Today I have two restaurant reviews that are less reviews of the food and more reviews of eating out while celiac. My issues may come across as a bit whiney and to be honest I think it is fear of the appearance of whinging that stops a lot of celiacs complaining to or about restaurants.
If your significant other has brought you out for dinner the last thing you want to do is be unhappy with their choice of restaurant, particularly if you know they have double and triple checked that the restaurant caters for GF. One anniversary I ended up in the Ely on Grand Canal Place and while serving me my lamb burger without a bun the waitress asked if could recommend a good GF bun to the chef. To that chef I say try the internet, wander over to any grocery store, get on to the Celiac Society but don’t ask the lady who has been brought to your restaurant because you promised her boyfriend you could cater for GF.
If you are with a large group you don’t necessarily want to draw attention to your dietary restrictions, it makes you feel fussy and a bit of a bore when all you want to do is have a the craic with your mates.
In a perfect world if you call a restaurant and they say their menu can be adapted for celiacs you should be able to trust that and relax. However the world is far from perfect, celiacs know this. You start to wonder if the kitchen staff really know what it means to be celiac, do they think you are just on some gluten free diet because you are trying to lose weight? You start to imagine that the kitchen is a seething mess of cross contamination. The fear sets in and you have to start asking questions.
I understand how difficult it can be to make a kitchen safe for GF cooking and I appreciate every restaurant kitchen that tries however there are somethings that drive me crackers when eating out and unfortunately for the two restaurants I am writing about today, they both managed annoyed me.
Mulligans the Grocer on Manor Street.
Ah Mulligans, you are right around the corner from me and you have an excellent whiskey collection, your desert coffees, lifted above and beyond the mere Irish Coffee are luscious and good. You stock gluten free beers and a nice selection of wines. For all of this I thank you.
Dave and I used to eat in Mulligans a lot, the prices were very reasonable and the staff informed and very good about advising me on what I could and couldn’t eat. Although the starters and deserts were mostly out of bounds a main course was usually all I wanted anyway.
Then things started to change, main course prices went up and the dishes which had been lovely in their simplicity became a little too adorned. Everything seemed to come with some kind of croquette or other garnish that was in no way adaptable for GF.
The last time I ate there I asked about my go-to dish which was always the slow roast pork belly, golden with crackling, served with lovely mash to soak up the even lovelier gravy which cheered my heart by always being GF. It was food that was good for the soul. Dave, a man who never orders chicken in a restaurant always got the Chicken Kiev, the chicken was always tasty as were the chips but the real attraction was the creamed corn, this he would eat from the pot with a spoon given half a chance.
So as usual I asked our server what I could eat and true to form he went to the kitchen to check. The pork and thankfully the gravy were fine as long as I forgo the accompanying croquette and crumble. However there wasn’t a potato dish on the menu that I could eat, not twice cooked chips nor mash. What I ask are you doing to mash that fills it with gluten? What I ask you is the good of gravy without a carb to soak it up? The lovely chef did fill my plate with a variety of vegetable sides and made me one of the aforementioned crumbles without crumbs but with bubbly cheese topping. If I was eating Paleo it would have been a perfect meal but I missed the mash, so many restaurants cannot do a good mash but Mulligans was always buttery perfection.
The mother of all peeves for me though is that finding a GF chip in Dublin is akin to searching for the Holy Grail, I challenge both Indiana Jones and Dan Brown to find one. Beshoffs you will remind me, and indeed Beshoffs do GF chips but in fairness Beshoffs is a chipper, they have the skills, it is what they do. I am grateful for their efforts but I am talking about non chipper restaurants.
How hard is it to keep a separate deep fat fryer in a kitchen for GF chips, and why not go mad and throw a few GF onion rings in there. This is a simple solution to my chip needs and if there is a reason that prevents restaurants from doing this simple thing then someone needs to explain it to me.
As for Dave his Kiev arrived with a wee pail of chips on the plate and sorrow of sorrows only a thin slick of the creamed corn painted artfully on to the plate in the style of Master Chef contestants.
While Mulligans gets so many things right there are little mistakes that take away from the experience. And it isn’t just me, talking to friends who used to wander over from the south side to eat in Mulligans I have found that it just isn’t the draw it used to be. I hope this changes as I like to support local businesses and to see this part of Dublin thriving.
Brasserie 66 on Georges Street.
I hadn’t eaten here before but I heard good things about the brunch and also that the menu had a lot of GF options. My parents were visiting recently so a group of six of us headed out for dinner on a Saturday night. We were seated, drink orders taken and I perused the menu. Very promisingly there was C for celiac on the menu to denote what I could eat. I decided on a Chicken Skewer for starter and the Stuffed Pork for main. When I went to make my order however I was told the pork was not GF despite the bloody great C printed right next to it, I was vexed to say the least. Why tempt me with pork and then say no. A mistake I was told, the menu needed to be reprinted. Apparently the roast chicken was GF so in a bit of a panic I said ok to that and ended up with a chicken starter and a chicken main course.
So having had this discussion about my GF requirements the waiter returned to the table with half a loaf of crusty bread on a board with a bread knife, so the bread could be cut as needed. A lovely idea but even with my dad and his near surgical skill with a bread knife crumbs flew everywhere in the natural manner of bread crumbs. Hither and yon over the table they went, my hand reflexively shot out to cover both my wine glass and top of the carafe. As discretely as I could I brushed the crumbs away and sat there sadly watching as bread was slathered in butter and munched. There was no bread for me, apparently celiacs are ok with waiting in a busy restaurant for their starter without anything to nibble on.
I want to buy flowers for restaurants that bring me GF bread, they have me at that small gesture that says we acknowledge that you might also be a bit peckish and need something to soak up the wine you are sipping while waiting for your meal.
It isn’t rocket science, if you don’t want to bake GF bread in house there are a number of good breads out there, keep some in the freezer, I will take toast over nothing.
My skewer came without the pitta bread it should have been served with although I know that right across the street in Dunnes Stores there are GF pitta breads, right across the street people!
And now I seem churlish, surely the fact that I could eat there at all should be enough. I had a great night, I was with family and the food I had was good but I have been diagnosed celiac for almost ten years now and the ease of sourcing products, the availability of information should mean the restaurants shouldn’t have these annoying restrictions around catering for GF.
Things are better, indeed they are, when I was first diagnosed I didn’t eat out for a long time for fear of cross contamination, it was all a bit stressful and took the good out of what should have been a treat. But things can still be better. If as a restaurant you can’t fully to commit to catering for celiacs then make a decision not to and make this known when you are contacted with queries. I won’t be mad, I will be relieved that you are being honest, just don’t half ass it, that is letting you and me down. If you do want to cater for GF then think it through, try and make our dining experience comparable to our fellow diners. We will thank you with our repeated custom.