and has balconies hanging over the sea which you can sit out on for your meal. We had some lunch here and ordered the Seabass and Seabream. The fish is super fresh and was served with a broccoli coconut puree and toasted almonds.
6. Nice N’ Easy
I had read about Nice N’ Easy before wearrived as they do gourmet gluten free and vegan in the very centre of little Venice, overlooking the Windmills. They had gluten free breads, pastas and even calamari. Go with an appetite or sharing as the portions tended to be quite large.
After a day on the boat, our captain brought us for lunch at this stunning restaurant. The decor is beautiful and in keeping with the shoreline, which your table sits on the edge of. The food was beautiful and fresh albeit slightly on the pricer side. However would definitely recommend a trip here as the setting is beyond beautful.
8. Hippie Fish
We went here on our final night as we wanted something a bit more chill. This restaurant is located on the beach edge and is opened out facing the sea. We went for a mix of sushi which was gluten free. While the food was stunning, the atmosphere here was a little quieter than some of the other places we visited.
Scorpios is a beautiful beach club where the music is amazing and the food is incredible. The waiter pointed which options were gluten free on the menu and we went for a mixed array of mussels, oysters and octopus which was delicious!
Let me know if you have any foodie recommendations whether Mykonos or elsewhere!
If you love sushi as much as I do then this is the place for you. Sushi which is coeliac friendly can sometimes be hard to find as many places add soy sauce to their dishes (soy sauce is made from fermenting soybeans with wheat grains so often isn’t gluten free).
The good news is that many places in London serve sushi that’s not only gluten free but also fresh and tasty. As well as this alot of places also keep gluten free soy sauce often known as tamari so you can enjoy it that little bit more with fresh ginger and wasabi which are both naturally gluten free.
Last week I had the chance try out Sticks n Sushi in Covent Garden for dinner. We hadn’t made a reservation but the staff were really helpful and accommodating and managing to squeeze us in.
A waiter showed us to our table and provided us with a drinks and food menu. The restaurant itself is quite big with dark and simple decor and the menu is extensive with vibrant images displaying the dishes. As gluten free options are not clearly marked on the menu I asked which options were suitable. Our waiter explained that his manager would be over to run through their options in a moment.
The manager, Aris was very helpful and very well informed. He ran through the options which are available including maki rolls, sashimi, ceviche and certain skewers. While they have amazing platters he recommended against them as they tend to be mixed with non gluten friendly dishes.
We went for a mix of a sashimi, edamane beans, maki rolls, skewers and ceviche between us and they gave us some tamari (gluten free soy sauce) in a separate ramikin.
The dishes came down at different times which worked perfectly. Personally I loved the scallop ceviche. I’d never eaten it before, however it as recommended as a favourite by Aris and it was the perfect blend of tangy and sweet. Everything was insanely fresh and the flavours were perfect.
For dessert we chose vanilla ice cream with creme brulee which was the perfect combination and finish to the meal.
Definitely a favourite for sushi so far and very well informed. I’ve had sushi in other restaurants where you’re quite limited to basic rolls or sashimi, however Sticks n Sushi had numerous options and we’re able to make some changes where necessary so it was just as enjoyable gluten free.
The staff were super attentive throughout and Aris and his brother, who was also serving could not have been more accommodating.
One thing that continues to baffle me about London is how many places there is to eat and how there’s always somewhere new to try. On numerous occasions I’ve found myself marvelling on the way to work at a new restaurant or bar that seems to have magically appeared over night.
Saying this there has still been the occasional panic when out with friends or colleagues as to where is gluten free for a quick bite. To save you suffering this desperation and hangrily wandering the streets in search of a gluten free saviour I’ve put together a list of three spots that are always guaranteed to suit everyone and cater for coeliacs any day of the week whether for breakfast, lunch or dinner. The best thing- there’s multiple venues so you’ll never be left hungry, staring despondently at a glass of tap water while everyone else tucks in…
Up first we have Bill’s. Bill’s is a British chain cafe with over 21 located in London and 81 across the UK. They use locally sourced produce and always have a nice variety on the menu including veggie, vegan and gluten free options. Despite it’s chain status, Bill’s always hold an air of authenticity and the venues are always super cool and enjoyable. Staff are also attentive and from my experience have always had a good knowledge of what is coeliac friendly.
While I’ve been for lunch previously, breakfast is the winner for me. I love the garden plate which consists of two poached eggs, halloumi, roasted plum tomatoes, charred red peppers, smashed avocado, hollandaise, mushrooms, potato rösti, baked beans, pea shoots, mixed seeds and gluten free toast. The only difference with the original and the gluten free was that the potatoe rosti’s were different (and tastier) in gf version. They do gluten free bread so there is always the option to adapt a dish to your needs.
If you’re looking for a quick fix that’s pleasant, affordable and informal Bill’s is the place to be.
Flat Iron could potentially be one of my favourite places for lunch or dinner. It’s simple, affordable and downright delicious! And the best part is almost everything is gluten free.
There is six Flat Iron locations across the city so you’re bound to come across one on your travels. They don’t take reservations, only walk in’s but they tend to move quickly and there is never too long of a wait.
Definitely not a spot to go as a vegetarian as they pride themselves on sourcing the best meat locally and also specialise in butchery with butchery demos and educational pieces on the menu’s and board.
They keep a small, simple menu that consists generally of three different steak cut options, and a choice of 6 or 7 sides. The triple cooked chips are also gluten free as they don’t fry anything battered or crumbed in their fryers. Be sure to mention if you do need GF as some of the sauces tend not to be.
Brindisa is a Spanish tapas restaurant located across some of the key areas London and tend to be situated in beautiful locations. The decor is simple, fresh and overall pleasant making it the perfect place to have a couple of glasses of wine and make your way through it’s extensive menu.
They have a range of tapas options from meats, cold tapas, hot tapas, salads and breads. While I was able to order quite a few options and many of their choices are naturally gluten free, the staff have never seemed to be overly clued into their allergens and tend to be a little uncertain as to what is suitable. Having tried it a few times with no issues I have a good idea of what I can and can’t have but do bare this in mind if you are coeliac.
Despite this the food is delicious and they like to put a twist on some of the more typical tapas options you find in Spanish and Portuguese restaurants. I usually order the meats like the salted beef with manchego cheese and dark chocolate pictured above, the Spanish tortilla is always a winner (a potatoe egg cake) and their chorizo is heaven.
Before heading back to London in the New Year I had brunch in Brother Hubbard’s South in Dublin on Harrington’s Street. This is one of two with the original Brother Hubbard’s based in North Dublin on Chapel Street.
The menu is an interesting mix of eastern vibes with traditional brunch recipes.
While many of their sweet options including the granola and pancakes were not gluten free, the main courses could all be ordered as gluten free on request.
I ordered the Spicy Pork Rarebit- which was a delicious baked open sandwich with chorizo spiced pulled pork & Irish cheddar cheese sauce on gluten free bread with spinach, pickled red onion & a drizzle of hot sauce, topped with a fried egg. Overall this was really tasty, with the egg being perfectly cooked with a soft yolk and the gluten free bread was not dry or crumbly.
As the gluten free bread was smaller than the usual option they also made a double portion, which was a little bit too much in my opinion.
The salad on the side was a delicious red cabbage salad with cucumber chunks, which they alternate seasonally.