Gluten-Free Travel in England and Wales

In April of 1999 my family traveled to England via British Air, visit my husband's family there and in Wales. Please remember that all the usual disclaimers apply (not medical advice, check with your physician first, &c &c).

Food Lists, Gluten-Free, Milk-Free and More

You can obtain food lists. The grocers provide lists of their own brands; the UK Coeliac Society's is more comprehensive.

UK Coeliac Society
has a website and can be emailed at CoeliacUK@aol.com. They volunteered to send a list -- which I can pay for when I arrive -- to wherever I would be staying when I got there. However, the list never did arrive. They wanted to send it at the last possible moment so it would be absolutely current. I suggest you resist this suggestion, and get them to send it to you well before you leave.
Marks & Spencer
has a website. Click on "Contact Our Customer Services" at the bottom of the page. From there you can send them a message, get phone numbers, and see what "-free" food lists they offer. They were very quick to respond and very helpful. You can email them directly at Customer.Services9@marks-and-spencer.com.
Tesco
Provides a gluten-free and milk-free list, usually available for browsing by asking the manager (if the current edition is only a few pages, they may photocopy it for you). You can also ring them up in advance and have a list sent to you. I found them very willing to help. Phone numbers can be found on their website on the "Contact" page, or you can send a note to them on their "Help" page.

Milk Substitutes that are Gluten-Free

Can often be found in local grocery stores, usually kept with the canned milk, in the same long-life packaging we're familiar with in the U.S.

The Word on Regular Stores (if not listed above)

Boots
"the Chemist" should have or be able to get gluten-free items but if you have not had them prescribed to you through the national health, they might be a little pricey. (Also be aware that British coeliac standards allow the use of wheat-starch which has been specially prepared to reduce the amount of gluten in it; I hear these items are delicious but do not want to get used to wheat again, or make my son familiar with the flavor. Not all gluten-free items there contain wheat starch but, as always, read labels!)
Sainsbury
No further info on this grocery chain.
Safeway
Ditto.
Asda
Is reputed to be very knowledgeable and helpful with specialized diets.
Waitrose
Also has a good reputation for being helpful, but is a fairly small chain.

Health Food Stores

Milk-Free Information

No Cow's Milk For Me, Thanks!
this U.K site for the milk allergic and lactose intolerant has lots and lots of information, including even "where to buy" milk-free items if you are traveling in the United Kingdom.

Reading Labels

From Sue, who used to live in Oxford, I gained the following information on labeling:

You can also look at food labels, which give a bit more information than here. British and European governments don't allow as many artificial ingredients in foods as American governments do. Canned and packaged goods will often specify whether they are GF with the international symbol: a stalk of grain in a circle with a slash through it. Not all foods have this, but most of the main brands do.

I did find that many items were actually labeled "gluten-free" (like Heinz ketchup!). There was only one mysterious ingredient, "rusks" which by family discussion we decided was probably not gluten-free, as the only "rusks" anyone could think of were a sort of teething biscuit babies chomp on, which would definitely contain wheat.

Restaurants

In the Bristol Area: (info provided by David J Walland)

Pushpanjli
in Gloucester Road (I have been warned that this may be up for sale so may no longer make GF food) A Gujerat (vegetarian food) Indian restaurant - cheap and very good.
Boubolinos
in Clifton - a Greek restaurant. Some of the staff know about coeliac - I advise ringing early to make sure the right people are "in".
The Avon Gorge Hotel
GREAT view, boring English food! Part of the Trust House Forte group who guarantee that they can produce GF food.

In Liverpool:

The Adelphi Hotel
My inlaws had told me a story about the Adelphi Hotel before we visited there; that it was the location of a "docu-drama" in which the inner workings of the hotel were exposed to the public eye. The chef there seemed to be rather temperamental, always in a pinch because no one kept him informed of upcoming events and changes. A certain catch-phrase became famous because of this chef (was it "Just cook!"?). Well, we visited The Adelphi as one of Britain's premiere science fiction conventions is held there near Easter, and with our specialized diet, the words in the visitor's guide in the program book were rather frightening, to the effect that no food was to be brought in from outside, and those who broke the rules would be dealt with severely. However, when I explained our family's limitations, I was quickly informed that the Adelphi's chef -- the famous one -- is a celiac, and he would be able to cook us a fabulous cake that had no wheat or milk in it. My kids got very excited by this prospect, as they rarely get a decent slice of cake. However, despite the promises of the staff, no cake ever appeared, and the kids were crushed (I was disappointed too). I wish that they had not made a promise they would not keep. We did get one specially cooked gluten-free meal (chicken with a tomato sauce) which was nice, but not spectacular. Perhaps if you were going to Liverpool for an extended stay, you could discuss your diet in advance with the chef, and get something really nice.

Gluten-Free Foods, Without Wheat Starch (But Still Tasting Good)

Alternative Cakes
In England, though they are thinking about shipping world-wide. Complete with ingredients lists. Very nice site.

 

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Copyright 1999 Linda Blanchard All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Date Added: March 17, 1999. Last Update: January 2, 2000.